ASA Valuable Resource for DME AutomotivePosted 3/26/2004
By B.J. Johnson
In high school, Russell took two years of automotive shop and then earned a degree in automotive technology in 1972 from the DeAnza College in Cupertino, Calif. Additionally, Russell earned his Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) designation in 1998.
Thirteen years ago, he answered the demand to provide professional, quality service and repairs to the motorists of Poulsbo, Wash., when he opened DME Automotive Service Inc. The original size of the shop was 3,700 square-feet, with six bays and a staff of three. "We had a small office, a customer waiting area and a closet served as my office," Russell said. The business has experienced steady growth since its beginnings and currently has 7,800-square-feet that includes 10 bays, two executive offices, a manager's office and parts room.
DME Automotive is a family-owned and -operated business. Russell's son, Chris, has worked in the business for the past seven years. In July 2003, Russell's wife, Darlene, came to work in the business. "She is an incredible asset to the company and has relieved me from many daily duties," Russell said. In addition to Chris, the Russell's oldest son is a mechanical engineer in Portland, Ore.
According to Russell the challenge of having family members working together is the fine line that is walked knowing that during business hours, it's business. "The largest advantage is, we all have a much deeper respect and desire for the continuance of the growth, success and future of the business," said Russell. Chris will follow in his father's footsteps and eventually take over the business. Chris, too, earned a degree in automotive technology from DeAnza College. "My son attended the college 20 years after I did and we have the distinction of being the first father and son to do so with the same instructors. In June 2003, we flew back to the college and helped roast three of the instructors upon their retirement," said Russell.
Russell's primary role in the business is to coach, lead and guide his employees. As many automotive repair owners know, there are a number of hats an owner wears and many of those hats are never really thrown away. "An owner, in my opinion, needs to care about his or her staff; they are the company's assets. My company's success is not because of me, but a direct result of the teamwork that all of us have collectively worked for. They understand that if the business is successful, they are successful," Russell said. He spends two to four mornings a week in one-hour sessions with the managers and once a month, Russell spends time with the remaining staff members to focus on training, discussions, and communications on ways all can improve. "The thing I enjoy most about my job is the camaraderie and training sessions I have with the staff. They know and appreciate that this dedicated time is for them; it's to help them follow the paths of their success," said Russell.
This dedication to professional, quality repairs and services has been rewarding to Russell and his staff. DME Automotive is an ASE Blue Seal facility and an AAA-approved repair shop. It has been honored as a distinguished GreenWorks business for its recycling program and is a WIN Award recipient for its waste management program. It also was nominated for the Governor's Award in 1997. In addition, DME Automotive was the first business of any type in the county to become a five-star Envirostar business, as a result of its proper selection, storage, handling and disposal of hazardous materials.
Community involvement plays a vital role in the continued growth of the business. Russell and DME Automotive are members of the Better Business Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and advisory boards for the county high schools and local college. "We participate in food, toy and clothing drives, local school and church food raisers, a People Help program sponsored by the local television station, and local school programs such as mentoring programs," said Russell.
As with many ASA member-businesses, Russell has volunteered numerous hours to the association and enhancement of the overall industry. He has held several local and affiliate positions within ASA-Washington.
"Early on in my ownership ... you know, the days of true testament ... I had some local shop owners that I had met on occasion encourage me to come and see the values of ASA. I finally went to a couple of chapter meetings and found out that there were other owners struggling with similar issues. We became pretty good friends and continue to work not only in helping each other, but also improving the industry through the efforts of ASA. The more I became involved with ASA, the more I learned that these are ASA members I honestly can say are my friends," said Russell.
The numerous friendships and business relationships Russell has developed over the years are an invaluable resource to him. These friendships have also turned out to be extremely fun for Russell and his friends. Within the ASA-Washington affiliate, there is a group of ASA members, one of which is Russell, known as the "Darryl Brothers." This group of individuals regularly shows up, unannounced, at affiliate gatherings. A recent example of their antics was in January at the ASA-Washington semiannual retreat in Leavenworth, Wash. During the two-day event, a retirement tribute was held for Pete and Cherie Hunt, both of whom worked for ASA-Washington (Pete was executive director and his wife, Cherie, handled accounting and office duties). As a part of the tribute or "roast," the Darryl Brothers were in attendance to offer words of encouragement and support to Pete and Cherie. The comedic performance was a combination of the Blues Brothers, the Godfather and Rawhide. Those in attendance truly enjoyed the light-heartedness of the group.
Russell will continue to treasure the long-standing business relationships and friendships his membership in ASA has afforded him. "These are people that I know will be there if I need them," he said.
Continued growth and success are on the horizon for DME Automotive Service Inc. Russell plans to work on his succession plan and spend as much time as possible with his three grandchildren.
Shop StatsName: DME Automotive Service Inc.
Location: Poulsbo, Wash.
No. of employees: 9
Web Site: www.dmeauto.com
On marketing: I have always believed that personal contact has a more productive result and also demonstrates to our customers that we really do care and are very approachable. - Keith Russell, AAM, owner of DME Automotive Service Inc.
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