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Dreams Can Come TruePosted 12/13/2005
By Levy Joffrion
Dreams can come true. If you don't believe it, ask William Mack "Bill" Head and his wife, Victorianne "Vicki."
Nineteen years ago, they were living in Kentucky. Bill was working as an auto technician and Vicki as a nurse. But they dreamed of owning a business and, because they had visited Hilton Head Island, of moving to that popular resort in South Carolina.
On July 1, 1986, they packed their bags, dog and tool box and drove their 1955 Chevy and a 1972 Mercedes to Hilton Head Island. They bought a small house and Bill went to work for a local Mercedes dealership.
In 1993, they opened H&H Auto Service Inc. with an investment of $7,000.
Today, H&H Auto Service is valued at more than $2 million and has 13 dedicated employees. Moreover, Bill has been named the Small Business Administration's 2005 Small Business Person of the Year. The Heads were presented the award at the SBA Expo held earlier this year in Washington, D.C.
Adversity came quickly. Bill had been named one of the top 200 Mercedes-Benz technicians in the nation. He was well grounded in automotive technology and eager to put his skills to work in his own business. He and a co-worker, whose last name also began with "H," established H&H Auto Service. Just before they opened for business, Bill's partner bowed out of the firm.
Suddenly, Bill found himself as sole owner and technician. Responsibility for all the overhead that was to be shared by two people now fell solely on his shoulders.
He had to make the business "go," because he had a wife and child to support. The child was a girl from Lima, Peru, they had adopted (they now also have a son).
Bill worked 12 to 14 hours a day seven days a week just to keep his head above water. He answered the phone, ordered parts, diagnosed vehicle problems and fixed the cars, somehow managing to also handle the paperwork and keep the shop clean.
His hard work, integrity and honesty paid off.
H&H Auto has grown steadily.
In addition to auto repair and maintenance, H&H offers wheel alignment, tires, a detail shop that also sells window tinting, paintless dent removal and carpet cleaning. The firm also sells pre-owned vehicles. H&H buys, sells and trades cars.
Clients come from Hilton Head Island; Fripp Island; Savannah, Ga.; and surrounding areas. Customers include tourists as well as full-time and part-time residents.
Because of his reputation for honesty and fairness, Bill has seen friends become customers and customers become friends. Maybe one reason his customers like him is because he firmly believes in properly diagnosing a car's woes before attempting to repair it versus just replacing parts until it is fixed.
"We are totally committed to taking care of our customers," says Bill. "After all, they're the life of our business. We go over and above to give them good service at a fair price."
Bill also believes in treating his employees well. "I am committed to giving my employees the best benefits I can plus a safe, desirable working environment," says Bill. "We work hard, but we have fun."
He regards his employees as members of his winning team. "They make my business successful and more profitable," says Bill, "and they should be rewarded." He offers competitive salaries, continuing education and, among benefits: paid holidays, vacations and health and dental insurance.
H&H urges its employees to get to know customers and vice versa. "We want our customers to know our staff, our faces and who we are," says Bill. "To feel they can trust us and that they can come to us with a question or a problem regarding their car."
Listen to your customers and employees and they will give you insight to your business, says Bill. "They are both part of the team."
Bill also encourages employees to be active in the community. H&H supports most local charities, churches, schools and fund-raisers with gift certificates, pro bono work, etc. "Our community supports us," says Bill. "So we give back to our community."
H&H is a member of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, national and South Carolina chapters of the Mercedes Benz Club, and the Automotive Service Association (ASA).
Bill says one of the reasons he joined ASA is because of a copy of AutoInc. he saw. "It was wonderful to read articles I could relate to and learn things about my industry - even what's going on in Washington - that affect my business," says Bill. "Then I attended the annual Georgia-South Carolina Conference here on Hilton Head Island. Vicki and I met a great bunch of people and had a great time. We were hooked! Ever since, we have been members of both ASA-South Carolina and the national ASA organization.
"We look forward to seeing our fellow South Carolina members each September. And I enjoy the ASA publications, membership benefits and friendships I've made. I encourage all shop owners to join ASA as an investment in our future as small business owners in an industry of constant change in technology."
Shop StatsName: H&H Auto Service Inc.
Location: 35 Hunter Road, Hilton Head, S.C.
No. of employees: 13
Projected annual sales volume: $2 million
No. of years in business: 12
What he likes best about his job: My customers and my staff. I look forward to coming to work each day. Every day is different; there are new challenges and problems. It never gets boring.
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