Strength of Family Keeps Shop GoingPosted 2/4/2008
By Lisa McReynolds
Mike's shop is celebrating its 20th year, which is a notable feat in the always competitive and tough automotive service arena. Staying power is measured by how successfully a shop can keep good technicians, stay on top of technology and offer exceptional customer service, among other things.
Mike and his wife, Kathy, have owned and operated Mike's Auto Tech Inc. for so long that they've made friends with customers who are now considered family. In addition to building relationships, they have learned many lessons along the way.
How did Mike get started in automotive service?
"I was born and raised in the automotive repair business," he said. In 1965, when he was 5 years old, his parents built a shop next to their house. Today, his father still owns Frank's Auto Repair in West Middlesex, Penn.
Mike obtained an associate's degree from Gannon University in small business management in 1980. For 25 years he has held the ASE master certification, which he first received in 1982. Six years later, he founded Mike's Auto Tech Inc. From February 1988 to June of 1989, he and Kathy worked out of their 1,200-square-foot house, where they turned their carport into a garage. Because of city zoning issues, they had to move.
Mike's Auto Tech Inc. later moved to a 1,600-square-foot building. It had limited space because it shared the building with other tenants.
"We rented this property from 1989 until 2002," Mike said.
He received his L1 advanced engine performance certification in 1994. Kathy is on the ASA-Phoenix chapter board, and has been ASA-Arizona treasurer since 1996. Because of her accounting background, she has handled the bookkeeping duties of the shop. By the time 1998 rolled around, Mike's Auto Tech Inc. had gone from two employees - Mike and his wife - to four employees. One of the big lessons Mike has learned is the importance of great employees. After losing a key employee and the rest of his crew within a six-month time frame, he was concerned about replacing them. His patience and diligence didn't run out, however, and soon the shop gained three new experienced technicians.
"I look forward to coming to work every day because it is a pleasure to work with such a talented and fun group of people," Mike said.
"If only we had done this in the beginning, the property would be paid for by now," Mike said. "Hindsight is 20/20. Like my dad says, 'It costs you to learn.'"
Mike's Auto Tech Inc. has always been a "mom and pop" operation. Mike and his wife have worked side by side since the beginning. Even though many people wonder how they do it, they don't know how to do it any other way.
Two out of three of their children have worked at the shop. Even though they have moved on to pursue other careers, they will always have something to fall back on. They have also learned to appreciate the hard work that their parents face every day.
What sets Mike's Auto Tech apart from the rest of the shops in his area? The company has captured a unique market. It works on many special interest cars, and most of their income comes from the faithful following of customers they have established relationships with during the past two decades. There are several small fleets that the shop takes care of as well. Sometimes, Mike said, it's jobs like these that help them get through the tough times.
While the three technicians take care of most of the everyday work, Mike enjoys working on the classics, hot rods and other unique cars. These old cars require a lot of time and special care, but they are not the main profit maker for the shop. The owners of these older cars have modern cars that Mike and his crew work on as well.
"Right now in our shop we have everything from a 1930 Ford Model A Woodie to a 2007 Chevy Tahoe, and everything in between," he said.
Mike's philosophy for living comes from the "Golden Rule," to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The crew at Mike's Auto Tech treats their customers with the utmost respect. Mike believes customers deserve to be told the truth and given the most for their dollar.
"I try to put myself in their shoes and imagine what it would be like to be stranded or broken down, inconvenienced and faced with an unplanned expense," Mike said.
He admits that some days are more challenging than others, but said that after working in the industry for 30 years, you get more resilient. At this point in their lives, they are enjoying the fruits of their labors, said Mike and his wife. They might not be rich, but their career has been good to them, and it has provided a very comfortable living. The best thing Mike likes about his job is that every day is different.
"This business is demanding, but it has given me other freedoms and advantages that I wouldn't have if I worked an eight-to-five job for someone else," he said.
In 1988, when Mike's Auto Tech Inc. was founded, Mike felt it was mandatory to become a member of ASA. His father has been involved in ASA for more than 40 years - back when it was known as Independent Garage Owners of America. As president of his local chapter and national delegate for Pennsylvania, Frank Draskovic helped lay the groundwork for the association known today as ASA. Because of his father's involvement, Mike knew the value of the association, and has attended many ASA functions across the country. He believes the association is critical to the shop's survival.
Looking to the future, the Draskovics and their crew are constantly fine-tuning the business as they meet their customers' needs. They plan to continue and carry on their tradition in the upcoming years.
"With the countless resources and networking of ASA, we are able to stay ahead of the game," he said.
Shop StatsName: Mike's Auto Tech Inc.
Years in business: 20
No. of Employees: 4
No. of repairs per week: 30-40 cars per week
Projected annual sales: $750,000
On why he's a member of ASA: ASA is the best place to find mentors and become a mentor to others some day. It feels good to be able to give back and share my knowledge and some of the valuable lessons I have learned.
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