Content to Serve
What’s the guiding principle for a successful business? Delaware shop owner Greg Buckley has the answer.
Once Greg Buckley, AAM, learns a worthwhile lesson, he never forgets it. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Buckley’s Auto Care in Wilmington, Del., this year, he credits his company’s longevity and success to the lessons he learned as an 8-year-old working the gas pumps (job title: “Petroleum Transfer Engineer”) at his father’s Atlantic Service Station in 1968. The lessons on customer service and customer relationships are the basis for his business and life.
Buckley’s is a family affair: Greg works closely at the helm with brother Steve; sister Michele does bookkeeping; a nephew is a lead technician; and a future son-in-law is a technician. All under dad Gene’s watchful-but-retired eye.
Taking a Break: Shop Foreman Steve Buckley, left, Michelle Buckley, HR & Accounting Manager, center, and Owner Greg Buckley.
In this case, familiarity does not breed contempt, Greg says, “Our whole family has had to overcome a lot. But through it all, we’ve been able to keep things together, and most importantly, we can all still meet at mom and dad’s for a family dinner and actually speak with one another [laughter]. A family business is not for the faint of heart. One moment you’re ‘peeling paint’ off the walls and the next, you’re having a beer together.”
Greg translates that family spirit to the workplace. In an increasingly digital world, he has kept his vision of personal customer service as the guiding principle of his shop: “I really love the quote by Milton Hershey: ‘Business is the act of human service.’ I use that as an inspiration because Hershey truly gave of himself and used his products to support his life’s purpose. Human service is business. We serve others to fulfill their needs, when, in fact, it is fulfilling ours. If those of us that are in this profession did not feel that way, then we should reevaluate our goals and possibly look at other ventures that will make us and others content.”
The Buckleys have built their business from three bays to a five-bay, 5,500-square-foot shop that emphasizes the latest technology and training to accommodate today’s vehicles. Plus, Greg has embraced the tools and techniques of social media to keep customers aware of their progress and educate them on the intricacies involved.
Steve Bullins, technician, doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty if that’s what it takes to do the repair right.
Greg makes it a point to stay on top of changing technology and the business trends that shape his profession and market. In fact, he says, change is the most constant element in the profession because “now vehicle technology takes up the bulk of our concerns, training and money.
“But we’ll need to be ready for a multi-modal transportation model and what multi-model really means. We’ll have to be prepared to address customers’ transportation needs, not just car repairs and services. OEMs are doing that with Uber and Lyft. We need to prepare for that, for what it means for the way we’ll change our operations and customer service.”
Doing that well will require trained technicians, a prospect that concerns Greg on a regular basis. As an instructor for the Automotive Training Institute (ATI), automotive technology instructor at Delaware Community College and adviser to his local high school’s automotive technology program, Buckley spends considerable time addressing what he sees as the biggest challenge to the profession:
NAME OF SHOP: Buckley’s Auto Care
LOCATION: Wilmington, Del.
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 5
NUMBER OF REPAIRS WEEKLY: 42
PROJECTED ANNUAL SALES: $1 million
WHY Buckley’s Auto Care IS A MEMBER OF ASA: “I joined and rejoined because ASA is a national voice for our profession and is stocked with amazing professionals who are dedicated to raising the awareness of others. There are local groups that mean as much to our profession, but ASA is that large voice that can be helpful on a national scale.”
“Talent, talent, talent. We need to prove to parents, legislators and guidance counselors that working with your hands is just as honorable as digital coding. But what goes hand-in-hand with that is we have to pay our talent what they’re worth. Our business model is going to change to where labor charges, not parts sales, will become more important to our profit margins as the internet commoditizes more parts.”
With the first 50 years behind him, Buckley knows that the next 50 will hold unique challenges. That doesn’t scare him because “As a steward, trying to look at the horizon and decide what course should be taken is not an easy thing to do. Our family has been survivors and lifers because we’ve never been afraid of change. Change is good. Change can even be inspiring. It can make us ask ourselves daily ‘How will I serve today?’”
Judging by his track record, Greg Buckley will have no problem finding the answer.
To Know Who You Are
Greg Buckley attributes much of his shop’s success to using social media – primarily Facebook and YouTube – as a key marketing tool by staying in touch with and educating his customers and prospects. Buckley says that he uses social media outlets like Facebook to:
• Keep customers up-to-date on the status of their repairs/service
• Promote shop specials
• Showcase staff expertise
• Build customers’ confidence in Buckley’s
He also uses YouTube (where he has more than 1.1 million views, more than 600 subscribers, and where visitors spend an average of more than 26,000 minutes every month) to introduce his shop and educate visitors in the procedures and subtleties of servicing today’s vehicles.
“We do the videos in a non-promotional, light-hearted manner to invite a conversation. It’s a virtual meet-and-greet to create a bond and an awareness, and a sense of transparency for our customers and our potential customers,” Buckley says. “I invite people to know who I am, Greg Buckley, as a person, as well as a professional. It’s all very informal.” – P. S.
Family Affair: Of the shop’s nine employees, six are members of the Buckley clan. The other three are “just like family so we count them in too,” says Greg Buckley, owner. Left to right, back row, Anthony Dorazio, service manager; Michele Buckley, sister, human resources and accounting manager; Sean Maloney, building maintenance technician; Ryan Craner, nephew, technician; Steve Bullins, son-in-law, technician. Front row, Greg Buckley, owner; Gene Buckley, father/founder; Steve Buckley, brother, shop foreman; Tony Buaino, master technician, euro specialist.