By Debbie Briggs
Bill’s Quality Auto Care Owner Bill Garcia was “green” before green was even popular. When he opened his shop in Simi Valley, CA, 19 years ago, it was a given that he would promote best practices such as recycling waste oil and metals. And he and his staff are always working to make the shop as energy efficient as possible.
“Ever since I was a kid and I used to tag along with my uncle in his little garage in the back, he always taught me that throwing things away, especially metal, was a shame,” Bill explains. “He said people throw away too much in this country. He spent time in Europe and had been in Vietnam, so he had the chance to see other cultures’ (values) and he brought them back. He said those people use as much as possible, and we just waste so much.
“So he taught me early on not to throw away metal, so even before the green movement, I never threw away metal,” he continues. “I would keep it in a barrel and someone would collect it. It just drove me nuts that there was going to be a water pump in some landfill forever. And that was before it was cool to do.”
In addition to metal, paper products, tire waste, and bottles and cans are all recycled. Large bay doors are kept open to allow enough light in without using overhead lighting, and efficient T12 fluorescent lighting is used throughout the shop and offices. A high-efficiency air compressor provides air to all of the shop’s tools, and the shop’s computers utilize power-saving features and flat-panel monitors that use significantly less electricity.
“We have invested heavily in quality equipment that captures fluids from all of the fluid flushes performed on vehicles,” Bill says. “Coolant/antifreeze, transmission fluid, brake fluid and air conditioner refrigerant chemicals are cared for with high regard. The equipment we utilize is made to minimize and eliminate the chemical effects on our environment.
“Our service facility is taking many steps forward in helping keep our environment clean; it’s important for future generations, and it starts with us.”
Marketing and Customer Perks
Just as Bill’s Quality Auto Care is known among its customers as being environmentally conscious, clients also know to bring their sweet tooth when they pick up their vehicle after service.
“One thing that we’ve had for years and years is our Hershey bar program,” Bill says. “Whenever a customer finishes a transaction at our shop, they receive a chocolate bar (or a diabetic alternative) with a $5 off coupon attached to it, and they have no limitations. We had one customer bring in 17 of them one time, and she asked if she could use them all. I said, absolutely! They’re just like money. That’s been a basic, but nice, thank you. That will be with us forever — unless chocolate gets outlawed.”
Marketing to current as well as new customers has always been a specialty at Bill’s Quality Auto Care. Current customers have come to expect Bill’s Seasonal Specials mailer, which covers most major inspections at $69.99, with a discount when scheduling online. Kelli Garcia runs the shop’s Facebook page, which keeps “friends” coming back to see her latest recipes and interesting family information. When a customer becomes a friend on Facebook, they also qualify for free wiper blades on their next visit.
Bill says the shop’s website, www.billsqualityautocare.com, has been instrumental in communicating with new and current customers, and a mobile version has been a hit as well. Just as the site has changed looks many times over the years, the information within the site has also grown in scope and quality.
“We link to our Facebook page, allow for online appointments, established a QR code for contacts, a link to AutoNet TV information and have recently started an online blog,” Bill explains. “We’ve also optimized a mobile website that was designed for people on the go. It’s designed with buttons just like an app: Call us, About Us, Hours, Contact Us. It’s been very well received. This came about because people tried to find us, and they told us that they really just wanted a phone number. They want to know how to get here, they want to call you; they just want some basic things.
“We feel our website presence has been a key reason for our continued success and shop growth, and will continue to provide the best possible content to our customers.”
Bill also focuses on employees and says a business is only as good as its people. To that end, technicians and service writers are given access to more than 100 hours of training each year. Offered at no charge to them, technicians receive specialized training from several of the shop’s suppliers, both onsite and off. Service writers have also received training from Elite Worldwide, Inc.; two have gone through the Master’s Program established by Bob Cooper.
“Our budget for training very often exceeds 3% of our GP; in fact, it goes as high as 5%,” Bill says. “But I’ll tell you what, it pays back, especially if you’re careful about what kind of training you send everyone to — and I’m talking about everyone, including myself, service advisors and technicians. That’s part of my job to look at each guy’s file and history and see what training he’s had lately, and what he needs a refresher on. I spend a lot of time on that.”
Training isn’t the only benefit for employees; they can also take advantage of a 401k program, health care benefits, profit sharing, Costco membership, uniforms, paid vacations, paid ASE testing and bonus programs. Bill credits his 15-year association with Bob Cooper and Elite Worldwide with changing the way he does business, saying that he taught him “a lot about putting people first.”
“I don’t want my employees coming to work and wondering how they’re going to pay the bills, or how they’re going to send their kids to school,” he explains. “That’s a real problem nowadays. I uphold my end by providing the training and the means to make a good living, and what I expect in return is a good attitude.”
Formula For Success
Success, Bill says, all starts with the right people, and proper training, procedures and equipment.
“A lot of people don’t consider their staff as much as they should,” he says. “I have people who work with me, not for me, in business. They care about the lights being left on, they care about that piece of equipment being abused or not. They have that ownership mentality and they know if the business does well, they’re also going to do well.”
Given the longevity of this California shop, Bill Garcia just might be onto something: Success and motivated employees go hand in hand.