Open since 1969, Ace Auto Doctor & Repair, Bettendorf, IA, has been operating on vehicle maladies for 54 years with no sign of stopping. Since starting out as a radiator shop with a single bay to moving to a new location with seven bays and eight employees, this multi-generational family shop has changed in many ways.
Larry Goff, Jr., owner of Ace Auto Doctor & Repair, has seen the shop grow in many ways. The shop’s motto is to “provide customer service in abundance,” and it shows. The shop has a reputation for operating efficiently at a high skill level in all areas of automotive service and repair and the team is known for being friendly and trustworthy.
Located right along the Mississippi River, Goff says Bettendorf is easy to love. On the whole, he explains, the community members are dedicated to supporting locally owned businesses and band together to help each other when someone is in need. Being located in the heartland means most people are friendly and easy going. He is an active member in his community and helps organize clubs for the kids in his town. When he isn’t in the shop, Goff can be found coaching youth sports, specifically wrestling and baseball.
Founded by his father, Larry Sr., as Ace Radiator Shop in a one-bay garage in Davenport, IA, the shop originally focused on radiator repair and heater and automotive cooling system work. According to the company’s history, the business consisted of Larry and one helper in 1969, but as the years passed, the business grew to two employees, and eventually the shop moved to a two-bay facility in Bettendorf. During this time, Larry Jr., worked with his dad at the shop during summer breaks, before going on to become an automotive technician at an auto dealership after graduating from high school.
When Larry Sr. started looking toward retirement, he asked Larry Jr. if he was interested in taking over the business, and he was. So, in 1996, Larry Jr. came back to Ace to work with his father. Together, they started to take on general auto repair work to build that side of the business for the future. In the coming years, they also added two more bays, two hoists, and more employees to the shop. In 2001, Larry Sr. retired, and Larry Jr. took charge of daily operations.
Larry Jr. says one of his goals for taking over the shop was to continue the family legacy. “I wanted to take the shop to the next level. My parents always worked hard and that’s something I’m proud of.”
By 2005, the business had outgrown its location once again, so the shop moved to a larger building with seven bays to accommodate seven mechanics and more customers. In 2009, Ace Auto & Radiator became Ace Auto Doctor & Repair, with all the same people, but with a name that better describes the shop’s proficiency in the field of automotive repair.
Goff says he is serving his community and his team to the best of his ability yet, as proud as he is of the shop’s potential, he says he continues to be proud of his team’s potential. “They work so hard, day in and day out, with the best intentions. They are the heartbeat of our company,” he says.
One of the reasons Larry loves being a shop owner is the freedom it has given him to spend time with his family – though he admits that his shop didn’t always run so smoothly. Before becoming a DRIVE client, Larry was working over 70 hours a week while he and his wife were expecting their second child. Things were always hectic and he says he never felt like he was “caught up.” At first, he disregarded DRIVE’s calls, he admits. “I was too busy running, or rather getting run by, my shop.” However, after attending one seminar in Chicago, his life changed for the better. He no longer runs himself ragged to keep the business afloat. Now, he works around 30 hours a week and travels without worrying about the shop while he’s away. The best part? He has gotten to be a major part of his youngest children’s daily lives.
As a DRIVE client, Goff says he has learned many invaluable skills, including how to recruit and retain top talent. “I have learned how to hire and train the right people to handle the business for me,” he says. “When you have a team you can trust, not only are day to day operations smoother but you are able to step away from the business as much as you would like.”
One of the most significant tools he now has to building his shop’s name and reputation, has been word of mouth marketing, he says. When a customer feels like they have been treated right and received good service, not only are they more likely to come back themselves, but they’ll even recommend your shop to people they know.
“Our social media efforts and website (which is run by DRIVE), are both the key foundations to all of our marketing efforts. When your shop is easy to find online, potential customers can see exactly what you have to offer and why they should choose you over the competitors in your area.” Goff considers himself lucky to have several of his family members helping him to continue the legacy. He says his mom comes in once a week to help with filing, as well as to audit the part statements, sort mail and enter the bills.
And don’t overlook the next generation – his eldest son Dustin grew up around the shop and even worked in it while in high school. After graduating high school, he went out into the world for a decade before deciding to come back to the family business. Today, he is the shop manager and plans are in place for him to take over the business in the next five years.
For more information, visit DriveShops.com