In the wide-open countryside of northwestern Montana sits the small town of Ronan, where for 28 years Jim Krell has served the automotive service needs of the community. Since 1994, K-O Auto has been the place to go for caring and complete car care.
Ronan is a town of about 2,100 residents and Krell says he’s proud of how his shop has grown and what he brings to his town. The people are great, he says, and as a small and tightknit community are eager to help each other. “If there is a need, they will all help!”
Recognized as DRIVE’s August Shop Spotlight, K-O Auto’s motto is “we care,” and from the employees to the customers, they’re always going the extra mile. Their dedicated team of seven uses the state-of-the-art technology they are supplied with to not only do their best, but be the best. This is reflected in the “Top Shop” Award K-O Auto was awarded by AAA in both 2019 and 2020! The team’s customers know that they will be taken care of every time they step foot in the shop. They know the shop appreciates them and they appreciate the shop in return.
The rural area offers an abundance of activities, including every kind of outdoor activity you can think of: snowmobiling, motorbiking, boating, camping, hiking, and more – Jim says most of his free time is taken up by exploring the great outdoors with his family and grandkids.
Krell admits that free time was not always available to him. He says he used to feel frazzled and overworked by the business. “I was running around with my hair on fire, in every section of the shop, working on cars, sitting at the front desk and then going home to do paperwork.” He says wasn’t until becoming a DRIVE client that he felt like he was in command.
“DRIVE gives you the tools to have total control of your own success,” he says. “I haven’t worked in the day-to-day operations for two years.” Instead, he says he gets to focus on revamping his shop’s systems and spending time with his family. K-O Auto is in a state where it runs itself – and it’s a benefit, not a hindrance.
His advice for other shop owners is the best he’s received: You can do it! Self-doubt can hold you back, but once you realize you already have everything you need to succeed you can start to change your life. “The only person holding you back from what you want to achieve is yourself,” he says.
For Krell, communication is key. Once you know what you want, it’s time to advocate for it. He believes that if he can do it, so can you!
Jim’s achieved all of his goals so far. He has a great team helping him run a great shop. One of his favorite things is talking to other shop owners and discussing how they’ve conquered their past problems. Networking is one of a shop owner’s most effective tool in their arsenal. “The more we communicate, the better off we’ll both be,” he says. “We can learn from each other.”
Krell says this networking opportunity is just one of the many reasons he looks forward to the annual DRIVE EXPO. To him, the best part of the EXPO is being with like-minded shop owners. The environment there is amazing. Everyone wants to become better in the industry and help others achieve their goals.
One of the other highlights of the EXPO, Krell says, is seeing the latest news and technology that DRIVE has to offer. As a AAA AAR shop, Jim understands the importance of staying on top of the latest information the industry has to offer.