People don’t always end up following in a parent’s footsteps, but when it comes to the auto repair industry, sometimes oil just seems to be in one’s blood.
Take Andy Massoll, a second-generation shop owner who grew up working around Curt’s Service Inc. in Oak Park, MI, before deciding to make a career of it — a very successful career if expansion into additional markets is any indication.
“I was born into the automotive business — literally,” Andy says. “I was brought from the hospital to my father’s first shop prior to going home in 1982. I grew up in the shop as a kid, cleaning up and then assisting with service more and more as I grew older. I started full time in 2001 after leaving college to come help with the family business. That was also when I finished my ASE Master Technician certification.”
And the rest is history. Ever since then, Andy has honed his shop management skills and even branched out into additional locations. With the help of his father, brother and staff, Andy grew Curt’s Service from seven service bays to 15 in 2012. The purchase of Hamburg Garage in Whitmore Lake, MI, followed in 2014.
“In 2014, I partnered with a friend and fellow shop owner, James Snider, who shares the same growth vision that I do, and we purchased a troubled and existing business in a rural area,” Andy explains. “But it was a good-sized shop with nine bays, seven lifts and a lot of potential.”
Finally, the latest endeavor involved opening Farmington Garage in Farmington, MI.
“In August 2016, my partner and I also started a new business in an existing building, adding an additional seven bays with the expansion potential of up to nine,” he says.
Staffing & Training
Andy’s shops employ 14 technicians total, all of whom are either ASE- or Bosch Master-certified, or are working their way toward those designations. Training is taken seriously, with techs completing a minimum of 45 hours of continuing education each year during business hours.
As a part of the Bosch Car Service network, Andy says staff members are able to take advantage of online training, as well as attend onsite sessions.
“Bosch is a great training partner for us,” he says. “They host training throughout the country that we send technicians to, and all of our techs have an individual or unique log in for personalized online training.”
Andy says AutoCareCareer.com has helped tremendously in finding new talent, but he also relies on a professional reputation to bring the right candidates to his shops.
“Take care of your existing staff, set yourself apart from the competition as a professional in the industry, and a lot of good talent will find its way to you,” he says. “I make a bold statement to all of my techs that I take being the best automotive employer for their career as a professional technician very seriously.
“I work hard with them to provide the proper training, resources, career advancement opportunities and work-life balance to achieve our promise,” he adds.
While word of mouth always helps bring in new customers, Andy says striving to provide superior customer relations is the best way to obtain — and retain — new clients. He says rather than present only one plan for maintenance or repair to a customer, the staff really listens to the customer to do what’s best for them.
“We have a lot of different options when it comes to fixing and maintaining our customers’ cars,” he says. “Each of their situations is unique, so we hear them out and develop a path that best suits their needs. Of course, we have our recommendations, but by asking a customer what their intentions are with their vehicle it really lets you know what is needed to help them achieve that.”
Along with customer referrals, Andy says his shops benefit from a robust marketing plan, of which his shops’ websites are perhaps the most important part.
“Your website is the single most important piece of passive marketing,” he says. “Today, most consumers will log onto your website to validate your business. You need to have a solid website that shows you are a legitimate, technologically savvy business that is professional, inviting and verified through reviews.”
Andy says when you have your website performing well, it’s just a matter of maintaining it.
“Nowadays they’re pretty easy to maintain,” he says. “We try to have consistent, updated information, and we monitor each location’s performance individually on a monthly basis.”
Following up with the customer is also key. Once a repair or maintenance job is completed on a customer’s vehicle, something as simple as a phone call 36-48 hours after service goes a long way.
“Consumers are blown away that an auto service center would bother to take the time just to thank them for the service and verify that all of their concerns were addressed,” Andy says.
Customers also appreciate inviting waiting areas as well as available Wi-Fi to make waiting for a service a little more comfortable and productive.
“The days of having a great shop and a poor office and waiting room are things of the past,” Andy says. “I have said many times, it doesn’t matter if you have the best shop, best techs, best tooling, etc., if a customer does not feel comfortable and proud to bring their vehicle to your facility for service, you will not get another chance!
“Our facilities all have beautiful and comfortable waiting rooms that accommodate our customers’ needs,” Andy continues. “A lot of shops are still fighting against the ‘waiter’ customer, but that is the world we live in now. As long as you have a comfortable area and Wi-Fi, a lot of people are choosing to wait for services to be performed.”
Andy says his affiliations with Bosch Car Service, ASA, ASE and the Auto Care Association have been invaluable in propelling his business forward as a whole. He also is a member of the Young Auto Care Network Group (YANG) and says that it is refreshing to work with other “Next Generation” leaders within the industry.
“The more involved you are, the more you will get out of this industry,” he says. “My participation within the Bosch Car Service program and council, as well as with the Auto Care Association, has introduced me to other leaders within this industry who are like-minded. While our main goal is to be a sounding board and to work together to make this industry better in many different ways, you still get a lot out of it in the process.”
One of the main takeaways, according to Andy, is that independent repair shops don’t have to go it alone.
“It’s important to align yourself with other larger organizations,” he says. “There are very serious battles going on out there that all of these associations are fighting every day on our behalf, without the majority of shops, owners and employees even aware of it happening.”
At the end of the day, Andy says he relies on good business practices to ensure each shop continues to grow and remain profitable. Things like setting productivity goals, measuring performance as well as streamlining communication between the technical staff and service writers are critical.
“We need to continue to evolve in the ever-changing world in which we live, but you shouldn’t forget about the core business practices that got you to this point,” he concludes. “Make a significant investment in your staff. Guide them. Help them to be the best that they can be. Give them the opportunity to grow within your organization or you risk losing them. Finally, be technologically advanced, embrace change, make a commitment to education and invest in the equipment needed to service tomorrow’s vehicles.”