Twenty years after its inception, Mobile Service & Repair Co. is still going strong in Wadsworth, OH. But when Frank Dannemiller started the business out of his garage in 1995, he had no idea what obstacles he would have to overcome.
Originally called Mobile A/C, the primary focus of the business was servicing air conditioning systems in transportation vehicles. The “mobile” in the shop’s name meant just that: traveling to the vehicle in need of repair, versus the owner bringing it into the facility. And the vehicles weren’t just automobiles, but also farm tractors, combines and semi-trucks.
Frank took on a business partner, Bill Parsons, in the winter of 1997, and Mobile Service & Repair Co. was born. Along with the change came the shift to working on more cars and light-duty trucks in the shop instead of on location.
They moved the business to its current location on Silvercreek Road in Wadsworth. At that time, the company name was changed to Mobile Service & Repair Co. Bill brought complementary skills and knowledge to the company.
Sadly, two years after their business merger, Bill passed away suddenly of a heart attack. And without any kind of contingency plan in place for such an unexpected event, including insurance, Frank said he had to make some tough decisions. Should he continue on or fold the business?
“If you’re going into a partnership, spell things out,” he says. “We didn’t have a buy-sell agreement or insurance on each other. If we had had an agreement, everything would have been paid, including how to split the company.”
As it was, Frank had to determine the worth of the building and assets so he could pay Bill’s widow for his partner’s half of the business. While difficult, Frank says he wants to help other shop owners avoid making the same mistake.
“It was tough for five years after that,” he says. “It was either file bankruptcy or go for it. We went for it. Lesson learned.”
Now 16 years later, the shop has recovered and is thriving. Frank’s daughter Jacky now works at the shop, wearing several different hats: as front desk staff, service writer and bookkeeper.
“She graduated from Wright State in Dayton, then came to work with me,” Frank says. “It’s been kind of fun teaching her the ropes a little bit. She’s also starting to get into the marketing end of the business.”
Jacky manages the shop website (http://www.4afix.com), as well as the Mobile Service & Repair Facebook page. They also use Mail Chimp to send email blasts to customers, and they recently started using Bolt On Technology’s digital inspections.
“We try to give our customers all the information they need to plan out their service needs,” Frank says. “A digital inspection report includes pictures and descriptions of developing problems and is a great tool to educate customers. It allows our customers to see what we’re talking about when we find certain problems, without coming into the shop.”
Also popular with regular customers is an ongoing oil change discount. All a customer has to do is show up on time, at 3,200 miles or less, and they get $10 off. No coupon necessary.
“We emphasize to our customers the importance of regular maintenance,” he explains. “Our oil change special has our customers watching their reminder stickers.”
“We don’t even need to call with an estimate,” he says. “That’s powerful, and we respect that.”
The shop handles repairs on nearly all makes and models, and Frank says the shop’s techs are known for their diagnostic abilities.
“We have other shops refer or bring work to us,” he says, adding that the shop also works on diesel and fleet vehicles. “We have one ASE Master-certified technician, two ASE-certified technicians, one junior technician and two office employees. We offer a competitive wage, health insurance, IRA retirement account with matching funds, use of shop and equipment for personal vehicles after hours, uniforms, and most major tools/equipment are provided.”
That list of benefits and an honest, open working environment help to attract and keep staff, but when the shop does need to find a new employee, Frank says word of mouth is usually the most successful.
“We have tried various ways to find technicians,” he says. “The best way I’ve found is by word of mouth, usually through other technicians or tool dealers. I try to provide an environment that has my technicians wanting to be here. By doing that, I’ve found technicians who hear about it and ask to work for us.”
We provide several training opportunities to our technicians online, through our association with NAPA, through other parts suppliers and private trainers.
A NAPA Autocare Center, Mobile Repair & Service is able to offer customers parts and labor warranties, and the affiliation also makes training available to the shop’s technicians, both online and in a classroom. Also available are discounts from vendors on uniforms, insurance, information providers and advertising.
In order to stay profitable in today’s business environment, Frank says time management is key.
“We have two quick staff meetings a day, one in the morning, planning out the schedule and assigning jobs to technicians, then one after lunch to make adjustments as needed,” he explains. “Parts are pre-ordered on jobs when possible. On Friday, the company provides lunch for all employees. That gives us an opportunity to discuss problems, new ideas and strategies to improve productivity.”
Frank says they use a similar approach with customer service, always truly listening to customers.
“We’re always trying to meet their needs and exceed their expectations,” he says.
“We keep up with technology in the areas of marketing, auto care, shop equipment and tools. We also give back to the community by partnering with a couple of organizations to provide at-cost repairs to people in need. In most cases, they just need a vehicle to get to work. I find joy in what I do, but giving back to the community is my favorite part.”
With that kind of philosophy and some hard lessons learned along the way, Mobile Service & Repair is sure to keep going strong for many years to come.