Synchronizing culture, numbers, organization and more led Daris DeGroot’s shop on a path to sustainable success
“I’m not sure why anybody ever came to work for me,” Daris DeGroot admits. “We were a disorganized mess.”
This was not what Daris had envisioned.
Growing up in a home scarred by divorce and saddled in debt, dreaming of a better life, Daris noticed an incredible trend by the time he reached high school: the happiest, most successful people he knew, the ones who managed stress well, had nice cars and nicer homes, were all business owners. More than that, he noted none of them had gone to college. They had pursued what they were good at and made them happiest and turned it into their livelihood.
Daris was resolved to do the same.
For Daris, that meant only one career. The one he had stumbled into at the age of 14 when he diagnosed a carburetor issue in his neighbor’s lawnmower and parlayed that into a job at that neighbor’s repair shop. This career path started two years before he could even drive.
It was 2005 and Daris was 19 when he started his own shop, D’s Auto & Truck Repair, in Holland, Michigan. “I knew that if I could get something rolling, get through the first five years, I could make this stick and not have to go to college,” said Daris.
He was so committed to this track, in fact, that “it was six months before I even thought about hiring somebody,” said Daris. “If I needed help, I’d leave the project until my friends came over after work to hang out and I’d just ask them.”
Being a mechanical genius didn’t translate into immediate business success. Three years in, his business was an admitted “disorganized mess.” Unable to secure any business loans because of the 2008 recession, Daris was short on options. The current location wasn’t going to work. If the business was going to survive and grow, he needed to move.
“It took me three and a half years before I could take a paycheck,” said Daris. “Then we moved, and I went back to no paycheck. I had debt, I had triple the expenses at the new location, my revenue was stagnant, I was married, and my first child was just a baby at that point.
“If I didn’t have all that debt, I would have gone and found a job at that point.”
This was not what Daris had envisioned at all.
From the other side of hardship, it’s obvious that the destination was worth the journey.
D’s Auto grew nearly 100% between 2020 and 2022, from $1.2 million in sales to $2.1 million. Daris is able to pour his time, attention and money into the charity People Helping People of Pullman, Michigan, which built a food pantry in 2022 and is in the process of starting a church.
In 2023, Daris is a confident and successful shop owner, and a pillar of his community dedicated to caring for everyone around him. All of which makes his decision 15 years earlier not to give up all the more important.
Hindsight may be 20/20, in other words, but you must live through it first.
“I felt responsible for those on my team,” said Daris, explaining why he didn’t shutter the business and work for somebody else.
“I always made sure vendors were paid and people had their paychecks,” he continued. “But there was no money for savings and no paycheck for me.” In other words, if Daris wasn’t going to quit, then things needed to change, and change quickly. His second child on the way made that abundantly clear.
In 2011, at the age of 25, Daris got busy making those changes.
In January of that year, he began to measure, track and understand his business using the RPM ToolKit, and then jumped head first into coaching with Auto Profit Masters.
“We stopped running like a hobby shop and started running like a business,” said Daris.
Job one was fixing the culture and one of the first steps led to a discovery. “People didn’t want to buy into using inspection forms and doing inspections on every vehicle,” said Daris. “Some quit, some had to be removed. It was my fault; I was doing a bad job of holding them accountable.”
After culture, the next focus was fixing the numbers. “As a mechanic first, it was a struggle to think about numbers in a spreadsheet,” said Daris. “But I worked with my coaches to understand what each number meant and how each process affected the numbers.”
In addition to weekly coaching calls, Daris approached his shop owner education with rigor. “I listened to podcasts from Auto Profit Masters over and over and over again,” said Daris. “I’d train, work on something, then listen again.”
In 2018, the shop broke $1 million in net sales.
“That’s where I thought we would cap,” said Daris. “I thought we were filled up.”
Then Shop4D came out.
“Shop4D helped us get highly organized,” said Daris. “We could commit to more detail and thoroughness in inspections because we were moving cars through the shop in less time.
“I thought the next benchmark of $1.5 million in sales was a long way out,” admits Daris. “But then the pandemic happened.”
Daris and his coaches at Auto Profit Masters were ready with a plan. D’s Auto increased its marketing budget just as other shops were reining in their spending, allowing Daris to grow his share of the area’s best customers. Despite highly restrictive lockdowns in Michigan and the resulting economic downturn, and despite needing to replace the shop’s lead service advisor and train his replacement, D’s Auto grew in 2020.
“I found that Shop4D helped me get new employees going quickly,” said Daris. “The training and the numbers were our guiding light to say the shop was going in the right direction.”
D’s Auto, once fearing sales would cap at $1 million, and then convinced $1.5 million was years away, passed $1.6 million in 2021. Daris’ processes, systems, pay plans, team, coaching, numbers and marketing were all in sync.
“Once we had service advisors who were fully committed, we could see the numbers grow, said Daris. “We started setting new daily, monthly and yearly records. Then it started going really fast.”
In 2022, the shop passed $2.1 million. “I have a dream of multiple locations,” said Daris. “I’ve been out of debt for several years now, so we’ve been able to save money looking for the right opportunity. I think we can get to $3 million.
“I see it. I see it next year.”
But growing the shop was only ever half of the goal.
“Because of my background, when I see people struggling, I want to help them,” said Daris. “I had guys in my life who said you can’t outgive God. If you’re generous, He’ll give back. I trusted Him.”
In addition to the new food pantry and the church that Daris is helping to build through People Helping People, the charity is helping to provide 90 children with an afterschool program. The next phase is adding life skills training for community members.
Once broke, defeated and on the verge of giving up, Daris is clear on what it took to grow to the point that he could care for everyone around him.
“Invest in really good training,” he advises. “Read books and get coaching. Invest in the best tools. Be excellent in the areas you can control. When you follow the process, you reach new goals, and the business is healthy enough pay a good wage, provide good benefits and help people who are struggling.”
This is what Daris had envisioned.