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Marconi: After 41 Years in Business, I’m No Longer a Shop Owner

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I started my business on a beautiful Fall Day, October 1, 1980; three weeks to the day after the birth of my first child.  At the time, I was working at a Ford Dealership in Larchmont, New York, as an A-rated technician, making a good salary, with benefits. Friends and some family members told me I was crazy to leave a secure job after having a baby, just to start my own business. Three days later I went to the bank to withdraw my last $700. I was dead-broke. The fear I had at that moment was nothing like I had ever felt before. Little did I know, there would be even greater fears to deal with as an automotive shop owner.    

While I did have a goal to go into business someday, I never planned on fulfilling that goal three weeks after the birth of my son. It was on the day that I took my wife and baby home from the hospital when I happened to look in the newspaper and noticed an ad to rent a 4-bay auto repair shop in Baldwin Place, N.Y., which is about 35 miles north of New York City.  After a few visits to the shop and scouting out the community, I made a deal to take over the existing shop owner’s lease. I was a technician on September 30, 1980, and a business owner on October 1. Was I prepared? Hell no. I knew one thing really well, how to fix cars. 

The transition from technician to businessman wasn’t easy for me. The first 10 years was a struggle. It’s not that I didn’t do well, I did. But wearing all the hats for every position ended in an emotional life-changing event in November of 1991 that made me question why in the world did I go into business in the first place.  Like so many other technician-turned shop owners, I eventually discovered that in order to survive and thrive, I needed to learn a new set of skills, the skills of running a business. That meant putting down the tools and getting out of the bays; a place where I felt the most comfortable. 

The 1990s was a renaissance period in my life.  By then I had two more children, another boy, and a girl. Our business made great strides, with year-over-year growth. By the late 1990’s I had new definition of what it meant to be an automotive shop owner. My responsibilities expanded to more than my family and my business. The entire automotive industry became important as well. 

Raising the automotive industry bar became an essential part of my career. Not because I had something to prove, or to out-do anyone.  I just felt that there were too many shop owners that had the same start that I did, and their struggles, passion and commitment did not always result in the level of success they rightfully deserved. 

On Friday, December 17, 2021, at approximately 2:00pm, I closed on the sale of my business. With pen in hand, and a few signatures, it was over. After 41 years I was no longer a shop owner.  Was it emotional?  As I write this article on January 10, 2022, it really hasn’t sunken in yet. The past 41 years has been a wild roller coaster ride. All the memories, the people I have met, the good times, and the not-so good times, has made being a shop owner an experience that will live inside me for the rest of my life. 

The anchor during my entire career?  My family and especially my wife. I owe so much to my wife, who stood beside me throughout the years. She fully understands what it means to be a shop owner, and supported me, even when I put in those crazy 16-hour days. 

One last thing, I may be retired from my business, but not retired from the auto industry. I will continue to help raise the bar as an Elite business coach and continue to get involved where I feel I can help the most. So, you will still see me at events, read my articles, and I will continue to help other shop owners elevate their own businesses and lives.

I have been asked, “If you had to do it all over again, and knowing all that you know now, would you do anything different?” I need to be honest with everyone, the last 41 years has not been a walk in the park, by any stretch.  And, after reflecting on the past 4 decades, If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. 

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