Keys to Active Leadership
SHOP STATS: Good Carma Auto Repair Location: Minneapolis Size: 9,000 square feet Staff: 8 Average monthly car count: 225-275 Annual revenue: $1.3 million
Bill Jaap, a self-described hippy obsessed with motorcycles and old-school Volkswagen vans, got his start in the industry as a service technician in the late 1970s. He worked at different shops, including a Volkswagen specialty shop, where he developed a loyal customer base that he eventually decided to bring along when he created his own shop, Good Carma Auto Repair. That shop was created with one fundamental in mind: “Going the extra mile for customers.”
Jaap, 54, works tirelessly to keep his 9,000-square-foot, $1.3 million Minneapolis shop spotless. Within the last 20 years, he’s had to move his facility three times to accommodate the level of growth his business has experienced.
Just last year, he and his wife, Liz, decided to open a coffee shop, Carma Coffee, to accompany the repair shop. While Carma Coffee is more of his wife’s business enterprise, he’s always around.
Jaap is the jack of all trades in both businesses; he does everything from building maintenance to dropping off customers, and even pouring a patron a cup of coffee.
Jaap’s a real people person, he says, driven by his desire to provide the best service to his customers. Whether it’s at his repair shop or the coffee shop, his attention to detail and the needs of customers has helped him make Good Carma Auto Repair the customer-focused shop it is today.
I have a bit of an unusual start to my morning. Even though 90 percent of my time is spent at the repair shop, I go to the coffee shop at 6 a.m. first. Then at about 8 a.m., I get to the repair shop before it opens.
We open at 8:30 every morning, but before then, we get coffee and then have a morning pow wow to address the tone of the day. I try to keep things light during our morning meeting. My staff will tell you that I always say, “Today is going to be the best day ever.”
I don’t want to have every morning start off with some directive, like a drill sergeant. I like to stick with our mission statements. And then, we just get about it.
On a daily basis, I make sure I stay active in every level of the repair process and shop management. I pay attention to the work in process and I make sure we have a good rhythm going. I check in with my service writers, making sure there is clear and positive communication with customers. This demonstrates my willingness to help our team prosper, in any way that I can, and to stay connected to my staff, customers and community.
I try to lead by example; I have a pretty good amount of energy. I always try to take my staff up a notch, too. I think that part of being a leader is making sure your people are doing well. I try to inspire positivity and impart service to others through my actions both in the shop and in the community. I show up positive and grateful. I listen to my crew and follow through with directives, and focus on harmony rather than confusion.
We focus on the “we care” aspect of the shop for our customers and staff. A lot of my day is spent addressing customer satisfaction and making sure my technicians have what they need—tools, parts and support. I’m the customer service guy.
I am always happy to step in personally when a customer needs me. For example, last week someone who has been with us for years had trouble starting his van. I drove to his house with my truck and trailer, delivered a loaner, picked up his vehicle and assured his wife that we had it handled. I love making personal connections to customers.
I also drop off and pick up one or two customers on the daily, as needed. I’m also between the Audi dealer and the Volkswagen dealer a lot of the time, picking up parts for people and my employees.
I’m really focused on cleanliness and customer satisfaction. I do a lot to keep the shop clean. For example, today I cleaned the windows on all the buildings. I wash the floors daily and repaint them every two years. I am obsessive about floor cleanliness both for safety reasons and to keep customer cars clean of debris. A clean lobby and bathroom set the tone for the whole shop.
I wash and vacuum cars, mainly because I love to deliver a clean car to each of our customers.
The whole vibe of our shop is not like most; it’s got a vintage feel to it. We’re a different animal in that respect.
I always tell people I’m the owner/janitor. I do snow removal and landscaping, not because I have to but because I love it. I also do all the building maintenance for both buildings. We actually own the whole block, which includes a rental house next door. I manage and take care of that, as well.
The good thing is that everything is within walking distance—the shop, the coffee shop and the building I manage—so I can easily get there and address any maintenance or customer concerns.
My day isn’t your typical shop owner’s day where I’m tied to the shop. I’m lucky. My shop life is split between both businesses right now. Being 20 years in, I have to give credit to my staff. I’ve got a great group of people.
My wife and my staff help me stay organized. My wife shares the shop’s responsibilities with me. It’s definitely our business. She does the books and I do the heavy lifting and customer service.
Ashley, our shop manager, is also a lot of help, as well as Andy, our newest technician. He came on board and helped organize things and manage the specialty tools and equipment. To have a successful business, for any length of time, you have to have key players that work on what you aren’t particularly good at.
One thing that my staff is really good at is collaborating on difficult problems. Sometimes our morning meeting will even cover how to take care of a difficult job. In my shop, everybody has each other’s backs. Everybody has the customer and excellence in mind.
We try to do everything we can to make the customer happy, to encourage them to review us.
Every day is unique. I have two businesses, two teenagers and many connections in the community. I often begin my day at 6 a.m., sometimes as early as 4:30 a.m. I continue with a variety of tasks throughout the day revolving around work, family and community; always staying in touch with the shop. I tend to wrap up some days at 2 p.m. and others at 7 p.m. It really varies.