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Shop Owners Having Each Other's Backs

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John Beebe

John Beebe, owner of Washington-based Bellingham Automotive, Burlington Automotive and a mobile fleet service co., Equipment Service Northwest, says it’s not uncommon for a member of Pro Service, Elite’s peer learning group, to jump on a plane the next day to help a fellow shop owner in need. In fact, Beebe recently got back from a trip where he did just that.

“Within the group, we all have each other’s backs,” Beebe says. “If it was easy, anyone could run a shop. Pro Service gives me a board of directors, 90 strong, that helps me run my business. This is the magic of Pro Service.” 

The group, which is made up of 90 of the most successful shop owners in the industry and led by Jim Murphy, offers guidance and support. Beebe says the group has created lifelong friendships for him and that each member is truly invested in everyone’s success. “These people are like family,” he says. 

A few years back, Beebe put together a band called “Souled Out” with a fellow member of Pro Service. He says there’s one thing that the band and mechanical repair have in common: In order to be successful in either one, it’s essential to find your groove.

Souled Out

Pictured: The inaugural concert for “Souled Out” at a Pro Service Master Meeting, with Beebe on the congas and fellow Pro Service colleague Jeff Rudolph on the drums.

Pro Service has helped Beebe—a former technician—do just that. Beebe, who was already running a successful business when he joined Pro Service in 2008, realized he didn’t have the strong hold on the business side that he needed to.

“I wasn’t as profitable as I wanted to be,” Beebe says. “Many of us were technicians before, so transitioning to being a business manager was a whole different game. That’s where I was stalled."

Recognizing Your Weaknesses

Beebe knew cars, but didn’t have a firm grasp on the business operations. When he joined Pro Service, he was bringing in 8 percent net profit, which he thought was sufficient.

“Then I joined Pro Service and realized the benchmark was 19 percent,” Beebe says. “I realized I had a long way to go.”

Murphy created a dashboard for the group, which converted balance sheets and profit and loss statements into a language former technicians like Beebe could understand. The dashboard looks at over 200 different factors so Beebe can monitor things like productivity and efficiency against industry benchmarks.

This year, Beebe’s Bellingham store is on track to do $3.3 million in sales at 19% net profit. Combined, he expects his three businesses to hit above $5 million in revenue.

Holding Each Other Accountable

The group is made up of 90 shops from across the country. Pro Service has an annual meeting in January that all of the shop owners attend, and beyond that, each colleague attends two Master Meetings per year.

The Master Meetings are two-and-a-half days where a group of 20 colleagues survey the rotating host’s shop, have open forum discussions, give reports and hold each other accountable if they’re not performing well.

To instill further accountability, Pro Service holds a monthly online maintenance meeting hosted by Murphy. The owners all review numbers and action items, and discuss any issues or success stories.  


Shop Owners Have Each Other's Backs

Some of Beebe's Superstars being recognized with Standout trophies and Exceptional Team Player baton awards.

Sharing Your Strengths

Pro Service emphasizes sharing your strengths with the group. Some shop owners have a background in marketing, for example, so they have valuable insight that someone who grew up around cars may not have. A former technician, on the other hand, can offer insights on trends in the industry or repair procedures to owners with business backgrounds.

Beebe has helped his colleagues with something that many shop owners struggle with—hiring and managing quality employees. For him, the key is making sure each employee understands the objective of each task and the company’s overall philosophy. In fact, Beebe asks all prospective employees to spend some time working with his team as part of the interview process. If the prospective employee seems to be a good fit, they all have lunch together as a team and discuss the next steps.

When it comes to performance, Beebe celebrates achievements and deals with issues appropriately. 

“When our people are successful, we praise them publicly,” Beebe says. “If they need more coaching, we do that privately, with respect. This gives our people meaning, makes them happy to be at work and generates lifetime employees.”

Beebe insists that this company culture, which has helped many of his fellow colleagues with employee management, is the work of his wife, Carol Beebe, who has dedicated the past 8 years to running their HR and Marketing departments.

When it comes to managing people, Beebe says that it’s all about his staff taking on challenges and making the solutions their own. Their SOPs state that if an employee has a problem to discuss, they need to come to management with at least two suggestions on how to correct the situation. “We may not agree with their solution, but we work hard to say, ‘That sounds like a good idea, why don’t you give that a try and see how that works?’” Beebe says. By doing this, his employees feel like co-owners of their departments. 

Beebe says that the knowledge Pro Service has provided him with is a golden thread that helps hold his company together. “Even though I was successful before joining Pro Service, I honestly have no idea how I’d run my business today without the camaraderie and countless valuable resources that Pro Service provides," Beebe says.

To learn more about joining this peer group of 90 of the top shop owners in the industry, visit the Elite Pro Service web page

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