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How I Work: Rob Choisser

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SHOP STATS: Choisser Import Auto Services  Location: Davidsonville, Md.   Operator: Rob Choisser   Average Monthly Car Count: 110  Staff Size: 6 employees (office manager, customer service manager, shop foreman, master technician and an apprentice, and Choisser)  Shop Size: 2,250 sq ft; Annual Revenue;$700,000  

Rob Choisser, owner of Choisser Import Auto Services, Davidsonville, MD., has issues with the way things are going in the automotive industry. Choisser has worked in both the aftermarket and franchise dealership world, which has given him a significant knowledge and history of the field.

He’s also had a firsthand look at how the industry has evolved. Finding a reliable technician is difficult with the technician shortage, having a car that needs to be repaired is inconvenient for customers, and implementing new shop ideas takes a lot time.

“There’s less drive to come into the industry,” Choisser says. “Thirty years ago, people would work on their cars in the driveway and would learn little nuisances. Now, they don’t have that.”

The lack of desire to enter the industry has stuck with Choisser, who once handbuilt a mock-up dissection of a Honda engine for an eighth grade science project. The industry has provided a lot for the now father of two, and the push to grow has expanded his role as owner of the 12-year-old business.

Recently, Choisser has worked to revamp his position as owner of Choisser Import Auto Services by leaving the tools behind and hitting the books.

 “It’s really about having consistency and continuity [in the shop],” Choisser says. “We are very positioned on work-life balance because the industry can really suck you up.”

I make sure the staff is here in the morning, which everyone always is. We really don’t have problems with employees not showing up. Every morning, I’ll meet with my customer service manager, the shop foreman and then the guys in the shop, and on Wednesdays, we have a company meeting. There are six staff members on our team, including one that is an apprentice, so I like to make sure everyone is feeling OK in the morning. I’ll ask about the kids, the family, and just get a good sense of how things are going with them.

When I first started working at a dealership in the industry, I worked 14-hour days, six times per week. It started to catch up to me and now I focus on the comfort of our employees at my shop. We’re here five days per week now because of that. Our work environment is family-oriented, so it’s very positioned on life balance because the industry can suck you up, especially when you have a family of your own. To me, it’s all about creating a helpful and ample experience for the employees.

After I speak with my employees, I head to my office and check emails from the prior day’s activity. Two years ago, I stopped working on the shop floor altogether and have since redirected my focus. Although I don’t work on the floor, I’ll assist around the shop when I’m needed. I’m always a resource, especially when there’s a diagnostic or shop question.

Throughout the day, I’m usually in my office working on plans for the shop or out of the shop sourcing ideas through business affiliations. There is a lot in this industry that I want to mend. I didn’t feel the industry offered continuity when I first began training in the automotive field so I wanted to implement a formal apprenticeship program to attract and develop future technicians. Outside of the shop, we realized how large the deficit is in the technician shortage really is. For our shop, I want our customers to have their vehicle worked on by efficient, well-trained technicians, so we now are working on implementing an apprenticeship package through a state-sponsored program. We have our first apprentice in the shop and he works under our two master technicians, as well as attends classes four hours per week at a local community college.

There’s a constant strategy of trying to figure out how to bring bigger ideas into the shop. In order for me to expand ideas, I try to learn about different perspectives in the business industry and how they’re able to succeed. I read a lot. Some of my favorite authors are Jim Collins, Michael Gerber, John Maxwell, and many more. Since we are located near Washington, D.C., we have a lot of military customers who will recommend leadership books to me. I got the chance to attend Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses with Babson College, which inspired me to work more on my business rather than in it. To accomplish this goal, I recognized that I needed a strong team to provide consistent service and continuity throughout the client experience. I want to help customers save money through proper vehicle maintenance verses major repairs.

Depending on who is available, I’ll sometimes pick up a customer’s car and bring it into the shop. We offer a pick-up service where a staff member will drive to a customer’s location, bring the vehicle into the shop, fix the vehicle, and then bring the vehicle back to the pick-up location. You call us and we handle it for you. We can do an assessment and get your vehicle definitive care at our full-service repair facility.

The pick-up service was a way for us to eliminate the stress customers face when something is wrong with their vehicle. In my early years, I started an early diagnostic business where I had a scan tool and would diagnose vehicles while customer’s cars were at work. I used the same concept as my emergency medical training. I performed mobile diagnostic services where I would diagnose noises, vibrations, and trouble codes for clients and their shops.

Everyone in the shop typically helps with picking up customers' cars at some point and it’s helpful as all of the staff is cross-trained. If a client is concerned about a certain part of his or her car, we’ll send a staff member over who specializes in the issue. For example, if it’s a driveability issue, our master technician will pick the car up, drive around the customer’s environment and experience the issue firsthand. If everyone, including our service writer and assistant, are tied up, I’ll pick up the car myself.

I’ll close the business if I’m on site, otherwise I’m in and out in outside meetings dealing with business strategies. It’s my duty to be a resource and continue to develop ways in which the business can be improved with staff and the community. I’m always excited about building our shop into a positive environment and at the day of the day I hope my shop has done just that for our customers.

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