How I Work: Bryan McGinnis
SHOP STATS: Autovantage Service Center Location: Auburn, Calif. Operator: Bryan McGinnis Average Monthly Car Count: 165 Staff Size: 9 Shop Size: 11,000 sq ft (2,500 is leased out); Annual Revenue;$1.04 million
Bryan McGinnis worked at a Nissan dealership for 14 years before the dealership went under due to the big crash in real estate in 2008. After he lost his job, he had an opportunity to commute down to another town, but that didn’t seem ideal.
His wife, Becki, knew there was an opportunity buried within that situation that Bryan couldn’t see: It was now the perfect time to start the business he always wanted.
“It was really scary putting everything into this, but we did it,” McGinnis says.
Ten years ago, McGinnis opened Autovantage Service Center with only the help of his apprentice and Becki, who assisted in the front. A few months ago, the business moved to the same building where he worked for 14 years—the Nissan dealership.
“It’s like a full circle,” McGinnis says. “The day we signed, I was looking out my back window and I thought, ‘Man, thank you, God; I am so humbled, I feel so blessed.’”
In the last 10 years, McGinnis has learned a lot about being an owner, and while he spent years working in the automotive industry, being an owner is an entirely different experience.
“This was an opportunity that got laid out before us,” McGinnis says. “We put our nose to the grindstone and when you treat people right, you’re going to succeed; there’s still times where, [while] we’ve been at the shop for three months now, I’ll look across the shop and go, ‘no way.’”
When I walk in, I’ll shake everyone’s hand and ask how they’re doing. We joke around, I give them crap and we usually just catch up and I make sure everyone’s head is on straight. These guys are my brothers here and I am extremely proud of all that they do here. There has been a lot that I have to learn along the way; when you start a business, it’s so much different than I thought. I called up a couple of my old managers a month after I started this business and apologized for how I acted before. I was such a prima donna and they knew it. They laughed, which I can appreciate now, but, man, you start to realize a lot when you take on your own business.
When I started the business, it was just me, my apprentice, and my wife. I let my old boss know that I was going to be going off on my own and he took me aside and gave me the most incredible gift: a letter of referral for our shop to his previous customers and his entire mailing list. I was shocked. When I worked for him, it was a family-run dealership. To know that he had my back was such an incredible feeling, and I am lucky enough to have a huge source of resources that I talk with to this day.
I always reach out to others in the industry if I have any questions. I don’t have the answers for everything, and I didn’t realize how lucky our industry is to have so many reliable sources on hand at any time; people are always willing to help one another and I think that’s something unique about this business.
Coming from a dealership, I’m lucky enough to have walked away with a lot of resources that I give a lot of credit to today. A couple of other guys and I started our shops around the same time. We’ve never had a bad day on the same day; it’s kind of funny how that works. What’s killer is that they have solutions to problems that I’m facing and it helps so much. It’s nice to be able to talk business with one another and learn a lot about the industry from all sides. It’s nice to have other people to go to, because people are a lot of work, and making sure sure people stay happy in a business is something that I’ve worked really hard on.
The staff has meetings every Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. to sort things out; it’s so important that we do this. Everybody jots notes down throughout the week on things that we’ll talk about: someone is mad at someone, a repair wasn’t done the right way, a suggestion for a new product. You name it, we talk about it all. I encourage everybody that if you’ve got dirty water in the sink, let’s get it out there. There are just some things that people get hung up on and I think the best way to clear the air is to talk through an issue.
We’re like brothers here; we give each other a hard time, but we love each other and there’s days where somebody may be a little more sensitive and we’ve go to go back and apologize. It really feels like a family here and those weekly shop meetings really help.
My time varies around the shop; sometimes I’m in my office, sometimes I’m on the floor. My role right now is that this summer has been really hectic because we’ve had a lot of vacations, so it’s trying to figure out where I’m needed the most. I’m always learning how to be an owner, which is something at which I’m new. I’ve been a technician my whole life and I hate being the bad guy, so I float around a lot. If someone needs help, I’m there. My role is the floater right now.
We’re a little slow to hire here, and I know that during the busy months, that really shows. I wish I had the formula to finding the right technician, but it’s something that I think we all deal with: bad hires, people that aren’t experienced enough, or just interviews that don’t feel right. At our shop, I’ll meet with a potential hire for an interview and will later bring them back in to meet with the guys. It blows my mind how sometimes people can change when they’re being interviewed by a group; I’ve been in situations where I’m rooting for someone and I’ll have changed my mind after the interviewee met with the team.
When I bring people in to work, I want to bring in someone that will be a team player and help everyone out. We all look at how much work the new hire will have, if they’re capable of the job, and if the candidate is the right fit for our shop. It’s all about making sure everyone is comfortable, can work together, and is trying to do the best job for the customer.
My service writer and I are usually the last one to leave. We’ll stick around and talk for a bit and then I’ll head back home to see my family.
I’ve loved tools my whole life, but I would love to get to a point where I’m working with customers and not on the shop floor as much. I never want to be an absentee owner, but I definitely have plans for myself that I’m still trying to figure out how to do still.