Set Your Own Industry Standards
SHOP STATS: Jenos Auto Service Location: Littleton, Colo. Operator: Seth Horvath Average Monthly Car Count: 250 Staff Size: 8 Shop Size: 3,000 sq ft; Annual Revenue;$1.3
When Steve Horvath was 19, his brother, Jeno, hired him to work at his new business, Jenos Auto Service. The purchase was inspired by his father who ran his own shop as the boys grew up, but passed away when Horvath was 10 years old.
“I don’t know if it was my dream to start it,” Horvath says. “My brother worked more in [my dad’s shop] and it was my brother’s dream to have an auto shop.”
The shop predominantly survived in rented spaces, but really began to grow following the ultimately establishment of a fleet relationship with their local postal service. According to Horvath, the shop was able to build relationships through the partnership.
In 1994, the shop traded in rented spaces following the purchase of a local gas station. Years later, in 2006, Horvath was approached by his brother to take over as owner.
“It [Jenos] didn’t change a lot until I took over,” Horvath says. “I always say I had two different careers: I worked on cars from 1983–2006 and then I had a new job.”
During Horvath’s transition, there were a few things he wanted to adjust: the owner to staff member relationship and the owner to owner relationship between other shops.
“I’ve always felt that we should be friends with local shops,” Horvath says. “I think us lifting each other up and helping each other out is good for the industry.”
While Horvath typically spends his time working with numbers today, he’s focused on bettering the atmosphere for his shop and ensuring that employees are set and satisfied with what materials and processes they’re working with today.
I spent a lot of time observing how others lead and, when I took over, there were a few things that I wanted to change. I was too young to really remember my dad in the shop, but in the ’60s when he was an owner, I imagine there was a lot of yelling and trying to tell everyone what to do. My dad was definitely a specific kind of leader, and that’s something I really don’t do at our shop. It’s funny because my brother and I really are opposites, so when I took over, I changed the ways things ran in our shop.
I’m not sure whether this is positive or a flaw, but I really tend to love my employees, and I really believe it’s important to treat people decently. The employees are so important to this business and I do care about how they’re doing and making sure that everything is going OK. It does get difficult when it comes to firing an employee, but whenever there is an instance where my service advisor and I have to have a meeting with an employee, I’ve been able to really gain a lot of understanding on their perspective. It’s important for me to keep my mind open because every perspective is different.
I start my day by writing tickets for customers who dropped their vehicle off the night before. Depending upon weather, I head out and also get the loaner fleet cars—we have around seven cars available for customers—started for the day to warm them up.
My staff is required to be in the office by 8 a.m., but we have a few guys that come in around 7 and get things started for the day. Around 8:30, our office assistant comes and then she takes over what’s happening up in the front office.
I really tend to little things around the shop, but I generally try to schedule meetings in the morning so I’m able to help out our staff more throughout the afternoon. For the most part I’m sitting in meetings with insurance companies in the morning, talking with some of our advertising guys that come on through or I’m at a personal appointment outside of the shop. Those meetings will generally occur around 9 and last mid-morning; for me, it’s important to be able to get back to the guys before lunchtime so I can take over and help while they head off to lunch.
Generally, in our shop, we find that the start of the week is the busiest and it slows down a bit as the week leads off, so I try to make sure that I’m available to help customers who typically come in around lunchtime to drop off or pick up their vehicle.
After lunch, we have our half-hour weekly meeting where we go over things with our staff. It’s become more of a chit-chat where I give updates on where things are at with new changes that are coming into the office or processes. The staff also brings up stuff that isn’t working, whether that’s equipment on the floor or things that they’re struggling with, and we have a nice discussion on what to do next. We started doing these meetings around a year ago and they’ve been really beneficial for us.
We also meet once per quarter to go over safety issues and make sure that we’re tending to procedures properly. It’s kind of funny because I’ve found that some of the safety warnings are for me when I help out around the shop, but it’s important for us to make sure that our employees are looked after and are working with machines properly.
I really like to help out with the little things around the office. I’ve found that I’m pretty interested in numbers, so I always look to see what is working in the shop and what we can do to better ourselves. It’s really fun to look at the numbers when things are going well, but also try not to get too down when the numbers aren’t the greatest—it’s always a lesson for myself.
Other lessons that I’ve learned typically occur when I’m filling in for someone who is sick or is unable to make it into work for the day. I always try not to micromanage my employees because I trust what they’re doing and telling me, but it really keeps me grounded when I get to step into their shoes for the day.
More recently, I was filling in for our front office and I realized that our phone system really wasn’t working that great, so we decided to get a new phone system afterward. We’re all really honest with each other if a tool fails or something isn’t going right, but when I see it for myself it really brings everything back into perspective.
At the end of the day, we really just want to be a shop that others trust. To be trustworthy to our customers, we try to focus on honesty and keeping those relationships with other shops as positive as we can. If we have customers that come in and make a comment about the other business’ work, we try to steer that conversation away because it always seems to get back to the shop. I have friends in the industry who are shop owners that I meet with regularly for lunches and golf outings, and I’m also part of a radio show on Saturdays that features around 6–7 other shops, so we’ll work together frequently.