Stepping Into a New Role
Kathleen Jarosik vividly remembers her first day as the full owner of her shop. She had just bought out her ex-husband’s portion of the business, despite knowing nothing about cars, or much about business. It’s no surprise that Jarosik summarizes that first day at Xpertech Auto Repair in Englewood, Fla., in just two words: “Oh, crap.”
But just 10 years later, she’s singing a different tune. In fact, in 2018, she was awarded the Women in Auto Care’s Female Shop Owner of the Year award.
That transformation naturally didn’t happen overnight. The biggest key, Jarosik says, is that she accepted help in the form of management classes. Through this education investment, as well as working with her coach, Jarosik says she continues to be pushed to become a better owner every day.
“I wouldn't want to do anything else, I love this too much,” she says.
Jarosik was nominated for the Female Shop Owner of the Year title by NAPA corporate. After completing the detailed questionnaire and interview process, Jarosik was beyond surprised and humbled to hear the news of her win.
“I look up to those women (past title winners) as huge mentors to me, so I thought, ‘There’s no way. I’m not there yet,’” she explains.
Nevertheless, the Women in Auto Care board recognized her success, and presented Jarosik the title at last year’s AAPEX conference in Las Vegas. She now travels more frequently to represent the industry in different facets, all while continuing to run her growing Florida shop.
“I hope that I spent at least a portion of this last year making them (Women in Auto Care) proud of how important that I feel this decision is,” Jarosik says. “I really try and get out there to advocate for not only women in the industry, but our industry as a whole.”
As told to Nora Johnson
Typically, I try to get to the shop at 7 or 8 a.m. The shop opens at 8 a.m., and if all goes well, I’m here until 5 p.m. I’m heavily involved in the local Chamber of Commerce, networking, and marketing, so I step out quite a bit to market and increase awareness on who we are, what we do, and how we do it.
When I am in the shop, I typically sit in my office behind my window, wishing I could talk to my clients. When a business evolves and grows up, it’s kind of like watching kids grow older. There are days when I get “caught up,” and I sit in our waiting room for an hour or so, and get to just talk to clients that have been with us for years. We fix their cars, but really, we focus on the people side of things. And that’s the culture throughout the shop.
We do Monday morning meetings to set the tone for the upcoming week. If we have any challenges coming up, we can make a game plan during that time. I go out with the numbers from last week and deliver results, to let them know where we are and how we performed.
I also do some incentives and contests every once in a while, to make sure that what we focus on actually happens. If ARO is down or effective labor rate isn't where I would like it to be, we discuss it—the challenges and successes. I always ask the team what their “happies and crappies” were of the last week, to get a better understanding of the shop culture. I try and figure out if there are any obstacles I can help remove for my staff.
I used to be an integral piece of the day-to-day operations here. That’s gotten less and less over the last year and a half or so. I’m much more involved in the shop’s marketing—so what my job boils down to is car count.
Our shop does a monthly paper snail mail newsletter, and I make sure to control the content in order to either bring more people in, or not—to control the business flow. I have four lifts and six bays with three techs, one service advisor, and one CSR, so it’s a pretty small shop.
Repair Shop of Tomorrow does a lot of our marketing for us. They create our marketing pieces every month. We get six to eight ideas from them, and we pick and choose which ones we want—and tweak them a little. They also do our social media and maintain our website; I work back and forth with them on our newsletters. We make sure everything is consistent throughout all platforms—any print that I do, along with our web and social media content, all match and are uniform.
Some days, I’m not in the shop at all because I’m traveling, especially this past year with the award. When I’m out of the facility, I make sure my staff can get ahold of me—anyone can text me, or reach me through Google Hangouts on my cell phone.
Before I leave on a trip, I make sure to get with my office manager, Jamie. I tell her what days I’m going to be gone, and ask to see if there is anything she might need. I also make sure she has plenty of money in the operating expense account. I make a game plan, and let everyone know that I’m never more than a phone call away. I also empower my staff to make decisions without me. Sometimes if you empower your employees to make choices, they make better choices than maybe you could have made.
I used to do all of the front-of-the-house and business side of the business myself. I was always tired and cranky, so my business coach told me I needed to hire someone for up front. He said, “If they let you work even just one hour per day without being interrupted, is it worth it?”
I hired a part-time woman for the job, and, two months later, thought, “I need someone full time.” I got so freed up and more efficient. That’s when I hired Jamie. Once she came in, I slowly faded out of the front office.
When I am out traveling, I’m at conferences or industry events. I went to my first Women in Auto Care conference in 2016. There were only 60 people there at the time, but it really showed me that there were these amazingly successful women that enjoyed and loved this industry. I came home with goals—something I never had before—and I began working toward being better and helping more people.
I’m a big advocate for training, and I’m not afraid to step out and be the mouthpiece if needed. If that’s what I’m supposed to do, and my shop can still run.