How Giving and Receiving Benefits Auto Shops
Scott Elmore likes to joke that he was the only one of his siblings dumb enough to come back to his father’s auto repair business. Before that, he built houses and wasn’t at all interested in fixing cars. But when his father started talking to him about taking over the family business, Stan's Automotive, it came with a bit of sage advice: Stan’s is not about fixing cars—it's about helping people solve problems. Mrs. Jones doesn’t care if her alternator fluid is leaking. She cares if she can get her kid to school or her mom to the doctor. Stan’s helps with that. Stan’s helps solve problems—auto repair is just part of how they accomplish that goal.
Shop: Stan’s Automotive
Owner: Scott Elmore
Location: Lafayette, Colorado
Average Monthly Car Count: 600
ARO: $535 (Up $200 in 1 year)
Number of Bays: 14
Management System: Tekmetric
Elmore's parents, Stan & Donna, started Stan’s Automotive in 1973 when Lafayette was a small town with a population of about 4,000. Today, Scott and his team serve a community of about 100,000, repairing a full range of domestic and foreign vehicles. They have grown his family’s shop alongside Lafayette and the surrounding area. Tekmetric recently caught up with Elmore to learn more about him and his team, how they continue to refine Stan’s Automotive and, in his own words, how they continue to find new ways to help the people in Lafayette.
What Family-Owned Truly Means
After college, when I returned to working with Dad, he showed me that the business was really not about fixing cars, but about our relationships with people. A turning point for me was realizing that ‘family-owned business’ means that my family values are my business values—and that dictates how I treat my staff and how we treat our clients. I want to take care of my people. At least a third of my staff has been with me for the entire 20 years that I've been here. So I owe a lot of loyalty to them and I want to see them handsomely rewarded as we grow.
My fundamental philosophy is that if you live to help other people win, then ultimately you're going to win, too.
We all care and look out for each other. If one of our staff has a family emergency, we all pull together so that they can take the time they need to be with their family. The definition I have of doing things right is this: Am I taking care of my team, my customers and my business? If I can say “yes,” then we’re doing it right. Profitability, sustainability and growth will follow.
We had that happen this past year. I won’t get into it, but a staff member had to take leave to take care of his wife. What we had to do was support him and do whatever it took for him to get through what he and his wife were going through in their lives, and the business became secondary to treating him like a member of our family. The best part is, everybody else here and all of my other technicians really stepped up, and we made it through it and actually managed to grow through it.
There is no secret to sticking around for 47 years—we just treat everyone like family and stay involved in the success of the community.
Helping Our Community and Nurturing Relationships
Our business has grown up in a small town that has become a big town. I think we owe a loyalty to our community. I always feel like I want to give back, so we do. We partner with a multitude of schools and community groups and other organizations to grow local programs. My wife and I also do mission work in Ecuador.
We see doing the right thing as a philosophy and not a tactic. It's made us very successful.
We set aside the majority of our marketing budget to help people. Another ad in a newspaper doesn’t help people—solving their problems does.
For example, we helped the school across the street. Their band’s boosters program came to me and they wanted me to write them a big check. I said, “I can't write you a big check, but here's this program that I have. I give you these coupons, they cost you $0. You go sell them, and they're worth about $200 in value to the customer. You go sell them to people that you know and let the kids' parents sell 'em at work and let them sell 'em on social media.” They came to me for $500 and what they got was $6,500 that they were able to generate out of these coupons that I gave them.
We've got a community food bank. We keep a food bin in our waiting area and we're constantly gathering food for them, and then we do our own stuff to give to them also. I've got a coffee and soda bar in my waiting area and I accept donations. Every month I take those donations and add a chunk of money from the business and that goes to our Meals on Wheels program in the area. I've done that for 20 years. And we just stay plugged in, we stay connected. When something comes up and one of my guys is like, "Can I go to this event?" Yeah, absolutely, go! Go represent us and go preach the gospel of goodwill to everybody. And it's been pretty awesome.
I've probably given away somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000 worth of auto repair this year, and that's been done for anything from the local police department showing up and saying, "Hey, I encountered this family on a call. They're having problems. One of their problems is with the car. Can you help?" Of course I can help. A couple of weeks ago, a church reached out to us to ask if we could fix a woman’s heater who just moved here from Florida. Somebody had bypassed her heater core because it was too expensive for her to repair. That was fine when she lived in Florida, but in Colorado during the winter, a heater is pretty important. We took care of it because under the circumstances it was the right thing to do.
So now I have people coming in saying, "Hey, I'm here because you guys are awesome and you supported this program. Oh, and by the way, turns out I have a car!" People laugh at me sometimes when I sit in groups of shop owners and they're like, "That's really old school." Yup. Guess what? It works. 'Cause people are people and relationships are relationships. You've got to nurture relationships.
Seeking and Accepting Help For My Business
When my dad started Stan’s in 1973, they were running on scratch paper, pens and pencils like everybody else. Throughout the years, we adopted shop management systems that were fit for the level of business that we were doing at the time.
In the mid-80s we went to a UNIX-based system that was pretty primitive, but it did a lot. My mom went to a training class on it, and I don't think she even realized it, but she was coding everything that needed to be done. She was programming in UNIX before that was a thing that people were doing! So that carried us into probably the mid-90s, give or take, maybe early 90s. Then we went to a DOS-based system with MotorTrax and we stayed with that for probably 10 years, give or take. We went from that to RO Writer, and we were with RO Writer for probably 14 or 15 years.
Then in July of '18, when I bought the shop, we decided that it was a good time to make a switch, and we switched to a software company that had been in the industry for a long time. Unfortunately they got purchased by a larger company on the literal day we switched over and went live, and it was a complete and total disaster. We spent five months last year pretty much limping along and not even knowing what our real numbers were. I went back to doing accounting manually. It was a frickin' disaster.
So two months into that I knew it was a disaster, and I was looking for a solution to my crisis. I started looking at some of the more progressive companies that were leading the way with technology. That's how I came to Tekmetric.
For the sake of my team, I wanted them to be able to accomplish more without simply working harder. If I can put a tool in their hands that helps them do their job in half the time, it empowers them to put more of their focus on client service and run a better shop. That's motivating. That’s growing. That’s transforming.
The first thing that we noticed when we switched to Tekmetric was that the processes are fairly intuitive. Frankly, it's kind of scary to think that we just switched over to this software and there's not a 400-page manual for me to sit down and read through and figure out how it works. We just had to sit down with it and figure out how it worked. And the fact that that happened smoothly says a lot to the workflow processes that they put into place. They just make sense. It's very intuitive and pretty easy for a service adviser to keep up with volume using this software.
Tekmetric also empowers our clients. They need to feel like they are more than just a repair order. We give them options to communicate with us on their terms: we can text, email, or call them about their repairs. The more communication options our shop management system provides, the more we are able to give our clients the kind of experience that shows how much we value and respect them.
But the biggest thing is that the team at Tekmetric listens to me and really drills down to solving shop owners’ pain points. It’s not just “What do we want?” but also “Why does it need to be a certain way?” And that, quite frankly, is the difference-maker for Tekmetric.
Every other shop management system is either written by a shop owner and is tailored to exactly how they run that shop, or it's written by some software developers who don't have a clue about how a shop runs, and they think they do, and they want you to change all your processes and procedures to match what they wrote. Tekmetric has done an awesome job of surrounding themselves with people in the industry, mostly people much smarter than me who have really helped them figure out what an average shop owner looks like and needs.
Sometimes auto repair shop owners need to understand when it’s time to seek out and accept help for their business, for their employees and for their families. I’m happy I was able to do this for my business because I want to keep helping others in my community.