Capitalizing on Feedback

Aug. 6, 2020

How this shop owner overcame the odds to create a shop that people love to work at.

SHOP STATS: Bill's on Broadway   Location: Grove City, Ohio  Operator: Bill Davenport  Average Monthly Car Count: 104  Staff Size: 7  Shop Size: 3,000 square feet Annual Revenue: $879,000  

When Bill Davenport was just a toddler, he came down with a high fever, killing the nerves in his ears and making him certifiably deaf. Even with a hearing aid in place, the doctor told his mother that Davenport would struggle to make it out in the real world. 

Davenport wanted to prove that doctor wrong—and did. First, by graduating from training school as the top mechanic in his class.

“I went above and beyond and started teaching classmates, even the teacher on stuff I’d learn [from reading],” Davenport says.

Next, by deciding to go out on his own in 2004 and create a shop culture everyone wanted to be a part of at his shop, Bill’s on Broadway in Grove City, Ohio. With his determination and the help of his family, trainers, and staff around him, he capitalized on his goals with a 77 percent increase in revenue from 2018 to 2019. Now, he’s looking into a larger, 12,000-square-foot building to expand his operation.

“I’ve made mistakes, but I never quit. I never give up,” Davenport says. “I’ve always been a fighter in everything I do.”

Having to overcome adversity at such a young age, Davenport has had many obstacles put in front of him—and he’s been able to knock them all down. 

The Lesson: Ask for Help

From an early age, Davenport says being deaf was filled with learning challenges that no one really knew how to maneuver around. So, he asked himself, how can I become the top mechanic and be the main guy in my own operation? 

While technology definitely played a part helped him overcome some of the barriers—a hearing aid and an amplifier to hear people over the phone, for example—his determination helped him study hard, work his way up, and buy his own tools. As he worked through the ranks, he was then able to cultivate an idea of what he wanted his shop to look like; he just took all of his past work experiences together, grabbed all of the good parts of that shop he liked and got rid of the parts that he didn’t. However, Davenport realized he needed some outside help to make his shop even stronger. One of the biggest factors that contributed to his 50 percent growth last year was combining the tactics he’d learned from the Automotive Training Institute (ATI) and the Shop Fix Academy.  

Davenport’s trainers had a challenge of their own: they’d never coached or trained a deaf person before.

“The way you train a normal person and the way you train a deaf person—two different stories,” Davenport says.

Davenport says his coaches understand his deafness; Shop Fix CEO Aaron Stokes understands from personal experience, as his mom is also deaf. And Davenport’s ATI coach, Bobby Poist, has accommodated his teaching strategies, but he isn’t afraid to challenge him and load him up with all of the information he needs. 

Over the four years he’s been a part of ATI, he’s learned to balance speaking up when he needs to and shutting up when he needs to listen. If he doesn’t understand something, he has the integrity to interrupt and ask them to repeat or to explain it in a different way. And when it comes to providing for his staff, he’s learned to listen better and says it’s helped him run his shop in the best way possible.

When Davenport is in the shop, he makes sure to check in on each of his staff members twice per day, putting a hand on their shoulder and asking how they’re doing. He’s watching out for his team’s best interests, and in return, he knows they are doing the same.

“My staff takes the extra time to explain things if I don’t understand,” Davenport says. “They don’t take advantage of me; they look out for me.”

The Lesson: Choose the Right People

It took Davenport a long time to trust his team, something his coaches constantly got on him about; in order to run his shop more efficiently, he has to trust his team and delegate.

“I was a mechanic attempting to be a shop owner,” Davenport says. “Now, it’s vice versa.”

In order to get to this point, he needed a team that he could rely on. One thing was for certain: there is no room for negativity in Davenport’s shop.

“I don’t hire negative people,” Davenport says. “I hire people with a good head on their shoulders.”

It’s the No. 1 thing he looks for in an interview. And if they end up showing their true negative colors as time goes on, he has no problem kicking them to the curb and finding someone else. 

He wanted his shop to reflect a positive attitude on his shop, and reading It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, helped create tactics to his approach. The book told the story of how the navy commander of the USS Benfold created a crew of confident and inspired problem solvers, eager to take the initiative and responsibility for their actions. As the book said, this is your ship, you’re in charge of it.

Davenport recently hired two service writers: Jonathan Bernert and Tim Sedergren. After 16 years of searching, he finally found the perfect combination of the two: the yin and yang of service writers. Together, they balance each other out and create a dynamic team.

“With them working together, it’s like putting my shop on steroids,” Davenport says.

With this duo in his shop, Davenport is now able to take a step back from the shop and shift his priorities and responsibilities toward his retirement. Every day, he makes a list of things he wants to get done. With that list, he takes some of the tasks and starts delegating them to each member of his team based on their skills. Before he knows it, he’s shortened his task list to only three to-dos for the day.

The Lesson: Focus on the Positive 

Early on in his shop owning days, Davenport says he had a hard time praising his team and giving them feedback. He was taught a tactic that made him more aware of what he was saying to his staff: Davenport would start off his day with 10 pennies in one pocket. Every time he said something positive to his team, he’d move a penny to the other pocket. By the end of the day, it was his goal to have moved all of the pennies to the other side.

While it was important to avoid negative people for Davenport, there’s always that rare occasion that morale is running a little low as a whole. When that happens, he has staff sit around in a circle, puts a staff member in the middle, or “hot seat” and has his staff say something positive to that member of the team, until every employee has been in the hot seat. But most of the time, he doesn’t really need a reason to praise his staff; he just makes it a priority. Sometimes he’ll take a staff member out to lunch, cater a lunch in the shop, or even treat his whole team to a Friday night dinner out on the town after a week’s worth of hard work.

“I make sure to praise them for what they do,” he says.

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