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Articles - Successful Management Techniques in the Family - Business

Here's the secret to finding a reliable auto mechanic

Thursday, February 06, 1997




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


Have you ever experienced that chilling feeling that creeps up your spine when your car starts acting up? It's bad enough to be inconvenienced by having your car in "the shop," but what's even more frightening is having to face the mechanic, a person you don't trust, yet need.

Mechanics lie to you. They make unnecessary repairs and over-charge you. It's not just a feeling. There have been "undercover" stories on television where the mechanics are caught "red-handed." Mechanics can't be trusted. That's a fact! At least, this is what I believed until a couple of years ago when I met our current "family auto mechanic." This guy is like a breath of fresh air. He and his wife run the shop with a couple of employees. He's honest, hardworking, RELIABLE. His prices are fair. The work gets done in a timely manner. And to cap it off, my car is always better after he's fixed it. Is it any wonder that his business has grown steadily over the years, so that he had to move from his quaint little storefront to larger more professional space? I hope the growth doesn't change his values. With this issue of the Vancouver Business Journal , I began to wonder what is it that makes our "family auto mechanic" so exceptional. There are the basics. He's timely. He's knowledgeable. He's personable but not terribly out-going.He remembers my name. He charges what the work is worth, not what the traffic will bear. I always get answers; no double-talk. He rarely tells me he has no time for me. If he can't fix it, he tells me where I can get the car fixed.

He does little extras; he's willing to pull leaves out of rain drains so that the interior of my car stays dry.A major appliance company conducted a study a few years ago to learn how to improve the quality of the repairs on customer's appliances. The technicians were given tests to determine their personality style; then divided into one of two types, introvert and extravert. Introverts are people who quietly within themselves figure out the problem. Whereas, extraverts are more noisy about their problem solving, needing to talk aloud and get feedback from others. The appliance company then asked their customers two questions: (1) How satisfied are you with the repair?; and (2) How satisfied are you with the technician? While the customers found the extraverted technicians more personable, there were fewer complaints about the repairs done by the introverts. In other words, the guy who quietly goes about his business of getting the job done, but doesn't interact much with the customer does a better job. Our "family auto mechanic" fits this picture. But there's more. There's something deeper that makes my mechanic special. He really seems to love his work. He works hard, often late into the night. And his wife is working right beside him. It must be that he enjoys solving the mystery behind my car problems. He probably wants to earn money too, but money is a byproduct of doing what you love.

Obviously our "family auto mechanic" is being paid well for doing what he loves. I know that I am not alone in this desire to have a mechanic I can trust and who does quality work. Recently on National Public Radio I was listening to "Car Talk," a lively program dedicated to answering tough car repair problems called in by listeners. On this particular night I was amused to have an astronaut call in from his space shuttle orbiting the Earth. Although the reception was compromised by a little static, I learned about the problems astronauts have with their vehicles.But what was even more fascinating about the program is that the hosts were offering to set up a free locator service for mechanics. They asked listeners to send in the names of mechanics that they felt were RELIABLE and trustworthy. If you want to find a mechanic you can trust, you need to get to know the person. Just as with your physician or hair dresser, the relationship with your mechanic should be more than passing. In our frenzied world, many of us have lost tract of the community spirit, but that community spirit is what helps build trust. If I know my mechanic and his family and he knows me and mine, we can build a relationship of trust over the years. He knows just how I like things done. I know that I can trust him to have my best interests at heart. Most importantly, I want to work with someone who cares about me, not just my car; and I want to work with someone I care about too.