A well-oiled machine in Lakewood
Lakewood, Colo.—Last January Ed and Diane Rhodus took their first step toward retirement by appointing their children, Kacey Pace and Chad Rhodus, as co-managers of their family business, which dates back nearly four decades and was once a Jim Paris Tire franchise. Today, Havoline Xpress Lube operates as a combined quick lube and general repair shop.
“They’ve done an excellent job continuing and improving what started many years ago,” Ed Rhodus told Parts & People. “They have a good handle on customer service and workflow.”
The youngest child, Travis Rhodus, also gives a helping hand in the family business as a part-time lube technician and mechanic, Diane Rhodus said, who was instrumental in overseeing the quick lube arm of the business.
Although the Rhodus’ eldest son had become the heir apparent, after working in the business for nearly 12 years, their daughter, Kacey, had a desire to work at the shop after working as a retail manager, who was tired of long hours and missing holidays.
Kacey always had great customer service skills, Rhodus said, adding that she brought her human resources and management background and has made some great changes over the last four years working in the shop. She has learned the automotive business, writes service, and performs payroll and HR duties.
“I love working here because we’re continuing what dad started 38 years ago,” Pace said. “There’s something exciting about a business continuing through generations.”
The contingency plan is to transfer the business to our children, Ed Rhodus said. “It’s definitely on the front burner.”
“In the last six to 10 months the lube business has been unreal,” Chad Rhodus said. After hiring a digital consultant, they began a Google ad campaign, redesigned their website, and began using social media, mainly Facebook, and new customers began filling the quick lube bays, he said.
“The quick lube brings in repair business all day long,” Diane Rhodus said. “When a customer drives up and the lube tech sees something, they’ll get a mechanic to look at it right away.”
That is spurred by good reviews, he said, what shoppers read on Yelp or Google+ before deciding where to take their car. People will review the business, posting photos while they’re still in the shop.
Radio advertisements are also placed on The Rock 93.7 FM, Pace said, adding that she plans to do a direct mail campaign with oil change coupons soon.
In addition to good marketing, the golden rule the shop operates by has created repeat business and excellent word-of-mouth advertising over the years.
“We do things the right way, instead of trying to be right,” Ed Rhodus said. “We are here to help you. We are very conscious of when we make a mistake and try to make it right.”
“Our whole focus is on delivering great customer service,” Ed Rhodus said. “We stress giving each customer the service level they deserve.” That may lengthen a job, but its best to err on the side of giving the best service, he said. For quick lube customers, that means vacuuming and cleaning windows, inside and out, on each job.
The quick lube business is the biggest source of new customers, Chad Rhodus said, pointing out that many people are now proactive and performing them mostly on time to prolong the life of their vehicles and protect their investments.
Many customers have all their maintenance and repairs performed at the shop, he said, adding that they conduct most service, including tire sales, with the exception of alignments. American Tire Distributors and Tire Centers Inc. are their two biggest suppliers, totaling about 500 units a year with a focus on Michelin, Uniroyal, Hankook, and Cooper.
For brake jobs, Centric and Power Stop are the brands of choice Rhodus said, supplied mainly through Western Automotive Warehouse Distributor (WAWD). The Power Stop Z23 Evolution pad, a high carbon ceramic, has been a popular choice in the shop as of late, he added. WAWD also supplies the techs with Aisin, CRP, and Gates timing belt kits.
Additional suppliers include NAPA, Advance Auto Parts, Kenz & Leslie (BG Products), and several nearby dealerships: Larry H Miller Ford, the Stevinson group, Groove Subaru, Christopher’s Dodge World, and Emich Chevrolet.
When choosing suppliers, Rhodus said, “Service is the biggest thing. That’s what it’s about. Time is money.”
The ability to trust employees is an important part of completing an honest, accurate repair, Rhodus said. “We never try to sell a customer anything they don’t need.” Of the 13 shop employees, two technicians have more than 20-year tenures, he added. Lube techs are paid hourly, while general technicians work on straight commission. Car counts are never a problem, he said, since the shop averages a total of 600 a month, with 200 falling in the general repair category. So far this year, he said, business is trending up, about 3 percent month over month.