Exclusive Auto owner says daily shop management is key to success
Yucaipa, Calif.—Over the past two-and-a half years, Exclusive Auto Owner Mike Proud said his business has grown 25 percent, which he attributes to several factors.
“The main reason for our growth is our crew,” Proud said. “I have a great crew in the front office who are properly trained and really know how to take care of people, and ASE-certified technicians in the service department — it’s not just the owner.”
Since 1994, when he came up with the name “Exclusive Auto,” Proud said he has had a plan and vision for an auto shop that would stand out above all others.
“It all started with the buyout of a small shop in Yucaipa with a strong customer base named D&W Automotive,” Proud said. “Then, when I came in, there was a complete rebirth of the shop and I felt that the word ‘Exclusive’ reflected where the shop was heading.”
Proud, who is a Mercedes-Benz Master Technician and a graduate of Universal Technical Institute (UTI), said a large part of his vision for the company hinged on proper shop management.
“I liken shop management to playing a ball game,” he said. “How do you know if you’re winning if you don’t know the score?”
To that end, Proud said he connected with Management Success in Glendale, Calif. “Management Success is a leader in providing independent automotive repair shop owners with shop management seminars, training, and consulting services since 1993,” he said.
Proud said the shop’s workflow process has become so successful, that shop owners from all over the U.S. and Canada have come to see the process in action. “Some have commented that they’ve never seen such control and organization on the administrative side,” he said.
Proud says most shop owners are top technicians, but many don’t know the first thing about shop management. “Management Success taught me many aspects of running the business, such as internal workflows, marketing, Web design, and public relations.”
Armed with more management knowledge, Proud said Exclusive Auto grew steadily over the next eight years using solid business ethics that people seemed to be drawn to naturally.
“The small shop’s parking area just couldn’t contain the flow of clients’ cars anymore,” Proud said. “So we ramped up and on June 12, 2002, acquired the largest, most well-known transmission business and property in the area, Joe's Automatic Transmissions.”
The building was purpose-built as a repair facility, has a large parking lot, and is equipped with six in-ground lifts and two unique drive-on stalls, Proud said.
“The front was completely closed off from the service area which we immediately changed,” Proud said. “We knocked out the wall between them and put in a glass wall so customers can see their vehicle’s being worked on, which they seem to like.
Proud said he also increased his front office team, added an additional technician, two shop attendants, and a quality control inspector.
“In the front office we have Stacy Console, our administrative coordinator who assists the service writers so they can concentrate on managing their techs and, more importantly, their customers; Brittany Carvajal, service manager and client liaison; and John Cashman, service writer.”
Nathan Mann is responsible for quality control, Proud said. “We were truly blessed to have found Nathan right after he graduated from UTI at the top of his class. Nathan is also a great technician so he knows what to look for when checking repair work.”
One of the most important aspects of proper shop management is setting up and controlling the workflow so everyone knows what has to be done, Proud said.
“Each service writer has two technicians who focus on particular makes of vehicles,” he said. “It’s a system that allows the service writers to focus their attention and communicate easily with the techs when a question does arise.”
Proud has made it as simple as possible to control the work by putting up trays on the wall with slots for incoming work orders and for every technician. “The service writer determines which technician will do the work and puts the RO in his slot below the previous RO; priority is always the top RO.”
To keep everyone up on the latest repair and shop management technologies, Proud said his technicians continually take ASE certification classes and attend vendor seminars, and he trains his front office staff himself. “I pay for all training and I am a certified trainer, so I teach them what I learned through Management Success with them.”
Proud said repairing cars to the highest quality standards has always been his main mission, which he said he has achieved. “So the only things left to focus on was good shop management and a great customer experience.
“Instead of the mind set that we’re fixing cars, we believe that we are actually taking care of people who have a problem with their vehicle,” he said. “So we looked at what can we do to make that experience more pleasant, like providing a comfortable waiting area with TV and beverages, providing free shuttle service, or getting them a rental car.”
Proud said 80 percent of his customers are women, so he also started a women’s car care clinic that became so popular men and families started asking if they were just for women. “So we renamed it the Vehicle Awareness Clinic so everyone can attend,” he said.
All of this has earned the shop numerous awards for customer service and quality repair work, Proud said. “We were honored as one of the Top Five Businesses in Yucaipa, not just top repair shop. We also won the Talk of the Town Award from Celebration Media U.S. for the second year in a row, and we have a perfect rating with the Better Business Bureau.”