From left: Technician Stephen Anderson, Technician Steve Cooley, Owner Lee Wilson, and Technician Tron Klingensmith. Lee’s Auto Repair recently moved into a brand new 6,025-square-foot facility featuring Challenger lifts, a Hunter Alignment and Balancer, and Factory scan tools.A 1969 Chevy Camaro sits on a rack at Lee's Auto Repair. This vehicle is being restored and updated for a young lady who inherited the vehicle from her grandfather.Service Advisor, Mike Rowe handles customer interactions, parts ordering, and other front end duties at Lee’s Auto Repair.

Dealer alternative banks on hometown relationship for new facility

Former dealer tech opens shop with $600 in capital and now sees more than $600,000 in annual revenues

Independence, Mo.—Lee Wilson’s career as a dealership technician came to an end after moving back to Missouri from Texas, 23 years ago.

 “I was tired of seeing people being taken to the cleaners at the dealerships. One day, after I moved back, something told me to go for a drive. While I was out, I saw this old three-bay shop and decided to call about it. I didn’t have much money saved up, but I had enough to put down the first month’s deposit on the building, used my car as collateral for any damages that may occur, and that left me with $600 in operating capital to get things going,” he said.

From those humble beginnings, Wilson has successfully grown his Lee’s Auto Repair into what it is today. Wilson reports $600,000 in annual sales with a 12-15 percent year-over-year growth; ARO of $478.59; a monthly average car count of 108 with three technicians excluding himself and one service advisor. He also recently moved into a new 6,025-square-foot, six-bay facility at the corner of U.S. Highway 24 and East Salisbury Road after spending 15 years just up the street. Wilson also added that he intends to grow that yearly revenue to over $1 million dollars with new new facility.

Wilson credits his success to a few key factors, including business relationships, honesty with customers, and standing behind his work.

 “A chance meeting between myself and Jeff Scassellati has led to the best banking relationship that I have ever heard of. He came knocking on the door of my first shop trying to sell me an account and through a series of events, he became my banker and a good friend. He is now the senior vice president at Blue Ridge Bank and was very instrumental in working with me to make this new building a reality. They are just a good old hometown bank.”

Keeping customers informed through the repair process and only selling them what they need is something Wilson feels strongly about.

“I am not the kind of guy who is going to stand face to face with someone and sell them something they don’t need. That is just not in my nature. I saw it done too many times before and it’s just not right. I also explain — in detail throughout the whole process — what we are doing to a vehicle. They don’t appreciate being talked over. You have to talk to them and help them to understand some of the technical aspects without overwhelming them.”

Wilson also added that having Mitchell 1 shop management software also helps to keep the shop engaged with customers through follow ups, phone calls, and emails.

When the work is being performed, Wilson says he stands behind it no matter what.

“There was a situation where we were working on a customer’s vehicle and we accidentally broke an evap line. A lot of places would have called the customer and said you need a new line. I got the part, put it on, and when the customer came in, we told them flat-out what happened. They were blown away at the transparency. They said, ‘The dealer wouldn’t have done that.’ I said, ‘I know, that’s why we do things the way we do.’”

Being able to stand behind the parts installed is something Wilson credits to his relationship with Factory Motor Parts.

“Factory is a great company to do business with. They stand behind what they sell, which means that I can pass that along to my customers.

“When I need a favor, they are there to help me out. They have really done a good job as of late at having exactly what we need in stock. I usually deal with the branch out of Lee’s Summit unless they need to transfer from a nearby branch,” said Wilson.

Additionally, Wilson has equipped the new shop with Challenger lifts, OEM scan tools, a Hunter Hawkeye Elite alignment rack, a Hunter Road Force Elite Balancer and uses BG products as maintenance service and profit center.

“BG is a great product that I would recommend to anyone looking to extend and/or improve their vehicle’s performance. We have had nothing but positive results since we started using it,” he said.

Looking ahead to the future, Wilson says his biggest challenge will be finding qualified technicians. “I am going to start working with the local trade schools and colleges to see if we can get these kids up to speed and ready for real world work.”

Wilson also will be looking into new factory scan tools and possibly opening another location that would be a specialty shop.

“I have been kicking around the idea of opening another shop to focus on brakes and tires, or something specialized. It is a little ways out, but it is definitely a possibility,” he said.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.