Arvada shop nurtures customers-first perspective
Arvada, Colo.-A few times a month, Ken Morfit, owner of Arvada Auto Center, parks across the street from his shop to look at it from the perspective of what his customers see.
“It’s easy to forget what your customers actually see,” he said. “Most owners park in the back, come in through the shop and start doing business. They never actually see the storefront, unless it’s from behind the counter.”
The 4,000-square-foot, five-bay facility sits on Wadsworth Boulevard, a busy thoroughfare that Morfit said gives him free advertising to 50,000 drivers a month, and is also part of the reason he’s invested a lot of money into keeping up his shop’s appearance.
“I recently took advantage of a grant through the Arvada Economic Development Association (AEDA) to help me purchase a $30,000 LED sign for the front of the shop, and I re-insulated the walls in the waiting area because I was concerned about my customers being annoyed by shop noise while they waited,” he said.
Having attended training through Management Success! (MS!) and the Automotive Training Institute (ATI), Morfit said he’s learned how important it is to keep his focus on the shop’s image.
“The MS! program makes you look at your business critically. It has you take pictures of your work area, office area, and signage, and analyze what message you’re sending. It then trains you not to feel guilty or shy about charging a fair price for the work you put into keeping your customers happy,” Morfit said.
He added that MS! also helped him implement operating procedures that have increased his technicians’ production, which didn’t affect car count, but did increase his average R.O. and his bottom line.
Another thing MS! taught him was to work on his business, not in it. Morfit said he reached a point, about four years ago, where he was able to hire a shop manager, Zack Endicott, and said business has been booming ever since — so much so that he will cut his last rent check to pay off his facility in May.
Endicott oversees daily operations and is the service manager for the shop’s three full-time, and two part-time technicians.
“I think the guys work better for Zack than for me,” Morfit said. “Having Zack has relieved me of some of the operational responsibilities I shouldered for 25 years, and has enabled me to re-align my focus to working on my business.”
Arvada Auto Center pays for continuous training for its technicians, who regularly attend seminars through Autonation OE franchise dealers, Advanced-CARQUEST, FMP, One Stop, and WAWD – the shop’s main parts suppliers.
Morfit added that parts reps Brian Townsend at Autonation and Jim Tracy at WAWD have been great for his business. “You can’t take the right guy for granted, and Townsend and Tracy have been dynamite for our business.”
Chad Luten, the shop’s lead technician, who is ASE Master-certified, has been with the company for more than 16 years and is given a tool allowance to budget for new tools the shop needs.
“We recently purchased a new John Bean alignment machine, and the rack will be next. Keeping equipment up to date is a necessity and I rely on Chad to keep a finger on the pulse of what will be needed when,” Morfit said.
The shop doesn’t advertise, but keeps up on its Google and Yelp reviews, which Morfit said are key to attracting new customers.
“It’s a lot harder to get a new customer than it is to keep your old customers,” he said. “Google and Yelp reviews have been great for our business, but I have to manage them very closely.”
He added that he responds to every posted review, good or bad, and makes it as personal as possible.
“It’s tough to get people to leave reviews in the first place, unless it’s a bad one,” Morfit said. “Many of the corporate automotive chains seem to get away with bad reviews, but for independents, reviews and referrals are your lifeline.”
Morfit is also a strong advocate of community involvement. He currently sits on the Jefferson County Open Space Advisory Committee, and is involved with the Jeffco Outdoors Foundation, which helps underprivileged youths connect with the outdoors. The shop is part of the Lake Harbor Optimist Club, which collects and refurbishes bicycles for underprivileged children, and supports the APEX Parts & Recreation programs.
“My community involvement doesn’t bring in customers directly. I do it as a way of giving back. We’re doing business here, and we should be a part of the community in more ways than just repairing cars,” Morfit said.
For his customers, Morfit sends out thank-you cards each December to his top 400 accounts, accompanied with a bottle of wine and a free service of some sort each year.
“My success has really depended on hiring good people and keeping them,” Morfit said. “I’ve always told my guys, ‘There’s plenty of honest work out there.’ It’s not the fastest way to build a business, but it attracts the customers that are loyal, which are the ones we want to do business with anyway.”