Former industry rep becomes entrepreneur and takes know-how to shop ownership
Overland, Mo.—In the five years Doug Jacquot and his wife, Gail, have owned Overland’s Jammin’ J Automotive, he says he’s never sold something to someone they did not need on their car. Instead, he tries to be a problem-solver for his customers.
“I take their problem and make it my problem,” he said. “I get sick to my stomach when I have to call somebody and say that it’s $1,500 to fix their car. I cringe, because I know what a $1,500 bill would do to me.”
Gail Jacquot simply calls it good customer service.
“We really try to take care of people,” she said, adding that the shop is having one of its best years. “We treat our regular customers like family. Doug recognizes everybody when they come in. When they pull in the lot, he remembers them, who they are, what the history of their car is.”
A former Mitchell 1 representative, Jacquot and his wife acquired the former Tire Brokers business in 2010 after immersing themselves in the details of what it takes to run a business. After acquiring the 3,000-square-foot, three-bay shop and operating it for about three years, they changed the name to Jammin’ J Automotive to reflect a change in business philosophy — from an emphasis on tires, as indicated by the former name, to an emphasis on full-service auto repair with a positive, upbeat approach to customer service.
“We also operate on Christian values and principles. So that’s a big part of it,” Jacquot added.
While tires remain part of the mix, “we try to focus a lot on the preventative maintenance,” he said, adding that they also do custom exhaust.
As a long-established business in the community, Jacquot said the change in philosophy also required that he and his wife “re-educate” their shop’s customers, many of whom were in the habit of waiting while their cars were serviced.
“We worked very hard on getting our customers to leave their cars with us,” he said. “We put up a drop box, which the shop had never had, and acquired a loaner vehicle that our customers can use if they have no other transportation. We tell our customers, ‘We’re a small operation with two techs, and we get very busy. It’s best if you give us time to diagnose it accurately.’”
Now, most of their customers are willing to schedule a service appointment and leave their car for the day.
“It’s something that has helped us quite a bit,” Gail Jacquot said.
In the shop, Jacquot said he uses Mitchell 1 and Bolt On Technology to organize, track and manage work. His bays feature Rotary lifts; a CEMB tire changer, wheel balancer, and alignment machine; and a Ben Pearson pipe bender.
“The alignment machine is really cool,” he said. “It’s a really nice machine. It’s wireless. It has four Bluetooth heads, and it’s user friendly. It’s easy to use. As the company becomes better known, I think more people will discover how good it is.”
For diagnostics, Jacquot said his shop uses a Snap-on and GM Tech 2 scan tool – “I absolutely love that thing,” he said. “When it comes to servicing GM cars, it’s a really effective tool. It does everything you’d want a scan tool to do.”
Jacquot also said that in addition to allowing him to become familiar with the product, his years with Mitchell offered another benefit. “It allowed me to meet and get to know a lot of really great shop owners, and that was a big help as Gail and I were starting this business. I had people I could turn to for advice. I learned a lot from them.”
Among those shop owners is Kevin Thomas of Kevin’s Car Care in Barnhart, Mo., Jacquot said. “There was a period where I called him almost every day. He always had time for me. He was a real mentor.”
Serving a hard-working community
Located at the intersection of Woodson and Lackland, two major north St. Louis County thoroughfares, Jammin’ J Automotive serves a diverse suburban population that Jacquot describes as blue-collar and hard-working.
“You have a lot of factory workers, a lot of union guys, around this area. If you look at the mix of our vehicles, we’re a big Chevy, Ford, Chrysler area,” he said.
“Our average cars are 2003 or 2004,” he said. “That’s what we’re seeing the most of. And just like any other shop, we’re beginning to see the newer stuff. We’re starting to see 2015s for an oil change and 2013s and 2014s for emissions inspections.”
Jacquot said he relies on NAPA for parts.
“They have a warehouse store that’s very close to us; so they have a lot on the shelf,” he said, adding that the supplier’s commitment to quality parts, prompt delivery and standing behind warranty promises (two-year/24,000-mile warranty) are important also.
Because Jammin’ J has recently adopted NAPA as a supplier and become a NAPA AutoCare Center, Jacquot said that his shop is also taking advantage of the training NAPA offers. In addition, they are members of the ASA Midwest St. Louis Chapter and have been doing training at the local meetings as well as having attended the Vision show in Kansas City last March.
Reaching new customers
In addition to serving longtime customers in their community and relying on traditional word-of-mouth referrals, Jacquot said that Jammin’ J’s business philosophy emphasizes a strong online presence. The company’s website and social-media efforts are an important part of the shop’s marketing philosophy.
“The website is huge today,” he said, adding that Millennials “whip out their cell phones” and search for reviews when they’re in need of a product or service.
“If you’re not online, they won’t find you. The No. 1 way people find us is Google reviews, and we’ve got a lot of good, legitimate ones.”
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