Son takes shop mantle from father and drives double-digit growth
Anaheim, Calif.—Mike’s Foreign Car owner Josh Stickle said when his father, Mike, opened the shop in 1978, it was called Mike’s VW and Porsche Specialties, with the mission of providing quality-first repair and personalized service.
“Dad’s career started at a VW dealership right after high school and a few years later he joined AutoHaus (a popular Southern California chain of VW repair and parts shops at that time) before opening this shop.”
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At a Glance
• Founded: 1978 by Mike Stickle • Average RO: $700
• Shop size: 5,000 square feet
• Bays: 8
• Lifts: 3 Benwill, 1 Rotary
• Staff: 4 techs, 1 receptionist
• Parts partners: WORLDPAC, IMC, SSF, Northside Imports, local dealerships
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To fulfill the shop’s mission, he installed the right equipment, including the latest factory diagnostic tools and hired experienced German-car technicians.
As a result, the shop’s car count grew by double digits every year, Stickle said, even after his father was forced to change the shop’s name in 2000.
“We’ve always been a VW, Audi, Porsche specialists shop,” he said. “But, in the late 1990s, Volkswagen handed out cease and desist orders to every company that had any VW logos, signage, words, or phrases, including web addresses.”
Josh Stickle said he grew up in the shop, helping in any way he could, but like many young men, he initially chose a different professional path in sales and management, which he said has helped him in running the repair business.
“I worked for a few large companies and owned a window coverings business before realizing my destiny and joined Mike’s in 2007,” he said. “Since then, I have earned ASE Master Technician status with advance level engine performance certifications.”
Stickle also expanded to include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Mini Cooper.
“We are constantly buying new tools. German cars require many special tools and if you want to stay competitive and at the front of curve you need to tool up as new cars and configurations come out.”
The shop also offers routine maintenance and repair service for Nissan, Honda, and Acura, and engine rebuilding, restoration. It also builds special projects such as VW-based dune buggies.
“We do periodic training in-house as new tools, technology, and problems relating to those brands arise. We are also included in multiple online forums that are typically limited to VW and Audi employed technicians only.
“In addition, we attend most relative training that our parts suppliers provide,” Stickle said. “I also have attended classes with ATI and Cecil Bullard of the Institute for Automotive Business Excellence, and have participated in online training and discussion groups with Aaron Stokes and Shop Hackers Live.”
Parts are sourced from WORLDPAC, IMC, SSF, Northside Imports in San Diego, and local new car dealers including Circle Porsche/Audi in Long Beach.”
Stickle said 40 percent of the shop’s business is maintenance and moving forward, fluid-based services and new types of maintenances are going to become even more important.
With the European cars, Stickle said the shop is seeing more complicated valvetrains, cooling systems, direct port injection, complex sealed crankcase PCV systems, and active suspension systems.
“They are all creating greater demand for increased maintenance awareness, and quality lubricants and fluids. Services like BG Products induction cleaning and oil flushes are going to be commonplace and likely something customers will be asking for without us needing to educate them.”
Stickle said car count initially dipped when he purchased the shop, but since then it has steadily increased 15-17 percent each year over comparable months. The ARO is also up more than 15 percent at about $700.
The shop uses Kukui for CRM, follow up, and website support, and Stickle also personally performs follow up phone calls on most customer visits three to five days after they pick up the vehicle.
“It allows us to determine if we met or exceeded customer expectations and head off problems. We receive a lot of referrals and loyalty from our clients, which can be attributed to this follow-up procedure.
Phone numbers for mailers, Kukui-related marketing, and other promotions are all tracked through their system. And people are encouraged to use the shop’s business cards for referrals. On the back is a 10-percent reward for both the new customer and the existing client as a “thank you.”
Stickle has also just added Kukui’s digital vehicle inspection (DVI) capability, which he is confident will make the customer-communication experience even better.
The shop has been a member of ASCCA Chapter 48 for 14 years and Stickle said he believes very strongly in ASCCA and what they do to protect and better this industry.
“I believe the growth in our shop is a result of our way of doing business,” he said. “Everyone in the shop is committed to the same philosophies and standards. We all agree that providing exceptional, personalized service and quality-first repairs is our mission and our edge over the competition – including dealerships.”