Eric Rutherford got his start in the auto repair business when he was 19 years old at a BMW dealership. After 15 years of working on both Audis and BMWs, he was ready to be his own boss and purchased an auto repair shop known today as Prestige European Auto Care.
After a few years of operating Prestige European, Eric realized that he was tied to the shop. When a friend told him “You don’t own a business, you own a job,” Eric realized he needed to get out of his own way if he wanted his shop to grow.
Eric teamed up with business partner Mike Difato and began to restructure Prestige Automotive by using innovative tools to empower his team. Their shop has grown from $300,000 in annual revenue to about $1.5 million in five years.
In recent months, Prestige European has been put to the test and had to quickly adjust business practices to address COVID-19. Luckily, Mike, Eric and his team have acted quickly and worked together to continue providing services to guests in a safe manner.
People still need to work. They still need to provide for their families. There are lots of vehicles that still need to be on the road. It’s not just emergency vehicles. We're working on plumbers' cars, grocery store employees' cars, pharmacists, nurses, and doctors' cars, all of whom are on the front line helping our communities and their families. These are all essential businesses that we need to be there for.
In January of this year, we promoted our head service advisor to shop manager. We wanted him thinking like an owner. And we promoted our lead tech to shop foreman. We just gave them the reins. We stepped away for about a month and let them figure stuff out on their own. Trust me, it was hard. That shop's my baby. But it's what you have to do if you truly want to step away from the shop and start to grow.
About a month after the promotions, my shop foreman came up to me and said, "Hey. I love you to death, but can you please not come in anymore? At first, I was kind of offended. I was like, "Excuse me?" And he said, "Listen. I'm trying to build my leadership, and when you come in, the people I’m trying to lead just go straight to you.
"So I gave him some metrics that I wanted him to meet, and as long as they were met, I said, "You got it. I'll come in once a week for your meeting, and I'll do everything else from outside the shop".
Now, we're using this as a chance to build up the newly promoted leaders. We're letting them deliver a lot of these messages so that they can grow. And honestly, we're letting them make the decisions.
My team brought their concerns to me and Mike. A lot of ideas and suggestions came from them. We're being very upfront because there's so much unknown out there. As we entered April, we made sure that they knew what our plan was. We had two weeks worth of cars to work on, and I presented a list of two weeks worth of shop projects like painting the walls, landscaping, and pressure washing the floor. I told the guys,
We're going to use this time to make our shop better.
We’re doing everything we can to limit the spread and keep each other safe. I told my guys to abide by the six-foot rule. We're in a big enough shop where we don't have to be on top of each other. My shop foreman can dispatch work right from Tekmetric, and everybody can see it from their own workspace.
We put a parts table out by the gate, so the parts guys can drive up, drop off the parts and go. We switched to touchless payment processing with Tekmerchant, so we can now use text-to-pay with our customers. I ordered a cell-phone locker to use for guest pickups. We text the customer the code, park their car in a neighboring lot, and let them grab it. We even ordered 1,000 little boxes of hand sanitizer with our logo on it to put in every car after we're done with them along with our Thank You note.
My team, my shop management system, my vendors, and my guests all played a critical role in helping us stay in operation.
For more information about Prestige European Auto Service, visit PrestigeEuropean.com