Tim Suggs has always had an independent streak. He started his career working at a Lexus dealership but felt like he could help more people if he could run things his own way. So in 2006, at just 23, he opened his own shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota: Turbo Tim’s Anything Automotive.
Over the years, Turbo Tim's has grown a reputation for being one of the friendliest and most fun shops in the nation.
Tim believes that his success stems from treating the people (and animals) around himself well and cultivating a unique and relatable culture that gives back. Tim, his technicians, and service advisors focus on “average cars, average people.” They’re currently making big moves by expanding to a second location and creating a nonprofit side of the business.
We recently caught up with Tim to learn about his shop and how he plans to ramp up business for the future. Here’s what he had to say:
The first five years of business were tough. We focused our auto repair business strategy on doing a high volume of work at a low cost, which was great for bringing in customers, but obviously stressful.
Early on, it was apparent that if I put people first, the money would come. I focused on building an atmosphere that was both fun and professional for employees and customers alike. One of the most instrumental, yet unintentional, parts of our culture came from a cat I found at a machine shop. I’ve always been a cat person, and I asked the technicians there if that was their cat. They said it was a stray that they regularly fed. After checking that he wasn’t microchipped and didn’t belong to anyone, I brought him home with me.
And that’s the origin story of Bobby, our original shop cat. We now have multiple cats who greet folks in our waiting room. Bobby also positively affected our marketing. Halfway through our growth, we began branding ourselves with a cat logo inspired by Bobby. Today, customers who put Bobby bumper stickers on their cars get 10% off for life. Less productive are our chickens, who “work” in the chicken coop on our outdoor patio.
Having animals around has really influenced our culture. Good people generally care about animals, and if they care about animals, they’ll likely care about people as well. The employees that we’ve attracted and retained over the years are a part of our community. We’re always hanging out at the shop after hours and on the weekends. A few of our employees have even formed their own band. Of course, our culture extends to our customers, too. When they visit us, they can get nitro cold brew and energy drinks on tap, grab La Croix from our stocked fridge, and play games in our shop waiting room.
We switched to Tekmetric during the COVID-19 pandemic. I demoed Tekmetric at the Vision conference in February, and by April, we launched it at the shop. My service advisors and technicians were instantly excited about it once they started using it. They told me:
This is it. This is what the future is.
What they love the most about Tekmetric is how the software helps them be transparent with customers. That’s something we’ve always valued and emphasized. Tekmetric makes it easier than ever for them to send customers estimates and other vital information about their car repairs, especially now that they aren’t regularly interacting with customers face-to-face due to COVID-19. They also find the Tekmerchant payment processing integration and text-to-pay features extremely convenient.
Tekmetric has streamlined our processes and led to business growth. In our first month using it, we had our most hours billed per repair order (RO) average.
Even during the pandemic, we keep beating our records.
As a shop owner, I’ve been using Tekmetric’s detailed reports to manage my staff more fairly. For example, if the reports show me that a technician is doing a disproportionate amount of oil changes compared to others, I’ll make it a point to assign him different tasks.
Having Tekmetric has made me more comfortable with opening up a second shop location. To manage overflow, we needed to expand. Our second shop, which will open soon, is only two miles away from our original location.
I still want all new employees to start at the original shop, as I think it’s the best way to get them accustomed to our culture. Half of our existing service writers will move to the new shop, and as the second location gets business, we’ll slowly move over some of our technicians.
I’m looking forward to trying new creative marketing and advertising methods at the second location and comparing the results between the two shops. It’ll be interesting to see which one ends up attracting more customers, or particular types of cars, and why. Tekmetric’s reports will make it extremely easy to analyze those things.
One thing I still don’t know yet, though, is what we’re going to do with the animal situation at the second shop. We just might have to hoard more cats and chickens!
We’re also in the process of starting a nonprofit, Community Automotive, for low-income auto repair.
Rachel, my wife and co-owner of Turbo Tim's has really helped us grow our relationship with the community. She has a Ph.D. in sociology and is heavily involved with women’s workshops and community-building events. Our other team members are passionate about giving back as well.
I plan on hiring a service worker who can strengthen the connection between auto repair and social work. That person’s knowledge and experience, coupled with our use of Tekmetric, will give us important metrics about our nonprofit branch. We’ll be able to track the nonprofit arm and the two shops so we can see how much we’re helping while balancing our business needs. I want to make sure that we’re not undercutting other shops in the area while also providing quality auto repair to those who may need it to get their lives going again.
For the world to get better, I think everybody has to get better. I want Turbo Tim’s to pay it forward. Many people have helped us on our journey, and as human beings, we all have an obligation to lift each other up.
Anyone can end up in a difficult life situation. With some help, they can start to turn things around. It’s about giving each other mutual support—having each others’ backs.
To get a feel for Turbo Tim’s and meet Bobby and the rest of the team, visit turbotims.com.