Mike Collins: Father, Shop Owner, and Leader.

How he turned his passion for auto repair into a successful business.

Mike Collins: Father, Shop Owner, and Leader.
Originally published on:
Over the last two decades, Mike Collins has proven to his friends, family, team, and customers that he has what it takes to be a great shop owner—and a great guy, too.

My passion for auto repair started off in my garage. It was the coolest garage in the neighborhood. I had pull-down air-hoses, and it was kind of like a little dream shop. All I did was have car hobbies and help friends work on their vehicles.

There were so many of my friends that went and talked to my wife and said, "He's got to open up a real shop one day, and you've got to encourage him to do it.”  

Before joining the auto repair industry, I was in the restaurant industry, but I always worked on cars as a hobby in my spare time. Being in the restaurant industry was very time consuming. I was working more than 100 hours a week.

I thoroughly enjoyed the restaurant industry when I had the time for it, but then my son was born. When my son was 6 months old, I was kissing him goodbye when he was in his crib, and I realized I hadn't seen him while he was awake in almost 6 months.

Eventually my wife said to me, and I’ll never forget this, she said, “Mike, you need to open up a shop. You have the passion for it. Working on cars is what you love, and I can tell you’re happy doing it.”

So I did it. I opened up my own auto repair shop. It wasn’t easy though. I worked more than I had ever worked before. That was 22 years ago now.  

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We started off as a performance only shop, but there was not a whole lot of money in performance repairs. We had a really good reputation. I kept telling myself, “Just keep doing what you do, and as long as you're patient, the money will follow.”

In 2012, we decided to start working on regular vehicles as well. The front half of the shop was general mechanic work, and the back half was performance only. We put ourselves on a waiting list at that point. Things got a lot better, the money came easier, and we applied a lot of what we knew from the performance side to general mechanic work.

“As we started to grow, I began to learn from my team.The new sets of eyes would see something I couldn’t. That’s exactly what I needed to grow.”

This isn’t to say I did everything perfectly. I did a lot of things wrong early on. I knew my ways, and I had my rules, down to the exact procedures. But as we started to grow, I began to learn from my team. I'd been doing it the same way for so long, and the new sets of eyes would see something I couldn’t. That’s exactly what I needed to grow. I love learning from those around me.

I woke up one day about 6 months ago and thought to myself, “I'm in the people business. That's my passion. That's what I love, and that's what drives me.”

I don't turn the wrenches anymore. I don't work the front counter anymore. I do the paperwork stuff for the business, but what drives me is the satisfaction of growing people and to see somebody taking steps in personal and business growth.

We went from averaging 100 cars a month to now, where a very slow month is 450 and a busy month is around 650 cars.

It all worked out in the end. My son works with me now, and it's great to be able to see him everyday.

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