In 2000, Seth Thorson got his start in auto repair working at a BMW dealership. He was not satisfied working for a dealer, so he shifted gears and started working at an independent shop, where he learned the ins and outs of the business.
Always eager to learn and grow, Seth began looking for his own shop. In 2006, Seth found an opportunity on the International Auto Technicians Network to work for and gain the trust of the owner of J&B Eurotech in Minnesota and eventually purchase his shop. In 2012, he streamlined the name to just Eurotech.
Recently, Seth has put a lot of work into growing Eurotech as a business. He established a leadership team, switched shop management systems, and in 2019, opened a second location. Today, Eurotech is the premiere auto repair shop servicing European imports in the suburbs of New Brighton and Woodbury, Minnesota.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Seth to learn more about the leadership principles, technologies, and ideas he has used to grow Eurotech into the thriving auto repair business it is today.
Here’s what he had to say.
Learning as a Team
One of the things we do a lot differently than other repair shops is that we have a leadership team. My leadership team is composed of my two shop foremen, my two store managers, and my district manager. We meet once a month, and we go over issues. Every month, I assign a book or a video to read or watch by the next meeting.
The last course we did was a Dave Ramsey course. Before that, we did a Simon Sinek study on Starts with Why. Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters is another great book that we read and discussed. Each month, we use what we learned to discuss challenges with the shop and how to solve them.
Staying on T.R.A.C.K.
We're here to change some of the automotive industry. Our big thing is taking the hassle out of auto repair. For our management team, we use the acronym T.R.A.C.K. We always ask if everybody is on "T.R.A.C.K.".
"T" is for "trust". Are you credible? Do you tell the truth? Are you dependable? Do you have the value of the common goal and cares? Do you encourage compassion and growth?
“R” is for "respect". Do you respect those that work here? Do you show respect in your actions and words? Do you communicate respectfully?
“A” is for "Appreciation". Are you actively looking for things to appreciate? Are you acknowledging things you appreciate? Are you saying "Thank You"?
“C” is for "Communication". Are you communicating openly and honestly? Are you communicating clearly and concisely? And then
"K" is for "kindness". At the end of every interaction, can you say with confidence that it ended with kindness?
Taking Care of Your Team
As we opened a second shop, we knew we needed to up our game.
If you take care of your employees, they're going to take care of your clients.
We have a pretty rigid onboarding process, and part of it is obviously getting them used to our shop management system, Tekmetric. We built out a full learning management system. When we onboard employees, we onboard them into our culture, our systems, and our processes.
The first day or so, they're watching videos on our culture like “Why Eurotech”, which we test them on. I’ve found that now we retain more employees, and we’ve seen them grow in ownership and leadership. In a lot of ways, it's less work for me because I don't have to be there as often.
Daniel, my district manager, started as our customer service rep and grew into a service writer and now he’s an operations manager doing oversight management over both of our locations. I'm the visionary and he's my integrator to some degree. Once we understood those roles, there were a lot of good things that could happen.
Going Digital as a Multi-Shop
We felt that getting off a server and going to an internet-based solution was the way to go. When looking for a new shop management system, a major deciding factor was their willingness to make changes and listen to our feedback. We believe heavily in a labor matrix to keep our effective labor rate the same, and that was a huge sticking point with some of the other shop management systems.
Our team picked up Tekmetric pretty quickly. The DVI is nice, and their API integrates with almost any other system that wants to play ball with them. We're completely paperless now, and we have a 70-inch monitor in the shop that displays all the jobs onboard.
Shop Owner Freedom
Tekmetric is handy as a shop owner because I can access both my shops from my cell phone. I can run reports, keep an eye on jobs and employees, and manage through the numbers, essentially, which is what a shop owner should be focusing on.
It’s great to be able to spend more time with my family and still keep an eye on the shop. This summer, we took a vacation to our lake house, and it was nice being able to check on things while we were away. I'm able to help employees if they need help with a ticket or if a customer calls with an issue.
Building Customer Trust
Tekmetric has helped us build trust with our clients and be more transparent. Now that we have the video capability on the DVI, we’ve filmed short “Meet Your Tech” videos, so every time a car is in the shop, the customer gets a nice introduction to their tech. We plan on filming them 3 or 4 times a year to change them up because your average customer only visits you twice a year. It's unlikely that the customer will see the same video. It’s a nice touch that makes guests feel more comfortable, like they’re in good hands.
The Future of Eurotech
Hopefully, by the end of the year, we'll have our third location up and going. I've been in auto repair since 2000, and I believe its future is bright. We're in the business of fixing people's personal transportation, and vehicles are going to continue to break down and need fixing.
I think our success is rooted in the training that I've received and always wanting to learn and grow. We read a lot of books and educate ourselves constantly. My advice for other shop owners is to stay up to date on training and technology. Most shop owners don't send their guys to enough technical training as it is. I teach training, and I struggle to fill classes every day.
You learn from failures. You learn from success. You have to have a drive to grow, personally and professionally.
Leadership is key. You can't get them to bite on and learn Tekmetric unless you can lead them to it. You have to sell the vision and cast your leadership skills, and that's the biggest key to growth. Obviously, Tekmetric makes it easier because they have a lot of features and options and the ability to work remotely and not have to be tied to the desk the whole day.
For more information about Eurotech Auto Service, visit https://www.eurotechmn.com/