September 22, 2023

PropsG Auto

Properly Maintain Vehicle

Store of the Year: Getting a specialist

Kevin and Stacey Gustafson of Gustafson’s Auto Clinic in Athabasca, Alberta

You’d be forgiven if you walked into Gustafson’s Automobile Clinic in Athabasca, Alberta, and imagined you were being in the incorrect constructing.

It is transpired with buyers — they open the doorways and count on to see what has been engrained in their minds of what an automotive repair service centre ought to appear like: an uninspiring area, drab and unkept with dim lights. They also hope to odor the unmistakable odour of tires, oil and other chemicals wafting in from the shop on the other facet of the door additional down.

But not when you enter Gustafson’s. It appears to be practically nothing like your typical store.

“People will occur in and they stroll out — and they come back in and go, ‘Is this Gustafson’s? I assumed this is a lawyer’s place of work,’” reported Stacey Gustafson, who, together with her husband Kevin, owns the shop.

It is a determination to professionalism and raising the bar of what a shop can and should really be that earned Gustafson’s Vehicle Clinic the title of 2022 Shop of the Calendar year from Cars and trucks.

The Gustafsons attempt to current a professional business to the entire world. They believe the work of a technician — that’s what the position is these days not a mechanic and surely not an installer — is extremely experienced and needs intensive teaching, as a result commanding the respect of the market and the community.

“I feel a single thing that sector is definitely missing is the thought that this is a profession a technician is a occupation,” Kevin defined. “So the better we can pay out our men, and the more we can do for them, the extra it is a occupation, and the much more we can appeal to skilled persons.”

From still left, Ty Rouault, Alesha Potter, Stacey Gustafson, Taz Pichota, Kevin Gustafson, Colton Gustafson, Chester Kyle Pangilinan and Shane Collison

It is not difficult to see the complications in attracting proficient, certified men and women to the automotive aftermarket, he extra. That is why retailers need to have to improve how they function. This can be a terrific business to perform in — though store house owners have to have to be the leaders in creating it so.

“When you run the store properly, and you charge accordingly, you can pay for to pay out your techs correct and update your products, do your schooling and all these items,” Kevin said.

Kevin has been in the market due to the fact he was a kid. Soon after managing a Texaco Support Station, his father opened the shop with Kevin signing up for as a technician. Stacey in essence fell into the business. Her mother ran the restaurant in a regional resort and Stacey served out. Her mother taught her how to operate the business enterprise, including executing bookkeeping. That established her up to sign up for the aftermarket when Kevin’s father needed a bookkeeper in his company. She joined element-time at to start with in 1987.

“Then it turned a whole-time and lifetime occupation,” Stacey mentioned with a chuckle.

They progressively took on additional duty in the business enterprise ahead of totally possessing it in 2001. Since then, they’ve been a leader in how an aftermarket company and repair service shop should really function.

“I’d be the initially one to say that, when I began, you just labored tricky and lost revenue. You labored extremely difficult, and you dropped income due to the fact you did not have the company side of it to fully grasp that there is a technique and a way to demand and take care of it all,” Kevin claimed.

“We’re really disciplined in how we run our small business, the figures that we measure and how we regulate,” Stacey discussed. “Our specialists, it’s mandatory for them to have administration education.”

Connor Anderson and Jessica Langridge, Milwaukee Software territory reps, present Stacey and Kevin Gustafson with a $3,500 prize pack as the Store the Yr winner.

It’s a way for their professionals to be invested in the business. Stacey stated their techs have been mistaken as organization entrepreneurs at administration instruction simply because they keep a expert look in contrast to most technicians who typically glance like they just arrived from working beneath a car or truck.

“They are experienced, and it is a vocation,” Stacey reported of experts.

When they’re recruiting, a prospect who claims they’re on the lookout for a profession stands out to them. “They’re not declaring they want a task — they want a occupation. That really stands out to us because which is what our philosophy is,” she added. “We want them to have a occupation, we want them to be paid skillfully. With the technology that’s out ideal now, they’re not just a trade, they are like pc geniuses.”

But it is difficult getting men and women to comprehend. The Gustafsons advised the story of their son — Colton, who now functions with them as a licenced technician — who was in an advanced math class in significant school. The instructor said anyone arranging on being in a trade shouldn’t be in that class.

“It was disheartening to listen to the instructor say that,” Stacey recalled.

They talked to the university about it. They pointed out that currently being in the trades does not mean somebody isn’t good — and several state-of-the-art courses are essential to be a tech.

Edwin Parr Composite Superior College in Athabasca is without the need of a shop instructor at the minute, which means young ones are not acquiring an prospect to study about the industry’s possible. The Gustafsons are striving to get concerned with the school’s Vocation Working day so they can speak first-hand about working in the automotive business — with professionalism becoming front and centre.

For the Gustafsons, section of remaining expert is owning a skilled-searching business enterprise. They really don’t have a typical-searching shop. There are no tires in the showroom. They put in additional doors to maintain odours from the bays out of the shopper waiting spots. There are vital oil diffusers as very well, along with a espresso bar within. More a short while ago, an outside patio was included.

“Probably a minor little bit selfishly, we wanted it for ourselves on a wonderful summer months day to be in a position to sit out there when you have a break or no matter what,” Stacey stated. “Our clientele genuinely likes it and we phone it the ‘garage patio.’ They love sitting down out there. They want to know when the beverages are becoming served.”

Small business philosophy

Stacey and Kevin be certain their shop doesn’t just seem to be experienced — they back it up. They have developed a culture in just the store with their personnel as nicely as with the shoppers of the group.

They feel in carrying out comprehensive inspections, educating the client and ensuring preventive routine maintenance — building positive the automobile is operating the way it is supposed to.

“Preventive servicing is a significant thing,” Stacey reported. “We really don’t want our customers to have all those major breakdowns where by it’s costing them a complete bunch of money. We would alternatively have them do their maintenance to avoid people items from happening so that they can maintain their motor vehicles for a more time time period of time.”

They put the identical work into producing confident their team are taken treatment of as effectively. The way the Gustanfsons see it, they are responsible for their employees and their family members. So they offer earnings sharing, retirement approach savings and comprehensive health coverage. Team get software allowances and all uniforms are delivered.

“Our guys do not dress in coveralls. They do not wear hats. They’re quite thoroughly clean searching. They have costume shirts and black trousers on. They’re really skilled seeking,” Stacey said.

Amid all the professionalism, there is a time to participate in as perfectly. The Gustafsons make certain staff members have entertaining. For illustration, the organization hosts a golf event each yr. They included a Delighted Gilmore Hole wherever, as the titular character from the movie does, participants putted making use of a mini hockey adhere. And due to the fact most workers are golfers, the shop pays a part of the staff’s golf membership.

And that is crucial due to the fact a business enterprise is nothing without the need of its staff members – Gustafson’s incorporated. They believe that each individual human being performs a function in the achievement of the business enterprise.

“They’ve taken an financial investment in it, they experience like they’re a portion of it, they know all the figures of the enterprise because they need to have to know what it expenditures to operate a business enterprise and why,” Stacey explained. “We just don’t place our aims up on the wall with no them realizing what’s powering that intention and what it takes. And if you effectively control your company, then you have the cash to devote in your team.”

Everyone who performs at Gustafson’s is like loved ones, Kevin extra.

“It’s a tiny-city detail but I consider you can do that anywhere in your business, your society,” Kevin mentioned. “The guys are really concerned with whom we employ the service of. We really do not retain the services of any person with out finding included with all the personnel. We want their input much too for the reason that you have to have to get alongside with all people.”

This feels uncommon in the aftermarket. But The Gustafsons are adamant that this isn’t the aftermarket of previous. Moments have modified and so must how outlets operate.

“We’re a job. We’re not mechanics anymore. The vehicles aren’t a carbureted, oil-leaking, rundown no matter what — they are rolling computers,” Kevin stated. “And if you’ve appeared at some of the autos on the road, and what they glimpse like and how they do the job, and what they do, the outlets must seem the same. You really do not choose your Mercedes to a Mercedes dealership and get a handwritten bill with a man with greasy fingers accomplishing the paperwork. The aftermarket demands to move it up.”


The Gustafsons make confident their specialists are on best of education, be it via AVI, their initially-connect with jobber Automotive Elements Distributors, ACDelco, or Car or truck Gurus. They will make occasional outings to SEMA for schooling, as nicely as Lindertech as well. Due to the fact they’re not in a major metropolis, acquiring to stay in-human being instruction activities can be tough.

“You acquired to go there to get the schooling. And so that’s just a different reason why you will need to charge properly, so you can pay for to retain your techs up to day,” Kevin claimed.

The firm is absolutely staffed for the first time in 3 a long time, but the Gustafsons pointed out that they had to just take on men and women they noticed possible in and educate them in the auto fix industry. As mentioned, they make sure their staff members attends education, no matter if it’s virtual or in person. Two of their techs bought licenced about COVID — as a reward, they attended the SEMA Demonstrate to get additional in-individual teaching possibilities.

“It was form of a neat experience for them,” Kevin mentioned.

Greenwood influence

Those people who understood Bob Greenwood perfectly adequate might sense like they are listening to his voice in Kevin and Stacey’s. That may well be due to the fact they ended up long-time college students of the legendary aftermarket mentor.

“We are enormous Greenwood supporters and we’ve been involved with him for many years and genuinely are however mourning his decline,” Stacey mentioned. “He just gave so considerably to the market and [kept us] so up to day on anything.”

The Gustafsons credited Greenwood with teaching them how to be a good company. “He taught us so substantially about how to evaluate and manage the enterprise. So it’s a huge decline to us and to the market. I nevertheless use all of his stuff,” Stacey explained.

While we can go back and read previous columns or watch outdated movies of Bob — all those classes are still relevant — it is his eye on the future that is skipped most.

“Bob was often searching at the upcoming stage of what’s evolving in this organization and he would put together us — ‘OK, EV automobiles are coming down the line, this is what is heading to occur and we’re heading to get education for your guys’ — he always was on leading of that,” Kevin reported. “It was just type of a kick in the rear to get your self prepared for these factors that ended up about to materialize. And that is all gone now.

“It’s just that with the business shifting, how do we change that now? And I do not know the solution to that either. We’ve received the primary know-how we all have to adjust on our own. But we haven’t acquired that individual who’s replaced him.”

The ‘Garage Patio’ at Gustafson’s Vehicle Clinic


What tips would the Store of the 12 months winners like to pass on to their friends? For Stacey, it’s to stay disciplined.

“It takes a whole lot of discipline to operate an automotive mend shop. Bob normally reported this is the hardest business to consider and operate and be effective at. So be disciplined,” she stated. “You have to be so disciplined. And you have to remain relevant in this marketplace if you want to proceed.”

For Kevin, he urged everyone to up their business enterprise coaching.

“Get some small business education, management training, for the reason that most of us store proprietors are great professionals that resolved to commence a shop and know almost nothing about organization. And I’m not indicating that in a lousy way since I was that individual,” he explained. “It does not make a difference how tough you work, if you are not charging appropriately and getting treatment of that close of it, you just bought oneself a work.”