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[Podcast] Electrical Engineers Become Shop Owners Growing to Seven Stores – John and Karen Manelas [RR 569]


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John and Karen Manelas both hold a Bachelor of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering. They worked in our fields for 15 years before deciding to go into business for themselves. They looked at restaurants, flower shops, engineering firms, etc. They decided on automotive because a love of vehicles and they both perceived the level of service from the industry left much to be desired...especially as it pertains to treating female customers. So, they decided to purchase a shop from a burnt-out business owner. (He is still with us as our operations manager, 16 years later!) We took a very big risk, borrowed money from a relative, the bank and the SBA. They went from making about $150K/year combined to about $50K in their first year in business.

John and Karen purchased their first location in April 2004. They expanded into their 2nd location in 2011. They bought out a former 20 group member in Maine in 2013 as their 3rd location. They purchased a former Chevy/Chrysler 14 bay dealership in 2014. In 2016, they purchased an import auto service business and converted it to an Auto Care Plus (store #5). In 2017, they purchased a Volvo Specialty Repair Shop which they decided to then re-brand and create a new brand for us calling it Euro Care Plus. In 2019, we did our first non-acquisition "build to suit" venture erecting an 8 bay facility with upstairs offices for their Corporate headquarters. They also decided to lease the rest of that building where we are preparing to open a Hybrid/EV specialty division to be named Electrified Auto Care. They now have 7 locations (5 of which they own the dirt). 6 Locations in NH and one in ME. 

Key Talking Points:

  • Husband and wife team that met in collegeBackground in electrical engineering 
  • Wanted to leave the corporate world with traveling weekly and become own boss
  • Started to look at different businesses to buy- looked into auto shops. Always had an interest in cars and felt there was room for improvement with how women customers are treated in a male-dominated auto industry. 
  • The previous owner is still with the shop as operations manager
  • Has 7 locations now
  • Was approached by a broker and bought the property for location #2- found the right manager for it 
  • Had advice from a multi-shop mentor and went to a conference- Both left with shared enthusiasm after attending together. The power of networking.
  • Getting a third store helped streamline processes and procedures 
  • John always wants to continue to grow and he is able to do that the best when he is outside his comfort zone. Master a skill then go to the next level. 
  • Prepare yourself mentally to put a lot of work into each location opening initially and hire the right staff
  • The most important thing to know about business is the numbers- it’s like playing a game without a scoreboard
  • When purchased shop became apart of a bottom-line impact 20 groupSounding board for advice and camaraderie with other shops- accountability
  • Surround yourself with people who are successful
  • 60-70% of clients are female  Positive feedback from customers when they see female pictures on the wall in the shop .
  • Have women technicians/service counter employees can be encouraging for female customers but discouraging at the same time for male customers
  • How do you start without big capital?Where there is a will there's a way
  • Acquisitions, lease, owner financing, SBA loans

Resources:

  • Thanks to John and Karen Manelas for their contribution to the aftermarket’s premier podcast.
  • Link to the ‘BOOKS‘ page highlighting all books discussed in the podcast library HERE. Leaders are readers.
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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         0 comments
      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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