Can you provide me with a description of your business?
Auto repair, general maintenance, automotive industry. We are a specialty shop. My technicians are all licensed, they’re all certified and have a lot of experience. Ziebart is a franchise, part of the program is auto glass – Ziebart Auto Glass. People are familiar with Ziebart rust proofing and most are not aware that we do glass as well. We’ve been doing auto glass for 17 years. We do stone repairs and window replacement. We are also linked up to all of the insurance networks so the insurance companies call us, fax us the paperwork, and everything is handled. Another thing that we offer that no one else does with windshield replacement is free wash and vacuum. The installation time is usually about an hour and a half to two hours. We provide pickup and delivery within a five mile radius and we have loaner cars as well. A lot of the time customers will bring us their cars, we’ll give them a vehicle to drive to go to Meijer to do their shopping or have breakfast, and we will just call them when it’s ready.
How long have you been in business?
I started out in 1979 with rust proofing. I’ve spent 37 years in rust proofing with the Ziebart line, 36 years in Maxi Automotive, and 17 years in the auto glass. Nowadays you have to diversify. You have to do more than one thing today to make it. You have to diversify and do the best that you can. Quality and customer service are the key.
What roadblocks did you encounter getting your business started?
The main roadblocks are trying to keep the good employees because they are the ones who make your business. The overhead expense is always a challenge and keeping up with the different changes. I used to do 95% exhaust work and today it is 5%. We had to get into auto glass to make up the difference. You have to keep your eyes and mind open for the future. Everybody needs a service and that is a plus. They have to go where it is fixed right. A place where they can get a fair price and great quality. Consumers rely on us, trust us, and it takes a long time to build that bond and relationship.
When you’re in business you have to make a living. Your employees have to make a good living. If you can do that you’re ahead of the game. It took a year of being in business to hire employees. For that first year I did everything myself. At one time I had 8/9 employees, now I have 5 because the times have changed.
What was the biggest risk you took?
The financial risk, borrowing money, and putting everything on the line. Wondering if that field of business is going to be there in ten or twenty years. When I started people said I wouldn’t be in business for two years because cars are made so much better and you’ll never have to rust proof cars. Then they found out you did. Today we are busier now than we have been in years.
What was your biggest challenge?
The economy and technology. With technology you have to put money back into your business. It’s an endless thing for equipment. It’s an endless venture and it’s not a one shot deal. It’s a continuous job – 24/7.
Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
Word of mouth, cleanliness, the customer service that we give. The honesty and the pride that my employees and I take in our jobs.
Biggest “win” in your business’s history?
I was Small Business of the Year through the Chamber of Commerce and that was a nice award to be recognized for. Ive been recognized through Ziebert for numerous awards. In fact, one time when we first got into glass I did more auto glass in the store than any other Ziebart dealer in North America in 2002. If you do the best that you can, rewards do come. I always think of it as an honor. Just like any other award, you can’t buy a cup of coffee with it, but it does show your hard work and proves that you’re doing something right.
Can you describe your customers?
Everybody is treated the same and I love what I do and that’s the key. I have customers that come from Lowell for brakes. I have folks that come from Traverse City for rust proofing. We give them a ride out to the hotel and pick them up the next day or they’ll rent a car, come back a couple days later to get their car, and go back home.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I’ve been working since I was twelve. I worked at a gas station pumping gas, waiting on customers, and I was a mechanic. Most of it is just experience. I never went to college. I go to a lot of seminars and read a lot of tech books. It was just hard work. Hard work pays off. 37 years later my family is raised, my kids are educated, and they’re doing fine. You can’t ask for much more than that.
How has technology, such as the internet, impacted on how you conduct your business?
I’m thankful for younger generations and my younger employees to take over because I don’t want to learn it. It has impacted the business a lot. Some things we adjust. We have computers in the shop, computers in front, invoice and inventory and all of that. It’s better than the sticky notes that I use all the time. With technology you’ve got to go with it. You can’t fight it. When it works its fine, when it doesn’t you have to get it working again.
Excluding your business, what company or business do you admire the most or have been inspired by?
I am just so thankful that we live this close to Grand Rapids. I try to support and do whatever I can on a much smaller scale, of course, but I admire corporations that put money back into our communities. Whatever we can do to give back to our community.
Use our social share buttons below to earn points and get a chance to win our monthly "Points 4 Prizes" giveaway.