Shop of the Year: Being a professional

Ethel Walsh

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

You’d be forgiven if you walked into Gustafson’s Auto Clinic in Athabasca, Alberta, and considered you were in the incorrect building.

It is happened with prospects — they open the doorways and be expecting to see what has been engrained in their minds of what an automotive repair centre must appear like: an uninspiring house, drab and unkept with dim lighting. They also count on to odor the unmistakable odour of tires, oil and other substances wafting in from the shop on the other side of the doorway even further down.

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

“People will occur in and they walk out — and they arrive back in and go, ‘Is this Gustafson’s? I imagined this is a lawyer’s workplace,’” claimed Stacey Gustafson, who, together with her partner Kevin, owns the store.

It’s a determination to professionalism and raising the bar of what a store can and must be that acquired Gustafson’s Automobile Clinic the title of 2022 Store of the Calendar year from Vehicles.

The Gustafsons attempt to current a qualified market to the earth. They believe that the job of a technician — that is what the job is right now not a mechanic and unquestionably not an installer — is hugely experienced and demands in depth teaching, therefore commanding the respect of the marketplace and the general public.

“I imagine just one thing that market is really missing is the plan that this is a career a technician is a job,” Kevin described. “So the superior we can fork out our men, and the additional we can do for them, the a lot more it is a job, and the more we can attract skilled people today.”

From remaining, 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 issues in attracting proficient, capable people today to the automotive aftermarket, he included. That’s why outlets have to have to adjust how they run. This can be a good sector to function in — nevertheless store entrepreneurs want to be the leaders in creating it so.

“When you operate the shop appropriately, and you demand appropriately, you can afford to spend your techs suitable and update your machines, do your instruction and all these issues,” Kevin said.

Kevin has been in the business since he was a kid. Soon after running a Texaco Support Station, his father opened the shop with Kevin becoming a member of as a technician. Stacey effectively fell into the sector. Her mother ran the cafe in a local lodge and Stacey served out. Her mother taught her how to run the organization, together with executing bookkeeping. That set her up to be part of the aftermarket when Kevin’s dad essential a bookkeeper in his business enterprise. She joined aspect-time at initial in 1987.

“Then it became a whole-time and lifetime work,” Stacey explained with a snicker.

They steadily took on a lot more obligation in the enterprise prior to thoroughly possessing it in 2001. Considering that then, they’ve been a leader in how an aftermarket services and fix shop must operate.

“I’d be the initial just one to say that, when I commenced, you just labored really hard and missing income. You worked quite tough, and you misplaced cash simply because you did not have the organization aspect of it to understand that there’s a process and a way to demand and manage it all,” Kevin explained.

“We’re incredibly disciplined in how we operate our company, the figures that we evaluate and how we regulate,” Stacey defined. “Our technicians, it’s mandatory for them to have management instruction.”

Connor Anderson and Jessica Langridge, Milwaukee Instrument territory representatives, current Stacey and Kevin Gustafson with a $3,500 prize pack as the Store the Calendar year winner.

It’s a way for their professionals to be invested in the small business. Stacey stated their techs have been mistaken as organization owners at management education mainly because they sustain a skilled appearance when compared to most specialists who normally glance like they just arrived from performing beneath a automobile.

“They are expert, and it is a job,” Stacey stated of specialists.

When they are recruiting, a applicant who states they are searching for a profession stands out to them. “They’re not expressing they want a work — they want a career. That really stands out to us mainly because which is what our philosophy is,” she added. “We want them to have a occupation, we want them to be compensated skillfully. With the technology that’s out correct now, they’re not just a trade, they are like computer geniuses.”

But it’s challenging acquiring folks to comprehend. The Gustafsons told the tale of their son — Colton, who now operates with them as a licenced technician — who was in an innovative math course in higher faculty. The trainer claimed everyone organizing on being in a trade shouldn’t be in that class.

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

They talked to the college about it. They pointed out that becoming in the trades doesn’t signify anyone is not clever — and a lot of sophisticated programs are needed to be a tech.

Edwin Parr Composite Significant Faculty in Athabasca is devoid of a store teacher at the instant, which means little ones aren’t obtaining an chance to find out about the industry’s potential. The Gustafsons are hoping to get involved with the school’s Occupation Working day so they can converse first-hand about functioning in the automotive industry — with professionalism remaining entrance and centre.

For the Gustafsons, aspect of becoming skilled is having a professional-wanting business enterprise. They really don’t have a usual-searching shop. There are no tires in the showroom. They put in additional doorways to preserve odours from the bays out of the shopper waiting areas. There are essential oil diffusers as well, together with a espresso bar inside of. Extra just lately, an outside patio was extra.

“Probably a small bit selfishly, we wished it for ourselves on a good summer working day to be capable to sit out there when you have a split or whatever,” Stacey explained. “Our clientele genuinely likes it and we simply call it the ‘garage patio.’ They like sitting down out there. They want to know when the beverages are remaining served.”

Enterprise philosophy

Stacey and Kevin make sure their shop does not just surface to be specialist — they back it up. They have designed a society in the store with their workers as very well as with the prospects of the local community.

They consider in performing total inspections, educating the customer and guaranteeing preventive upkeep — producing certain the auto is functioning the way it is intended to.

“Preventive upkeep is a large point,” Stacey explained. “We really don’t want our purchasers to have those people big breakdowns wherever it’s costing them a full bunch of revenue. We would alternatively have them do their maintenance to prevent people issues from happening so that they can retain their automobiles for a for a longer time period of time of time.”

They place the similar work into creating certain their employees are taken treatment of as perfectly. The way the Gustanfsons see it, they’re accountable for their personnel and their households. So they offer income sharing, retirement approach savings and entire wellbeing coverage. Workers get device allowances and all uniforms are supplied.

“Our fellas do not dress in coveralls. They do not use hats. They are really clean seeking. They have costume shirts and black pants on. They are really specialist looking,” Stacey reported.

Amid all the professionalism, there’s a time to engage in as perfectly. The Gustafsons guarantee workers have exciting. For case in point, the corporation hosts a golfing event each and every calendar year. They added a Content Gilmore Hole where by, as the titular character from the motion picture does, individuals putted employing a mini hockey adhere. And due to the fact most workers are golfers, the store pays a part of the staff’s golf membership.

And which is critical due to the fact a business enterprise is nothing at all without having its staff members – Gustafson’s bundled. They believe that each individual man or woman plays a role in the good results of the small business.

“They’ve taken an financial investment in it, they truly feel like they are a section of it, they know all the figures of the company simply because they want to know what it prices to run a organization and why,” Stacey discussed. “We just really don’t place our aims up on the wall without the need of them being aware of what’s driving that aim and what it takes. And if you correctly handle your small business, then you have the cash to devote in your staff.”

All people who functions at Gustafson’s is like family, Kevin additional.

“It’s a compact-town point but I assume you can do that anyplace in your business, your tradition,” Kevin stated. “The guys are quite concerned with whom we seek the services of. We really do not employ the service of anyone devoid of acquiring involved with all the team. We want their enter too because you need to get along with most people.”

This feels unheard of in the aftermarket. But The Gustafsons are adamant that this isn’t the aftermarket of old. Times have improved and so really should how outlets function.

“We’re a career. We’re not mechanics anymore. The vehicles aren’t a carbureted, oil-leaking, rundown no matter what — they are rolling computer systems,” Kevin claimed. “And if you’ve appeared at some of the cars on the street, and what they seem like and how they get the job done, and what they do, the shops must glimpse the same. You don’t take your Mercedes to a Mercedes dealership and get a handwritten invoice with a guy with greasy fingers accomplishing the paperwork. The aftermarket requires to action it up.”


The Gustafsons make sure their professionals are on prime of schooling, be it via AVI, their to start with-connect with jobber Automotive Parts Distributors, ACDelco, or Car Gurus. They will make occasional outings to SEMA for coaching, as nicely as Lindertech as well. For the reason that they are not in a main city, receiving to reside in-particular person teaching gatherings can be challenging.

“You got to go there to get the instruction. And so that is just a different cause why you require to demand appropriately, so you can afford to pay for to retain your techs up to date,” Kevin said.

The organization is entirely staffed for the initial time in three decades, but the Gustafsons observed that they had to choose on folks they observed potential in and educate them in the auto restore market. As outlined, they be certain their staff attends schooling, whether or not it’s virtual or in particular person. Two of their techs got licenced above COVID — as a reward, they attended the SEMA Present to get far more in-particular person teaching possibilities.

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

Greenwood influence

These who realized Bob Greenwood perfectly ample may come to feel like they are hearing his voice in Kevin and Stacey’s. That may be since they had been extended-time students of the legendary aftermarket mentor.

“We are enormous Greenwood supporters and we have been included with him for numerous years and definitely are even now mourning his reduction,” Stacey mentioned. “He just gave so substantially to the field and [kept us] so up to date on all the things.”

The Gustafsons credited Greenwood with teaching them how to be a suitable small business. “He taught us so considerably about how to evaluate and regulate the company. So it is a large decline to us and to the sector. I however use all of his stuff,” Stacey claimed.

Although we can go back and go through old columns or check out aged movies of Bob — those classes are however applicable — it is his eye on the potential that is skipped most.

“Bob was usually hunting at the next stage of what’s evolving in this small business and he would get ready us — ‘OK, EV cars are coming down the line, this is what’s likely to take place and we’re going to get schooling for your guys’ — he constantly was on major of that,” Kevin explained. “It was just sort of a kick in the rear to get your self organized for these points that had been about to take place. And that is all long gone now.

“It’s just that with the industry modifying, how do we change that now? And I never know the remedy to that both. We have got the standard information we all have to alter on our personal. But we have not received that particular person who’s replaced him.”

The ‘Garage Patio’ at Gustafson’s Auto Clinic


What suggestions would the Shop of the Yr winners like to pass on to their friends? For Stacey, it’s to remain disciplined.

“It takes a good deal of discipline to run an automotive repair store. Bob often mentioned this is the toughest small business to consider and operate and be productive at. So be disciplined,” she stated. “You have to be so disciplined. And you have to remain related in this marketplace if you want to proceed.”

For Kevin, he urged every person to up their small business teaching.

“Get some business enterprise instruction, administration schooling, since most of us store house owners are fantastic professionals that resolved to start out a shop and know absolutely nothing about business enterprise. And I’m not indicating that in a negative way since I was that particular person,” he mentioned. “It doesn’t make a difference how challenging you perform, if you are not charging thoroughly and using treatment of that end of it, you just purchased yourself a work.”


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