When Adam Kracl and his wife Annette decided to open their own automotive repair shop in Glenwood Springs, CO, they knew they wanted to fill a void in the area with a shop that not only provided top-notch repairs, but also created a warm, inviting atmosphere for customers and employees alike.
“We’ve created a happy work environment and treat our employees like family,” Annette says. “We try to look for people who are going to be loyal to us and treat our business like it’s their own. In turn, we do what we can to take care of our employees.”
The Kracls homeschool their children, who often spend time at the shop throughout the week. If employees have babysitting issues, Adam says they are welcome to bring their children to the shop to play with his children in the kids area of the waiting room.
“Whether it’s family-related or financial, if there’s something we can do to help out, we do it,” Adam says. “We want our employees to enjoy coming to work and spending time with the owners.”
All In The Family
Currently, the shop employs four technicians, two of whom are ASE certified and two who are working toward certification. Adam himself is an ASE Master Technician, with more than 18 years of experience, having worked on all vehicle makes and models. A fourth-generation technician, Adam spent his early years working on his grandfather’s dairy farm, learning essential skills for repairing tractors, farm equipment and just about anything else that might break down.
Adam says that experience set him up for some “outside the box” thinking when it comes to diagnosing and repairing vehicles. Also a 1997 graduate of Wyoming Technical Institute, Adam brought a wealth of knowledge and skill to the table when the shop opened four and a half years ago. Add to that Annette’s experience in vehicle sales, and her current position as marketing and human resources manager nicely rounds out the staff.
While hiring new talent can be a challenge, Adam says they have had success with Craigslist advertising, which allows them to reach a broader audience of potential employees.
“It is difficult to find new employees in the area with the work ethic and quality we demand,” Adam says. “Craigslist has been the best avenue to source technicians and service writers.”
Once new employees are on board, Adam and Annette strive to treat them fairly. In addition to regular benefits, they often award gift cards to employees to show their appreciation for going above and beyond.
“We strive to treat team members with respect,” Adam says. “After all, a happy team means a happy business! Our team members are our internal customers, and we strive to show appreciation to not only our customers, but our employees as well.”
Happy customers start with expert repairs, and all services at Kracl Automotive are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty on parts and labor. While direct mail efforts have proven the most beneficial in attracting new customers, reputation and word-of-mouth generates most of the business at the shop.
“We take a personal approach, trying to keep in line with the family atmosphere,” Annette explains. “We send out handwritten thank you notes to customers within the next day after service, and we follow up with every customer within a week or two.
“And that’s not to sell them anything,” Annette is quick to add. “We really try to establish a relationship with the customer. We call to see how they’re doing, not just how their vehicle is doing. That follow-up call has really helped us a lot in terms of business the last few months.”
Another area that sets the shop apart from the competition is shop appearance. The exterior is clean and neat, while the waiting area is warm and inviting with leather couches and amenities Annette said every shop should have.
“Most people who walk through the doors think they’ve entered a doctor’s office, not a repair shop,” Annette continues.
Adam says he measures parts and labor gross profits, as well as sales on a daily basis, which helps him make adjustments as needed to reach target numbers. In addition, daily shop meetings and a rigorous inspection program have also positively impacted the shop’s bottom line.
“We inspect every car that comes in the door,” he says. “It’s in the customers’ best interest to inform them of everything their vehicle needs to have done to be safe, and for us as far as liability so we don’t get blindsided later. I’d rather have someone mad at me at the counter than over the phone on the side of the road.”
Adam says having a good set of metrics in place to monitor every aspect of the shop — and to make adjustments on the fly — is critical to success.
“Everything can be fixed so much more easily and quickly when you identify an area needing improvement on a daily basis,” he says. “It’s easier to fix a bad month in the middle, rather than at the end.
“Tracking everything from production efficiency to gross sales to profit margins is something that we did well in the beginning,” Adam concludes. “But in the last year and a half we’ve really watched our numbers grow.”
Despite the fact that Kracl Automotive has been serving the Glenwood Springs area for less than five years, the owner couple is sure to continue to grow the business and remain successful in the long run.
Courtesy Shop Owner.