More Than Balanced Tires

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Nov 01, 2008

"Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends." 
Walt Disney

Trent and Gina Larson are the owner-operators of the "Ultimate Car Care" shop in Inner Grove Heights, Minnesota. Their eleven-employee business provides "Great Goodyear and Gemini Auto Care." 

Our paths crossed recently when I took my son's 2006 Nissan-Altima to have the front tires balanced, or as they say, "Re-torqued." As I sat in the waiting room, my idea for this column was born. I didn't plan it that way, but sometimes creative thoughts just come out of nowhere. 

Since they told me the day before that it would take 30-45 minutes, I arrived for the appointment with a fresh cup of coffee and a book to read. A current "Dakota-Pioneer Press" newspaper was on the table which I had to read before I opened my book. The other four leather seats were empty as I read the latest Minnesota news alone. From sports to business and from politics to education, I felt like I had truly returned a familiar world where we had lived for 21 years. 

I then began to read Henri Nouwen's Turn My Mourning Into Dancing; Finding Hope in Hard Times. After about 10 pages of extremely inspired words, I noticed the friendly bantering at the counter around the corner. As they chatted about the role of brakes on a vehicle, Trent said in jest, "Brakes are highly overrated." I poked my head around the corner and joked with them about how that sounded to a customer. 

As I went back to my book, my mind began to focus on this automotive world I had stepped into. If what I saw there in that small waiting room was any clue, these people appeared to be very good at what they did. You can learn a lot about an organization by looking at auxiliary pieces of their enterprise. 

They provided crayons and children's books including Veggie Tales as well as a box full of toys for little ones. On the wall a guest could choose 12 magazines from Sports Illustrated to Time, or from Good Housekeeping to Redbook, or from People to Real Simple for reading material. Fresh coffee and fresh popcorn were freely available. A digital TV was on the wall. Even the bathroom was fresh and clean. 

I was impressed by their altruism. On May 11, 2008 they sponsored with 10 people who participated in a "Memories are Made Here" benefit for cancer research as shown in a picture on the wall. Other cancer benefit posters referenced Jesse Martinez and Chris Omen. These gentle signals were not flaunted but in a subtle way let this visitor know they were engaged with the needs of people around them. 

As an automotive shop, assortments of brochures were displayed from "Power Steering Service" to "Napa Belt/Hose" and from "Cooling System Service" to a handy 53 page "Car Care Guide." Anyone could fill out a request to have an "Oil Change Email"reminder. 

Along the top of the individual pictures of each employee with their names and titles were these words, 'Quality Service from Your Trusted Team." 

From a brief exchange with Trent at the counter he told me that several years ago he was laid off after working 22 years at Northwest Airlines. He and his wife decided to invest in "Ultimate Car Care." He explained, "Scared money never makes money." This native Minnesotan who is also the Captain of the Farmington Fire Department is now changing his world, one car at a time. 

On that day, I went into an automotive shop to get some tires balanced and left with my life a little better balanced because of some great people committed to grow a great business. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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