“Awe, look at that little mechanic in the making!” is a comment that Andrew and I regularly hear from people when our son is in tow. In an effort to be polite, our response is often something like, “Well, we’ll see.” We realize people are just making “daddy’s little boy” conversation, however, it’s actually a challenging issue for us.
The whole reason behind opening our own shop is rooted in the fact that it’s a really difficult industry to work in and a challenging industry to adhere to quality standards. Andrew saw an opportunity to be his own boss, to create a better automotive repair environment for anyone we might employ and anyone we might have the opportunity to serve.
This roots back to why Andrew even got into the industry in the first place. He had never done much more on a vehicle than change oil and put on a spare tire, so it wasn’t that he started dabbling in auto repair as a hobby, then decided to pursue it as a career. It was more that he really likes helping people in practical ways and he saw an opportunity to learn something that would be a practical service to others.
So, after years in the industry where he experienced many challenges and then went to work for himself, the honeymoon period of the excitement of solving a problem on a car and fixing it has worn off. Sure, there is satisfaction in a job well done, especially when there is a grateful customer involved, but it’s a dirty and often unforgiving job that doesn’t pay well. While he may not put on a big smile and say, “Oh yay! I have a challenging problem to deal with today!,”I can tell you that he certainly finds fulfillment in knowing that he’s been able t provide a practical service for people who need it.
If someone were to ask if we are going to encourage our son into the field, Andrew would quickly tell you “no.” We won’t prevent him from becoming a mechanic if he decides he’s being called into the field, but we aren’t going to point him in that direction. That’s what it really comes down to, is that we want our son to feel free to explore whatever he feels called to. If it’s auto mechanics, Andrew will give him a realistic picture and opportunity to see what that would be like. If it’s teaching or engineering, or dolphin training, or studio art, we’ll help him find whatever opportunity we can to explore that field and to be successful in whatever he does.
Andrew and I, like most parents, just want our child to be healthy, happy, and loved no matter what he decides to do with his life. For now our “little mechanic” is doing what every one-year-old should be doing – exploring how things work in the world around him and where he fits into that world. Should that draw him into auto mechanics, only time will tell.
-From The Mechanic’s Wife
On May 31st, all of the tenants in our building received notice, to no fault of our own, that we must move out by July 2nd. We had no warning that this was coming and we are doing everything we can to maintain our quality standards of communication, service, and workmanship while we make plans to relocate.
It is our goal to continue serving you through this transition with as little interruption as possible. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us about maintenance and repairs you might need during this time.
We have a wonderful community of fellow business people who have been a tremendous support in providing advice and connecting us to all the right people; as well as friends, family, and customers who are offering their prayer and encouragement through this difficult situation. We are working with a wonderful commercial realtor to find a new space asap.
We will continue to update you as progress is made. You are welcome to call (407-671-6274) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions or helpful ideas you might have as we make this transition.
Thank you for your continued support and we will update you as this situation develops.
Andrew, Bethany, and Jonathan
Most of us have been there. You are at a staff meeting or a party and the boss stands up and says something to the effect of, “We’re a family,” referring to you and the however many other employees (some whom you hardly know), in a way to say you are cared for as an employee. Your mixed emotions about the job itself send a disconcerting chill up your spine. You don’t see these people as family. Sure you’ve made some good friends at this job. You celebrate your successes together and even sometimes talk about the downsides of the company, but you definitely aren’t each other’s family. It may even be that it was originally started as a family business and the CEO is the grandson of the company’s founder. However, that doesn’t make the CEO your brother.
That’s how Andrew and I have often felt in previous employment. We were just trying to “get by,” pretty much since we’ve been married, not necessarily looking for a second family. He grew tired of the work-place politics that comes with working for someone else. He also saw a gap in the auto repair industry that he wanted to fill (at least for the few that would visit his shop) and decided he’d be his own boss for a change. I caught onto his vision and now we are well on our way to establishing ourselves in our community as a trusted auto repair shop. We are an actual family. We’re a family serving families. We’re small, and we plan to stay that way.
We Really Are Family
We are trying to shape our business in a way that allows us a healthy family life. We’re not afraid to adjust our hours to allow for family time or to not schedule work on a Friday so Andrew can be with me while I undergo surgery. We’re a family business and if our business isn’t good for our family, we need to change our business, not our family. We need to provide for not only the practical monetary needs of our family, but the emotional and spiritual needs as well. If Daddy is never around because he’s working, then we’ve failed to truly provide for our son. It’s certainly not easy – in fact it’s been a major struggle for us – but it’s important so we keep looking for ways to make it work.
The same goes for our employees. The great thing about our staff, past and present, is that we were all friends before we were co-workers. That doesn’t mean this will always be the case, but it certainly means that if we end up hiring someone we don’t know, we will make every effort to be their friend as well as their employer – we’re all on the same level just trying to provide.
Our office manager, Jonathan, and his wife, Sarah, have been a part of our life long before Jonathan was hired. In fact, Sarah and I were roommates when Andrew and I got married and he moved in with us for the last couple months of our lease. When she met Jonathan, we made a point to have them over for dinner so we could get to know him better. Working together has made us all closer than ever. We help each other out with everything from childcare to bringing each other meals when someone is recovering from childbirth or illness to even cleaning each others homes. So, when we say we’re like family, it’s because we really do treat one-another like we’d treat a member of our family.
If It’s a Good Business, Why Stay Small?
I’ve had a lot of major health issues over the past year. One thing that frustrates me more than anything is calling a doctor’s office and having to fight to talk to the person who can address my needs. I call, choose the number on the phone menu that I think will address my need, getting a person who isn’t the right person, then being put on hold. Three people later, I’m talking once again to the first person I spoke with who asks if I can hold while I’m transferred. I don’t know these people. I don’t know the right person to talk to. When I finally do get the correct person, they can’t really address my need anyway. It’s so frustrating!
That’s why I prefer small independent practices. I know who I’m going to talk to when I call, I know what to expect when I schedule my appointment, and I know who is going to be treating me. Keeping this body in good health is a challenge, I don’t want to be fighting to talk with the people helping me do it.
We want all of our customers to feel like they are valued, not just because it’s good business sense, but because we really do care about people. When you call, we want the person on the other end to be familiar to you. When we ask how you are, we really want to know. We want to become familiar with you, your family, and your car. When we don’t see you for a while, we’ll wonder how you are doing. Staying small means that personal touch of being able to go above and beyond for our customers, of having a personal relationship with you and managing good quality control over our business practices and mechanical work. It means that our customers keep coming back because we’ve given them reason to trust us.
We’re OK With Letting Go
It’s hard to find just the right person to fit in with any business, especially one like ours that has a very specific vision and is made up of a small team working closely together. However, we want to see our employees succeed in the ways that they are uniquely gifted.
We recently had a good friend and great mechanic leave his part-time job with us to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. It was a loss for us, but we are excited to see him make an impact on his family and the world through this career change. Eventually we’ll have the resources to hire a full-time mechanic that equals his skills and ability. It will allow us to grow our business and become even better than we are now. There will come a time when we will either need to expand our business and entrust this mechanic with more responsibility or see them move on to better things. We’re not looking to expand to a multiple location business because, as I mentioned, we want to stay small. We would gladly cheer that person on to open their own business that reflects the quality of service and relationships they experienced while working for us. The world doesn’t need Marinelli Auto Services on every corner, but it does need more shops that make the effort to break the stereotype of auto repair as a dishonest industry.
Our goal is not about us getting big, it’s about shaping trust within the industry. It’s not about making a name for ourselves, it’s about revealing that there’s something greater for each and every person who seeks a solution in even the most trying circumstances.
-From the Mechanic’s Wife
When “Prince Charming” comes up on the caller ID at Marinelli Auto Service, we know that Jonathan Fernandes is on the line. This doesn’t happen often, because as Office Manager, he’s usually the one answering the phone, but when it does, we can be rest assured we’ll be greeted with something off the wall like, “Jimbo’s Tacos calling to confirm your order for 100 supreme tacos,” to which it’s best to play along for as long as possible. In all seriousness, though, Jonathan brings a good balance of fun and opportunity to our shop that has brought our business to the next level.
Surinamese by birth, Jonathan’s cross-cultural upbringing allows a perspective that looks outside the box for solutions to everyday challenges. He has been a fast learner of the industry and faces challenges as opportunities. His vision for our business is bigger than I can wrap my mind around, so when he hears about an improvement that needs to be made, he jumps right on it. This vision includes expanding our reach to be able to serve customers with more efficient turn-around times and a smoother customer experience. For example, his affinity for technology, particularly computer programming, has greatly improved many of our office processes. He’s always anticipating our next biggest need and putting things in place to meet it.
Since Jonathan has joined our team, we’ve been able to move forward from wondering how we’ll get to the end of the week to what we’ll be able to accomplish by the end of the year. Yes, we all want to make a nice income to support our families, but this is secondary to the care he has for each vendor he works with and each customer who walks through the door. When it comes down to it, he wants to take care of you and your family.
In fact, one thing that allowed Jonathan to fit easily into our fold is his heart for his family. With his wife Sarah – a longtime friend of Andrew’s and mine – his son James, and the any-day-now anticipation of his second son’s arrival, he “gets” the family atmosphere we’ve tried to create through our business. Just like Andrew treats every car like it’s owned by a member of his family, Jonathan treats every customer like you were part of his.
Truth be told, it’s his easy going relational style that makes him the right person to be on the other end of the phone and the first face you see when you walk into our office. This brings us to how “Prince Charming” ended up on our caller ID. While mostly tongue in cheek, it represents the balance between the fun he brings as well as the connection he makes with every person on the other end. If you haven’t already, I hope you get a chance to meet Jonathan soon. When you do, I highly encourage you to let him know what we’re doing right and where we can improve. I promise you, he’ll look forward to the challenge as an opportunity.
-From the Mechanic’s Wife
I’ve often heard that when a quiet person speaks, listen. With Andrew, this couldn’t be more true. I frequently wonder what is going on in that head of his. If you look in his eyes you know, the wheels are always turning, but with what? His level of focus is remarkable and his attention to detail is inspiring. It’s like he conserves his energy in the stillness of his concentration and then bursts into action to get things done. And when he opens his mouth, the value in what he says is staggering. What goes on between the silence, the action, and the speaking is beyond me – and I’ve been married to him for six years! – but whatever it is, it drives him to get things done no matter what it takes.
Andrew is a resilient man – not impenetrable, but very humanly resilient. He commits to a task and he gets it done. His motivation stems from the heart. For him, it’s less about the cars and more about the people that drive them. It’s one of the first things that attracted me to him. He really cares about people and has a drive to help them, whether stranger or friend, in whatever way he can. He won’t let an obstacle get in the way of his goal. He always finds a way around it because the people he serves as a mechanic mean that much to him.
This attribute is what motivated him to change gears from music teacher to mechanic. He sought a way to help people in a practical way, so he set down his music degree and sought a career as a tradesman. He will still sit down from time-to-time and massage a tune out of a piano, but these days those gifted fingers are influencing a vehicle back to good health. He doesn’t so much enjoy the mechanics as much as that he’s really good at it and is driven to get better so he can continue to help people.
It’s Andrew’s intelligence and uncommon love for people that drives him out of bed at 6:30am to head to the shop before it opens. He’ll grab whatever is in the fridge that will give him energy for the day (pizza, cheese or hummus and bread, leftover spaghetti, etc…), though sometimes he needs to be reminded to eat because he gets so focused on the job at hand. He rolls into the shop, spends some time cleaning or preparing his mind and heart for the day ahead. A few minutes are spent touching base with the employees, Mike and Jonathan, and then he gets to work, praying all the while for uninterrupted time to maintain his concentration on each vehicle on the schedule for the day.
At 6pm, when the shop is officially closed, the other guys usually (unless there’s an urgent matter to attend to) begin wrapping things up to head home. Andrew presses on for another few hours, at least. He usually aims to leave the shop by 9pm, but sometimes another hour or a few more after that. If he says he is going to get something done, you better believe he puts everything he has into getting it done.
Monday through Friday, this is what Andrew’s life looks like. Saturday is a little different, the shop isn’t open, so it’s a day when he can be fairly certain of no interruptions. So, he goes in to wrap up a job that didn’t go as planned over the previous days or spend time focusing on the business end of things. It’s a day when he can let the phone ring to voicemail and find unbroken concentration.
Sunday morning comes and Andrew is horizontal and will remain that way most of the day. Sure, he’ll spend some time playing with our son, but it’s mostly a day of recharging. Reading, watching TV, napping, and maybe a short trip to the park. It’s the only way this introvert can get up on Monday and do it all over again. He does it for me and our son, but also for you and your family so you can get wherever else life takes you.
-From the Mechanic’s Wife
We are a family business, and not just in the sense that Andrew and I are a husband and wife running a business, but because we are a family who truly cares about you and your family. It doesn’t matter whether you are a single college student or married parents of six, we care about you and the people you care about. Andrew, myself, and our team have had a variety of experiences that help us to empathize with where you are. We understand busy lives of all forms, and want to serve you so that you have safe transportation to get where you need to go. Continue reading “A Day in the Life: The Family Business Mom” »