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