Becoming Successful Often Means Investing in More Than Equipment

Becoming Successful Often Means Investing in More Than Equipment

The cover story in this March issue of ShopOwner is full of self-reflection and acceptance – but it isn’t a depressing story of what wasn’t.

When I sat down to speak with Todd Baldridge, owner of Buckeye Complete Auto Care in Columbus, OH, I was struck by his candor, his openness and his complete honesty about his shortcomings as a business owner.

The cover story in this March issue of ShopOwner is full of self-reflection and acceptance – but it isn’t a depressing story of what wasn’t. Baldridge is eager to look forward as well, to what CAN be. 

The prospect of opening a second shop seemed to be an incredibly risky move, but it has since become his idea of success for the future. More shops might equal more profit for himself, but Todd Baldridge looks at it as additional opportunity for his team.

“To me, success is measured by how well my team and the people around me benefit from getting to be here at the same time,” Baldridge told me. “Do they get to buy houses? Do they get to go on vacations? Are they driving a nicer car than they were driving when they got here? To me, success is measured by meeting the dreams of my team.”

This definition of success has changed over the past decade, he admitted. 

“In the beginning, the idea that I needed to care for one of the people who worked here was crazy to me. We just worked together. I understood what it was like to work in a place that sucked and I guess I knew that I didn’t want it to be a terrible work environment, but at the same time, come on. We just worked on cars – we weren’t a family,” he says.

He admitted that providing a place to work, adequate equipment and a paycheck (no matter how it was funded – read the article for those details) seemed to be enough. 

“There was a time where I would’ve told you that success was measured by the sales to net profit percentage. Now, if I’m not making room to achieve their success by creating another opportunity for them, then I’ll be losing all of those people. And I won’t have an amazing team.”

Baldridge said the investment in his company’s future is partly bricks and mortar, but it’s so much more than that, as well. 

“I want five to seven stores, unless my team decides we need to be bigger. If I’m constantly taking general service technicians and turning them into C techs and B techs, then I’ve got to be constantly taking B techs into A techs; and master techs into foremen; and parts guys and service writers into store managers,” he said. “And to do that I’m going to need to invest in people.”

Recruitment to fill all of these positions will be critical and Baldridge said his plans include a well-rounded apprenticeship program to meet his future needs. But for his own survival and the industry’s, he acknowledges that self-image is a key metric to improve upon.

“I had a foreman who was ashamed because he worked at a place that had his name on his shirt. He made a great living, was one of the smartest people I know, but didn’t want people to know what he did. How crazy is that?”

Baldridge said his future involves changing that attitude with automotive professionals and the general public. Remember, without you, society literally grinds to a halt.

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