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Electrical Engineers Become Shop Owners Growing to Seven Stores – John and Karen Manelas [RR 569]

John and Karen Manelas both hold a Bachelor of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering. They worked in our fields for 15 years before deciding to go into business for themselves. They looked at restaurants, flower shops, engineering firms, etc. They decided on automotive because a love of vehicles and they both perceived the level of service from the industry left much to be desired…especially as it pertains to treating female customers. So, they decided to purchase a shop from a burnt-out business owner. (He is still with us as our operations manager, 16 years later!) We took a very big risk, borrowed money from a relative, the bank and the SBA. They went from making about $150K/year combined to about $50K in their first year in business.

John and Karen purchased their first location in April 2004. They expanded into their 2nd location in 2011. They bought out a former 20 group member in Maine in 2013 as their 3rd location. They purchased a former Chevy/Chrysler 14 bay dealership in 2014. In 2016, they purchased an import auto service business and converted it to an Auto Care Plus (store #5). In 2017, they purchased a Volvo Specialty Repair Shop which they decided to then re-brand and create a new brand for us calling it Euro Care Plus. In 2019, we did our first non-acquisition “build to suit” venture erecting an 8 bay facility with upstairs offices for their Corporate headquarters. They also decided to lease the rest of that building where we are preparing to open a Hybrid/EV specialty division to be named Electrified Auto Care. They now have 7 locations (5 of which they own the dirt). 6 Locations in NH and one in ME. 

Key Talking Points:

  • Husband and wife team that met in college
    • Background in electrical engineering 
    • Wanted to leave the corporate world with traveling weekly and become own boss
    • Started to look at different businesses to buy- looked into auto shops. Always had an interest in cars and felt there was room for improvement with how women customers are treated in a male-dominated auto industry. 
    • The previous owner is still with the shop as operations manager
  • Has 7 locations now
  • Was approached by a broker and bought the property for location #2- found the right manager for it 
  • Had advice from a multi-shop mentor and went to a conference- Both left with shared enthusiasm after attending together. The power of networking.
  • Getting a third store helped streamline processes and procedures 
  • John always wants to continue to grow and he is able to do that the best when he is outside his comfort zone. Master a skill then go to the next level. 
  • Prepare yourself mentally to put a lot of work into each location opening initially and hire the right staff
  • The most important thing to know about business is the numbers- it’s like playing a game without a scoreboard
  • When purchased shop became apart of a bottom-line impact 20 group
    • Sounding board for advice and camaraderie with other shops- accountability
    • Surround yourself with people who are successful
  • 60-70% of clients are female  
    • Positive feedback from customers when they see female pictures on the wall in the shop .
    • Have women technicians/service counter employees can be encouraging for female customers but discouraging at the same time for male customers
  • How do you start without big capital?
    • Where there is a will there’s a way
    • Acquisitions, lease, owner financing, SBA loans

Resources:

  • Thanks to John and Karen Manelas for their contribution to the aftermarket’s premier podcast.
  • Link to the ‘BOOKS‘ page highlighting all books discussed in the podcast library HERE. Leaders are readers.
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About the author, Carm Capriotto, AAP

Carm is the founder and host of the Remarkable Results Radio Podcast; the only one of its type in the automotive aftermarket. Carm calls on his 35 years’ experience in the aftermarket to bring engaging stories from his guests.

Listen to raw, unfiltered, honest, and sincere stories that include insights, trends, best practices and expertise. Each interview brings an opportunity to learn one new thing through the stories of personal achievement. Many podcast guests tell their story of transformation from working in their business to working on it.

As host, Carm uses his enthusiasm and passion for the aftermarket especially the service sector to take his listeners on a journey showcasing successful service professionals’ path to Remarkable Results. He also enjoys interviews with aftermarket industry thought leaders who bring their industry perspectives to his listener.

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