If Timm Jurincie stopped accepting engine work today at his Avondale, AZ shop, Tuf-Enuf Auto & Marine Performance, he would still have enough work to last until September. Tuf-Enuf, which focuses on performance marine engines and street strip motors, is a sought-after engine shop in the Avondale and Phoenix area despite not advertising.
“We don’t have any advertising budget other than business cards and stickers,” says Jurincie, owner of Tuf-Enuf. “We are on Yellow Pages and Yelp, but we’re not on any social media. We have plenty of work and are always snowed under.”
The reason being – Tuf-Enuf does great work with great employees, and that reputation has been with Timm and the shop for a very long time.
“We are always upfront and honest with everyone,” Jurincie says. “If you need something in a hurry, I can’t help you. If I promise you something at a certain date I always tell people I might be 95% done and hit the expected date, but if I can be 100% done and be a week late, then it’s going to be a week late. That’s our philosophy, and if you can’t live with that, I’d rather you went somewhere else. I’m in my 60s now and I’ve been doing this since I was 15, so I know what works.”
Jurincie grew up tinkering with bicycles, mini carts and go-karts before getting into carburetors and engines, despite his father not knowing which end of a screwdriver to hold. Fortunately, his grandfather was the handier of the two and had a big influence on Timm.
“He always instilled in me that if one man could make it, another man could fix it,” Jurincie says. “If you’re the man that can fix it, you’ll always be in demand and always have work. He also told me to never be afraid to try and fix something that is broken because it’s already broken, useless and doesn’t work, so if you at least try to fix it and work on it, you’ll learn something about it.”
Jurincie’s grandfather also instilled in him that most things are built for a wide-ranging audience, and if you can narrow down the focus, you can improve on just about any product. That’s how Tuf-Enuf is operated.
“We don’t sell crate motors or nine different motors,” he says. “Every single motor that comes into this shop is custom built. I spend about three hours with every customer taking notes, getting inside their head and figuring out what their budget is, what they want to build now, and where they want to be six months or a year from now with it.”
Tuf-Enuf builds a lot of performance boat motors. Its typical customer is not a new guy, but rather a repeat customer who’s been buying motors from Tuf-Enuf for 5, 10, 25 or even 30 years.
“I won’t allow anybody to shoot themselves in the foot,” Jurincie says. “If they have an idea I can’t wrap my head around because I’ve tried something similar and know its not a viable way of doing something or I know it won’t be reliable, I’d rather be known as the guy who says ‘I can’t do this the way you want and get the results you’re asking for.’ If I can’t build it to be reliable and do what we both want it to do, I’d rather turn the job down and send it to someone else. I’d always rather tell you I don’t want to build your project than be the person who builds the project knowing what the problems will be in the future.”
Typically, Tuf-Enuf sends 30 percent of the people who come through the door right back out. Many shops don’t have the backlog to be able to do that, and that hurts their reputation in the business.
“If you build something that you’re pretty sure might work kind of sort of, or if you build everything you know is going to work, there is a difference,” he says. “I’d rather under promise and over deliver, and that’s why we have happy people who come in here all the time.”
Part of Tuf-Enuf’s customer satisfaction lies in the shop’s expertise with a difficult product.
“We like building boat motors because there are so few shops out there that can build a boat motor and know the difference between a car engine and a boat engine,” Jurincie says. “A drag strip engine is fairly easy to build because the oil control isn’t as important for longevity because the higher horsepower you have, the shorter time you’re on the throttle. On a boat? The lake here is 7-8 miles, and we are also not that far from Lake Havasu, which is a 90-mile lake. I myself have run 25 miles wide open at 126 mph.
“Bonneville motors are tough to build for the same reasons. Drag strips offer an entirely different set of problems. If you can build a good longevity motor that will stay together for 10-15 years in a boat that runs wide open for at least an hour every time it goes out in spurts, that teaches you a lot about longevity. And that trickles down to every motor we build.”
That difficulty becomes understood by Tuf-Enuf customers very soon after they receive a botched job elsewhere.
“Our statement around here is we never get you the first time to build your motor,” he says. “Most people who get a motor built the first time pick a place out of the phone book or see a sign and throw their check book in the door and get something built by someone who may or may not be qualified. Most car engine guys can do a very good job on a car engine, but they can’t make a boat engine last more than a couple weekends or maybe a season. When their boat breaks then they start asking everybody else on the boat engine scene who built your engine. That’s when we get the referral. We never build the first motor, but we always see the carnage of everybody else’s stuff.”
At any given time, Tuf-Enuf usually has 20-40 percent of its projects that are broken things from other shops, or they didn’t make the horsepower or the longevity.
“We get to be the hero when everybody else breaks their stuff,” Jurincie says. “If you’re good, people know who you are and they will find you and do whatever it takes to find you and give you money to build something they know they will be happy with.”
Tuf-Enuf’s reputation rests primarily on Jurincie’s leadership, but it also falls onto his employees.
“I interview a couple of people a month, and the only way I will grant interviews is someone I know and trust can vouch for that person and give me an idea about his background and reputation and what he knows,” he says. “I will not hire anybody based on what they say they can do if they don’t have a fast car or a fast boat or are not an enthusiast. You have to eat, sleep, live and breathe performance, and have things that you own and are currently playing with to back up that you really like what you are doing. It shows through and the customers can tell.”
Finding good help from enthusiastic people who really like doing what they’re doing can be a challenge. You hire for attitude and train for success. That is how Jurincie runs Tuf-Enuf.
“Don’t be afraid to share ideas because we can always learn things,” he says. “We’re constantly evolving and updating how we do everything trying not to get stuck in a rut. Once or twice a week we will have a group meeting and discuss ideas and we will see what we can do to run with some of those.”
That flexibility is a good thing, especially in an industry and market that is constantly changing.
“The biggest change we have is we were building less small block Chevys than we ever did, but about three years ago it changed and we started doing more small blocks,” he says. “Most of our motors are big block Chevys because that’s what’s in most of the fast boats. We also build a lot of big block Fords, and some Oldsmobiles, but those are few and far between. We are still getting Pontiacs and FE motors too.”
Tuf-Enuf, while it has not always been under the same name, has been in business since the early 1980s, and as a shop tends to do, has collected a lot of machinery to perform its work.
“We have a few things that most people don’t,” Jurincie says. “We bake, blast, mag, bore, and hone. We have diamond-tooled head and deck mills with BHJ fixtures. We have a Sunnen 616 cylinder hone. We use an old Winona Van Norman balancer. We have an Ultrasonic. We have a Superflow flow bench and other standard shop machines. We also have a cam analyzer, which most people don’t.”
Everything about Tuf-Enuf has its customers returning happy and eagerly passing along referrals. Jurincie aids them in this effort by making sure they grab plenty of business cards – roughly 2,000 business cards a year.
“Our business cards are a bright yellow with a bright orange outlined in red with Tuf-Enuf on them,” he says. “If you make them easy to identify everybody knows who you are. We’ve always had the same logo and bright colors. We have repeat customers who come into the shop and take a handful of business cards and they pass them out to their friends. This happens often enough that I know it works.”
Something Jurincie learned very early on in this business was to put a small date on his business cards to help keep track of customers and who is handing out his cards.
“If somebody has your cards in their wallet, garage or toolbox for years and they’re giving out cards for you, they’re happy with you, and that’s what we strive for,” he says. “That way we know what we’ve got and how happy everyone is and what we are doing is working.”