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The Percentage Of DIYer Households In The United States Has Remained Constant For The Past Six Years
According to a new market research study released by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) segment of the automotive aftermarket is not shrinking; in fact, the percentage of DIYer households in the United States has remained constant for the past six years.
This comes as no surprise to Ernie and Sandi Holder, owners of Holder Automotive Machine in Ruston, LA. They say their customer base still consists mainly of the DIYer. Recovering from slow turnaround times experienced by the former owners, the Holders say that word of mouth can make or break a machine shop.
EB: How did the business get started?
SH: Our business started in 1988 and was originally owned by Bill and Peggy Ward. The name of the business at the time was Ruston Machine Works, and Ernie was their very first employee. They opened the business with very little equipment — mostly cylinder head stuff — and built up from there to a full-service machine shop. Ernie and I bought the business in 1996 and renamed it Holder Automotive Machine.
EB: How has business been?
SH: Our first two years of business were slow and hard because the old shop had a bad reputation for turnaround time. The quality was there, but due to poor management the old business really struggled. We basically had to start from scratch and prove that we were willing to provide good quality work in a timely manner. We started the business with very little money, and everyone told us that things wouldn’t get better until the fifth year. We are in our fifth year now, and we are starting to notice that things are getting better.
Changing the reputation for slow turnaround has been our biggest focus. We are now top notch in our turnaround time, and people know it. Our customer base is larger than ever, and we are just struggling to keep up.
EB: Approximately, what kind of sales do you do a year?
SH: Sales in 2000 were approximately $300,000. We are now in the process of logging all work produced and have only done one month so far. For July, we did approximately $8,000 on heads, $5,500 on blocks, $3,000 on cranks and $3,000 on engines.
EB: What is your customer base, and how is it evolving?
SH: Our customer base is mostly the shadetree mechanic and do-it-yourselfer. We have a good business customer base with dealerships, mechanic shops and engine installers. We have several drag strips and dirt tracks in the area and do plenty of performance work for racers. We have had to keep our equipment and tooling updated because of our growing customer base and the newer applications of engines that change so often.
EB: Who are your company’s major competitors? How do you position yourself in the market against your competitors?
SH: Our closest competition is 40 miles from us, and we do business with him and he does business with us. He does our line boring, and we do his balancing, so it works out nicely. All other shops in the area don’t have the same quality or years of experience, so we don’t really see them as competition. In our area, we set the standard.
EB: How does your company promote and market its services?
SH: We have promoted our business in the local newspaper, and we have ads in the Yellow Pages, too. Our best marketing tool is just word of mouth. We have developed a really good reputation for quality, and people talk.
EB: Have production procedures in the shop changed over the past five years?
SH: Yes, production procedures have changed. This is something that we have to stay on top of, especially since our workload is growing so fast. We are always looking for ways to make things run more smoothly and more efficiently, such as using freezer zip lock bags to keep up with head parts and other small parts. You have to stay organized because looking for parts takes time and will cost you.
In the line of equipment, we have purchased a Kwikway model 870 surfacing machine for our cylinder head department. We were only using a broach type surfacing machine, and the Kwikway machine has definitely been good for our shop.
EB: What major problems does your shop face?
SH: The number one problem is definitely employees and finding qualified people. We currently have three full-time employees, one ASE certified Cylinder Head Specialist with 10 years of experience, one ASE certified Master Machinist with 20 years experience, and the other is working on getting his two years of experience so that he can take his ASE test.
For our employees, we offer good pay, pay half the health insurance, match 3 percent of retirement contributions, one week paid vacation, five sick days and a flexible schedule. We baby them because we know that if we lose them, we will have to spend a lot of time training someone new. It is so hard to find good employees, and our current employees know it and sometimes hold it over our heads. What do you do?
EB: What kind of cleaning process do you use?
SH: We have the Ampro heat cleaning system, which we really like because it is easy to use and cleans parts better. It is efficient and EPA safe, too. We also have a jet washer.
EB: What are the most popular engines being built in your shop?
SH: We do more Chevrolet engines than anything. Ernie is more of a Chevrolet man and has basically mastered the performance small block engine. We do a little of everything, though.