Ever since Rudy Graf of Graf Automotive can remember, he has been interested in how things worked… especially anything mechanical.
“My father came to Toronto in 1954 as a mechanic—22 years later Graf Auto was conceived. As a family business, our goal was long-term security over short-term gain. My father’s vision was cut short when he passed in 1992. Eerily, after his passing, the building opposite our rented facility went up for sale. It was like an omen from my father.
“I walked over and negotiated a price with the owner— Graf Auto had a permanent home! Acquiring the property and the final mortgage payment were some of my most memorable and accomplished moments.”
As Graf says, this wouldn’t have been possible without a steady flow of work coming into the bays—customer loyalty is paramount and with it your bays are never empty.
“Getting loyalty from your customers isn’t difficult. Just listen to their concerns, understand them, and attend to them in a fair, professional manner. In return, you’ll get their loyalty and they’ll promote your facility to others. You now have their trust, too! Who’s going to promote something to their friends they don’t trust?” Graf shares.
Graf believes that information and innovation must be constantly updated to stay in the game—without it, you can’t service your clientele. You have to be up-to-date; you can’t repair today’s vehicles without proper equipment and information.
Graf says information is key to any repair. With the evolution of more advanced automobiles, with more capabilities using more computing and processing power, today’s technician can’t wait for tomorrow to get repair information. This certainly brings up a new initiative for the independent repair sector—”Repair it Right”—access to vehicle manufacturers’ repair information—a great opportunity for the independent sector to rally together and bring to reality!
“You may think you don’t need this, but you eventually will,” Graf states. “You won’t be able to go forward without it. The same holds true for subscription-based information. Anything that advances your knowledge and skills is an investment. Investments cost money, but if done right it will give you a return. I always hear about the cost of investing, nothing about the return!”
The value of associations
“In the mid-1980s I joined AARO. A lot of changes were happening in our industry—fuel injection, computer control engine management. AARO helped me with training—business management, group programs, getting together with my peer members. And those peers had all kinds of info from auto repair to running a business. I realized the value of associations. Today, I’m President of AARO.”
Graf was also on the Drive Clean focus group. He had concerns and wanted to be heard, so joined. Together, the group created a better program. He says the same goes for the MVIS Standards revision. “I’ve heard many complain, but that was all, no offer of solutions or alternatives. The MVIS focus group created a standard that far exceeded the members’ expectations. It was like a think tank. What’s next? Get ready for digital safety inspections,” Graf says.
As Graf states, “No one can do it alone—there’s strength in numbers. ASPs need to band together in order to be around tomorrow.
“Our industry is in constant flux. What is new today is old tomorrow!”