I drive all the way from Logan Square to Forest Park every 3 months for my oil changes because I freaking love my mechanic. Rod at Elite Tire was referred to me by an old friend of mine several years ago after I had this conversation with the Honda dealership I was taking my car to before:

Dealership:  “You need to have your oil pan replaced.  The threads on the cap are all worn and the cap could fall off at any moment and your engine will explode.”

Me:  “Umm… how on earth did the threads get worn?’

Dealership:  “It usually happens when the morons who change your oil tighten the cap too hard.”

Me:  “But I only come here for oil changes.  Wouldn’t that make you guys the morons?”

Dealership:  “I don’t see the connection.”

My friend insisted I go to Rod instead because he recommended she get a new car when her old beater-mobile was giving her some trouble.  He said she’d be better off selling the car while it would still get Blue Book value and getting a newer, more reliable car.  She was impressed that instead of bleeding money out of her by insisting on costly repairs to an old car (as the unfortunate mechanic stereotype goes), he gave her honestly good advice about her car- advice that makes his bills and income lower than if she kept her old car.

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For my first oil change I sat in the waiting area and watched Rod have the absolute most patient conversation with a customer I have ever witnessed in my entire life.  A little old lady with a bit of a nasty attitude was angry because she needed some parts replaced since they were worn down and corroded.  She threw her hands in the air and said, “I can’t see how they possibly need to be replaced!  I’ve had the car for 10 years and only drive it once a week and have never had anything go wrong with it.”  She was actually the quintessential “little old lady who only drives her car once a week to church and back and is terrified of being ripped off” right there in the flesh.  Rod brought out an example of what her car’s parts looked like, and a fresh sample, and proceeded to not just explain, but physically demonstrate exactly what was happening, why, and how.

He stayed with her and talked to her like an intelligent human being for a solid 20 minutes until she was confident and satisfied.  He never talked down to her or lost his cool.  He stood next to her instead of talking to her from behind a counter.  I sat there thinking THIS IS MY MECHANIC FOR LIFE NOW.

Every time I see Rod and his crew for my oil changes I’m visiting a model for how I want to run my own business.  The office is a well-oiled machine where every task gets the time and attention necessary to get things done right, and each customer who walks through the door is treated like a good friend.  Someone always answers the phone and is always at the desk to greet the next customer (99.9% of the time it’s Rod himself), and everything is done quickly as a priority but without it feeling like a frantic, high-stress environment. rod-31a-b

There’s no clutter in the workshop or the waiting area: everything is clean and under control at all times.  At my most recent trip one of the mechanics had some time between cars to service so he thoroughly cleaned an already spotless bathroom.

When I talk to a new client about their photography project I channel my mechanic and treat each client like they’re my only client while I talk to them.  We work together to figure out what their photo needs are and how I can take photos for them that are exactly what they need and that they can be proud of.  When they have questions, I have quick answers.  When my answers don’t suffice or there are follow-up questions, I keep with the conversation until there is mutual understanding and trust.  I’ve had hour-long phone conversations with clients who didn’t even book me and I don’t see it as wasted time.

Keep up the good work, Rod- you’re my small business hero.

PS- there may actually be a post-it note on my desk that says “how would Rod handle this situation?”

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