Owner Gretchen Geist: “My shop is the place customers come to for a family practitioner – for their car!”
Gretchen Geist didn’t start out in life with the goal of owning a repair shop but she knew she wanted to be her own boss. The entrepreneurial spirit has always run deep in her and Gretchen now feels the shop is on the right path to be the Nordstrom of repair shops in Wasilla, Alaska. That’s the goal and Diamond Plated Automotive is well on its way.
Diamond Plated Automotive is less than one hour from Anchorage and located in the Matanuska Susitna Valley. Surrounded by beautiful lakes with year-round outdoor activities, it’s a great place to live and have a business.
Gretchen and Keith bought the business in 2018. The shop had been open for 26 years as Mr. Lube. Gretchen and Keith believed it to be a good business to own in their community, so they jumped in. But it became apparent pretty quickly the business wasn’t all they had believed it to be. And the business model in place wasn’t up to Gretchen’s standards. It was a year of stress trying to fix a shop that needed a lot of fixing on every level: from the shop culture to marketing to staffing to the quality of repairs. With all the stress and never-ending drama from social media to employees the marriage suffered and Gretchen and Keith ended up divorcing.
This story has a great ending though. Gretchen took over sole ownership in 2020 and changed the name to move away from the old business to an all new much shinier success story. And Keith has never been more supportive. Gretchen is never shy to make sure everyone knows “Keith is my rock, he calls me out and builds me up, he has always been there ready for the fight!” Keith is one of the employee’s Gretchen credits with the success and survival through COVID, he is her greatest friend. But Diamond Plated is Gretchen’s ship to steer…her business to manage and own.
Diamond Plated has three profit centers: lube, tires and general repair. Safety and quality are what the shop stands for. It’s achieved through strategic initiatives centered on training/education and customer advocacy. Each employee is provided industry training and 3 certifications are required to pass probation.
There was a point where Gretchen knew she needed help. After some exhaustive days and tear-filled nights, she reached out to a local repair shop owner and acquaintance and asked for guidance. That’s when she received the advice to talk to DRIVE. The friend put it simply and straightforward: “When DRIVE calls, answer the phone, be honest and do what they tell you to do and follow through with what they teach you.”
Gretchen is committed now to DRIVE and has taken each workshop twice. She is currently in the midst of her first Apprenticeship, and she recently traveled to another DRIVE shop and observed them in action for 7 days. One of the best things about working with DRIVE is developing trusted friendships with other shop owners. The networking with people that are going through similar situations is invaluable and a big reason for the success of Diamond Plated. Celebrating each other’s successes and encouraging each other with advice is a key factor for the turn-around at Gretchen’s shop.
Before DRIVE, a typical day at the shop was a “nightmare. I spun my wheels, I was demonstrative because I was so unhappy, controlling and failing in every way. With DRIVE I have found out ‘how to’. How to: hire/fire, coach not yell, budget and prioritize and ask questions. Gretchen says “DRIVE has allowed me to step back and ultimately be the owner of my business…the CEO of Diamond Plated. I now know what the numbers mean and how to look at them in a way to motivate improvement.” And the Marketing by DRIVE has been a life saver. “I’ve got a Master’s in Marketing but just couldn’t find the time to pay attention to it like a successful owner should.”
Asked what makes her the proudest, Gretchen says: “There are two things that make me the most humble and proud of my shop. I have learned to be humble in the mistakes I made, admitting when I am wrong and fully committing to improving myself as an owner every day.” The second is how she has built a great team, the true foundation of her business is the team who has been with her from the darkest days to their rise from the ashes. Gretchen feels confident in stepping away and knows that customers will be treated fairly with respect and a safe reliable car repair. “My team knows that customer service isn’t just something we say but is a core principle at the shop.”
A policy Gretchen put in place is the managing of Diamond Plated bills. “Having created some serious vendor bills our first year, I am now a proponent of weekly budgeting and payment. I do this as I feel I have a great deal of control by ensuring we do not have any debts building. Only debts that are shrinking!”
Diamond Plated Automotive uses BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY for the shop’s DVI. Gretchen and her team love the features that allow communication between her techs and advisor team and the ability to text her customers throughout their repairs. Plus “the ability to design our own inspections with ease or pull from other users’ inspections is incredible. We are working towards using every feature in our BOLT ON system. Right now, we use the inspections, texting/email and we all love that you can print Lube stickers from the tablets in the bays!”
“I would 100% recommend BOLT ON to any shop. No matter the issue they have always been there to help anyone at my shop immediately,” says Gretchen.
In addition to BOLT ON, for Gretchen, DRIVE has guided her to not just fix the shop but her life. “DRIVE is the best advice I have ever received. It’s been a life changer for me!”
Well done, Gretchen…we can’t wait to see your shop grow in the coming years.