Tuesday, November 29, 2011
SUCCESS INTERVIEW: JOHN HAWTHORNE (PART 2 OF 3)
INTERVIEW WITH JOHN HAWTHORNE
HAWTHORNE TIRE AND AUTO SERVICES
877 E. RANCHEROS DR. SAN MARCOS, CA 92069
Good day this is the 2nd part of my interview with John. If you missed the first part go to last weeks.
I want to again start this with John's view on the LOA and out of respect for him I will put this quote at the beggining of each of these posts:
"Regarding the Law of Attraction: I believe first and foremost in a sovereign God who is in control of something as grand as the universe, and also in control in something as minute as the individual aspects of circumstances in our lives. While I respect certain aspects of the law of attraction, I don't believe it's a science. I do believe in cause and effect, and "you reap what you sow" but I don't technically believe that I can create certain outcomes based in my life based on my beliefs or true desires for those particular outcomes. In the end, this is because I believe it takes away "control" from a sovereign God."
Now part 2:
AJ: What lessons did your parents teach their children at home as far as business? There are a lot of families that consider talking about money as taboo. What was it that was talked about in your household when you guys were at the kitchen table coming from a background where your parents were business owners?
JH: That’s a funny question because my parents did not spend allot of time talking to me about business. For my family it was more about morality, life lessons, and just generally dealing with people and bonding with people and what not. I do come from a Christian background where my calling is to love my family and love my customers as family to the best, in a realistic way. I am not gushingly loving anybody who is a customer. I can’t possibly do that, but I think in terms of love there are a lot of different ways to describe that. It really is just treating them fairly, and serving them, being honest with them; that goes along way. And letting people know that you appreciate them. There is a lot of general dynamic in our industry and others too where a customer walks in the door and the business owner or whoever is the face of the business instantly thinks that “Oh I am doing you a favor because you walked in my door”, but really it is the other way around. That was the big thing that my dad really tried to teach me, and that was that” customers can really go anywhere they want for the business. There are allot of people that can put a tire on a car. There are allot of people that can put brake pads on the car, but they’re doing you a favor by coming to you and you need to always remember that and so you always want to make sure your prices are fair, that’s one thing. You don’t over charge people, but you could be fair. You don’t always have to be the cheapest but you have to be fair and you always have to back up what you do and really let people know you appreciate them. “
AJ: Sounds like good foundation. Now you said when you were in college you had a discussion with your father and he offered you the opportunity to BUY the business. What I am trying to get at is that people that have inherited the business without actually keeping it businesswise and separate the business and family have not fared so well. Was that something that you knew was coming? What expectation did you have?
JH: Actually I was in college and was working here. I was going to college 3 days a week and working here the other two, that was my college job if you will, and I didn’t have the expectation of taking it over. I was going to college for business. I eventually just grew in my role here. I started off just turning wrenches, and working on cars. Of course being part of the family customers would know me as my dad’s son and one of Mike’s boys and couple of my brothers worked here too, and it was a family experience and so I always made it a point to get to know the customers and do a little more than just to turn the wrench here and eventually I got to work behind the counter and work with him and communicating with customers and sales and what not. Then it just came to a point where I think my mom was pushing him to retire. She wanted him to get out of the industry and take a break and he had been doing it for 25 years, and he was in his 60’s and he came to me one day and just said if you’d be willing I like to train you up to run this place and if you want the opportunity too we could work out a purchase on it, but you’re gonna have to do it full time and let me tell you that you will get a better business degree behind the counter than you will get at any college. (Laughs) Not advocating not going to college here by saying that , but that’s what he told me. So I know opportunity is only… it’s very hard to start a business and I wouldn’t mind starting one myself someday, but it’s great to have had that opportunity. Being that it was in the family I wanted to keep it alive and see what we could do with it. Bring a new generation to it. So I spent a year behind the counter with him just learning the ropes of accounting and learning the ropes and ins and outs of actually running a business not just selling and working on cars, and getting to know the customers at a different level and what not. Eventually he felt comfortable and we worked things out and here we are.
AJ: What do you think was the key to make this business a success when your parents were running it, and what do you think are the keys that you are using to make it a success in this economy?
JH: The key to make it successful for him was repeat business. Generating new customers are great but your customers are your best advertising and I don’t think that will ever change. He built it up over time just through the word of mouth. He never advertised other than a spot on the yellow pages, and may be a quarter page ad or something like that. People are so inundated with advertising these days that it’s just in one ear and out the other. I mean every add looks just like the other so I mean you can’t built trust through advertising and you can’t built repeat business through it either. You just draw the people in just by doing your diligence, and doing good work, taking care of people and letting them know of course that you certainly appreciate their referrals. Over time that’s what he did. Of course you also have to have your work on cars stand up for itself too, because no matter how nice you are if you can’t fix a car you won’t be fixing cars for a living. So there was a high standard of character and high standard of workmanship. So we focused on that. My focus now days just through this economy is using allot of modern technologies to continue on that word of mouth. I’m not a heavy advertiser myself, but we do know that no one really uses the yellow pages anymore. Obviously we’re all internet based, so we focus allot making sure we have a good reputation on line for the most part. One of the biggest thing is that we appreciate when one of our customers leaves us a good review online because people more and more these days go online to look up businesses and see what other people are actually saying about them. Every business in the world will tell you they are the best, if they’re not then they shouldn’t be in business, but it means something else when someone else who is not paid to say it is actually saying that they are good. That is a huge thing for us. So just really foundationally the same thing my dad is doing back then is taking care of every person that walks through the door to the best of our ability, and really making sure that people leave pleased with our work.
AJ: What advice do you have for business owners today and also people who are looking to start their own business right now either because they are forced to or because they want to?
JH: It’s so risky right now. So hard because of this economy. On a practical side of that I would say if you’re going to start a business right now make sure you are in an industry that is needed. There is always auto repairs. It is pretty safe right now as long as you do a good job, because people still need their cars, and need their cars running and they need maintenance on them. I would say it is great to be bold and if you’ve got the capital or the intuition and the drive to do it START. You know it’s definitely worth it, it’s definitely a good thing to be able to do. But I would say on a practical note make sure you’re in an industry that you feel will be kind of a need industry for some more time until this economy fixes itself.
AJ: What about owners currently in business, any advice for them as far as succeeding?
JH: For small businesses, your customers are your best assets. Got to really take care of them. Make sure you know that you don’t have a business without any customers so you can’t really lose focus on appreciation of them. You don’t have to go out and buy them gifts, but you just want to let them know you do appreciate them and that goes along way. As a business owner if you are not in the position to be the one in communication with customer like I am, you have people that are in that position and you make sure they know that too. I think that is the biggest key right now. They (customers) can choose to spend their money anywhere they want if they have the money to do it, and you’ve got to make sure they know they are appreciated for their stewardship with you.
Join us next week for the final part of this interview