Ratchet + Wrench Feature Story
By Bryce Evans
Photography by Sharon Cosper
Brian Weeks rifled through the shelves looking for titles he’d recognize. His brother, Chris, did the same; book after book after book. Their flight back to Georgia would board soon, and the Weeks brothers were scrambling.
This was their moment, their defining moment—each standing with an armful of business-building books at a newsstand in Salt Lake City International Airport.
“Well, it was an odd moment for us, at least,” Brian Weeks says, laughing through his thick, Southern drawl. “But that was the day we decided that things needed to change.”
Don’t misunderstand: Since he and Chris fully bought the business from their father and his two brothers in 1999, Weeks felt like he’d done nothing but make constant changes to Augusta Transmission Center. For one, the shop no longer specialized in transmissions; since 2004, it no longer even rebuilt transmissions, instead partnering with Jasper Engines & Transmissions for remanufactured ones. It allowed Weeks to step away from the bench and focus on the business. He slowly transitioned the shop’s focus to full service, and built out its staff and equipment accordingly. He and Chris began new marketing tactics to attract additional customers, and in 2009 had attempted a complete rebranding of the business—which flopped.
Although the Weeks brothers became debt free for the first time, the business was stagnant, stuck under $900,000 in annual sales. And overall net profits were too low, fluctuating between 6 and 8 percent.
All of that brought them to this awakening of sorts in 2009 at the airport in Utah. Their entire purpose for being in Utah helped deliver the wake-up call.
“Let’s start with this: I never planned on running the shop for a living,” Weeks says. He and Chris had focused on auto racing since their teenage years, and were in Salt Lake City for a competition when Weeks says they became aware of the absurdity of what they were doing. “We wanted to grow the business and really succeed, but we were balancing that with racing. It was one of those moments where you ask yourself, ‘Who are we? What are we trying to do?’”
So, about those books: Weeks says he and Chris needed answers, and he found it in a simple premise that’s part of Michael Gerber’s renowned The E-Myth: Revisited.
“We wanted to grow, but how do you grow if you don’t know who you are?” Weeks says. “If you’re going to be profitable, you must have a firm vision for your company. You can’t be profitable without knowing who you are, what you stand for and where you’re going.”
Finding a Mission
Taking a step back for a moment, Weeks says his initial rebrand didn’t work for a very specific reason: He worked with a company that simply offered new logos and colors—and nothing more. It did nothing to change the course of the business and did nothing to help the shop better connect to its customers and community.
Upon his return from Utah, though, Weeks connected with two people who owned a local marketing company. They met through church, and an instant connection was made. Essentially, Weeks says it came down to the exact philosophies laid out in The E-Myth.
“They said they wanted to work with us, but couldn’t offer any advice before knowing our company inside and out,” Weeks says. “They basically shadowed us for three to four weeks before really starting.”
“And when they came to me after that time, they basically laid it out and said, this is who you are and this is how you need to show it to people,” Weeks says. “They were spot on, and I hadn’t even realized it.”
Together the Weeks brothers and their new marketing consultants drafted a mission statement, a vision for the company and its core philosophies. They created long- and short-term goals and the principles they will follow while achieving those.
Implementing a Vision
“Once we had a firm handle on who we were, everything just fell into place,” Weeks says.
His marketing consultants suggested a full rebranding, including a tweak to the company’s name: It became [atc] AutoCenter. The “[atc]” is in reference to the original name “Augusta Transmission Center,” makes it easy to remember, and also doesn’t effectively limit the business’s market appeal by advertising that it is, in a sense, “Augusta only,” Weeks says.
The new name came with a new logo and a color scheme to match. The concept was to carry it out across all aspects of the business. They developed guidelines for advertising and marketing, and systems and processes in the shop to match the new image
“We created a guide for us to follow in all decisions we make in all aspects of the business,” Weeks says. “Once we did that, we had this roadmap to actually see improvement.”
In September, the Weeks brothers opened a second location across town. Using the same principles, philosophies and processes, the shop instantly thrived. Focusing on more maintenance and service work than the original location (all transmission work goes through the Gordon Highway facility), the shop had an ARO of $444 in its first month and sees more than 40 vehicles per week.
“There’s a lot that goes into being profitable; you need a whole roadmap of strategies to get there,” Weeks says, before referring back to that day in Salt Lake City. “But, if you don’t have a starting point, if you don’t know where you are, what you stand for and where you want to go you don’t have much of a chance. You have to give yourself that chance.”
This article first appeared in the June 2016 issue of Ratchet + Wrench “Strategies and Inspiration for Auto Care Success.