Jamie Carlson and her husband, Eric, have built a business over the past 25 years that attracts the highest caliber automotive professionals as well as a loyal following of customers throughout the Grand Rapids, Mich., market area. While Eric and the other ASE technicians handle the shop’s high-end service, Jamie’s mission is to continually strive to promote the shop and to elevate the image of automotive repair professionals.
Judging by the Google reviews, Jamie and the team at Ervine’s Auto Repair & Grand Rapids Hybrid are doing just that. Many mention not only their high level of satisfaction of the technical expertise but also the kindness, professionalism and fantastic customer service. As Jamie noted, “It has helped to create a wonderful cycle of providing the company and the employees the luxury of working for customers who respect our integrity and technical abilities. It also attracts some of the best technicians in town.”
While the business was operating successfully for over 20 years, at one point Jamie heard about “Women In Auto Care” from Monique Mondragon of Shop-Ware. The seed had previously been planted by Deb Van Battenberg of hybrid specialists ACDC whom Jamie had met though training she attended before opening Grand Rapids Hybrid - Grand Rapids First Qualified Independent Hybrid Repair Facility.
Ervine’s began offering hybrid service in 2011. Since the beginning of this service niche, co-owner Eric Carlson has established himself as the Grand Rapids market area “guru” of hybrid diagnostics and repair, with shops in their market area and beyond relying on Eric for advice or actually sending their customers’ hybrids to his shop. Jamie noted that Ervine’s and Grand Rapids Hybrid normally handle three to five hybrids each day. Offering this specialized service has added to the shop’s already established reputation.
Jamie and daughter Megan Dineff (Ervine’s Auto Repair and Grand Rapids Hybrid’s customer service manager and social media specialist) attended the conference in Nashville, Tenn. There she met Kim Aurenheimer. At a rooftop dinner party several women were discussing aftermarket business. Jamie was impressed with Kim’s honest and open attitude. An instant friendship was born. A month later Jamie and Eric attended their first SMART Group Meeting, hosted by CS Automotive in Brentwood, Tenn., Aurenheimer’s shop, and shortly signed up.
It’s been about 18 months and it is hands down the most transformative action they've taken on the “business” side of the operation at Ervine’s Auto Repair and Grand Rapids Hybrid. Jamie enjoys learning more about how the numbers must be in line or even the best service will not do well enough to take care of the employees.
Along with the World Pac Smart Group, Jamie is involved in Women in Auto Care, ASA, YANG (mentor) and participant as an ASE Blue Seal of Excellence Facility. She also benefits greatly from the relationships with other shops and shop owners in these groups who share her desire to elevate their shops and the aftermarket as a whole.
Gratitude compels Jamie to use the resources of the business for the good of others not so fortunate. Through the company’s Facebook page, local advertising efforts on local media and their annual car show, Jamie’s heart for helping others influences the heart of Ervine’s Auto Repair and Grand Rapids Hybrid as a company. Jamie and the team have conspired to raise awareness and money for causes such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation (Jamie is a breast cancer survivor), HQ (a drop-in shelter for homeless youth in Grand Rapids), Arts in Motion (specializes in adaptive instruction in the creative arts for the physically, emotionally or mentally challenged), The Diaper Store of Allendale (The Diaper Store is a place where families in need can get free diapers, wipes and diaper cream) and currently Hope Pkgs (Hope Pkgs was born to fill a need many kids have when entering a foster home. A foster family really never knows if children will arrive with anything except the clothes the children have on. Hope Pkgs strives to eliminate the infamous trash bags some kids arrive with and replace them with new back packs filled with new items such as socks, underwear, pajamas and toiletries. They also have a very nice partnership with a class at a local high school where students with Autism assemble thank you packets Ervine’s Auto Repair and Grand Rapids Hybrid leave in customers’ cars when service is complete.
Jamie’s goals include first ensuring that all customers know that they have professionals looking out for their best interests, and to elevate the status of the professionals who choose a career in this industry. She strives to make sure that Ervine’s Auto Repair and Grand Rapids Hybrid employees know that they have an employer who values their intelligence, skill, knowledge and technical prowess. Financial compensation and a generous benefit package are part of the equation. A happy workplace equipped with factory-level equipment and a clean and organized facility is a priority. New hires are interviewed with the entire staff, as their opinions are valued and respected. These goals elevate not only the company but the automotive aftermarket industry as a whole.
Does your shop offer general automotive repair, or do you tend to specialize in specific makes or types of repairs?
We’ve specialized, meaning we have factory scan tools in addition to Autel and Autologic and training in domestic and Asian vehicles since 1994. We’ve been an ASE Blue Seal of Excellence Facility since the program’s inception. Six years ago Grand Rapids Hybrid became the first Qualified Independent Hybrid/EV repair facility in west Michigan. My business partner, (husband) Eric, ASE master tech, L1,L3, was one of the first ASE Certified Hybrid Technician and is passionate about the future of hybrid and electric vehicles. He’s often sought out for his expertise by other repair facilities. This year with the addition of an experienced European technician and appropriate equipment we’re excited to offer outstanding maintenance and repair for BMW, Mini and Mercedes.
What is your business philosophy?
We treat them as we would like to be treated or more importantly how they want to be treated. We honor the trust they have given us to help them get as many safe, reliable miles from their vehicle as they would like to get. And we strive to make the whole maintenance and repair process as pleasant as possible.
Where do you buy your parts?
At a local Parts Plus warehouse and World Pac. We are in a once-a-day area and most of our customers expect fast turnaround from us. We obtain parts from dealerships when appropriate. Our experience in knowing what the most economical reliable choice is a valuable service we offer.
What influences your parts buying decisions? Rank from 0 to 3, with 0 having no influence and 3 having the greatest influence.
Brand name recognition…....3 (Based on our experience with those brands)
Promotion in racing ….......…0
Perceived quality…..............3 (Our experienced perceived quality)
Other: We try to read/research to stay informed regarding parts. Our relationships with our vendors and more importantly our experience and shared experience with our peers across the country provides us with a wealth of information when making purchasing decisions. Consistently buying from a few suppliers for 25 years has garnered us great relationships with them and an ability to handle the few issues that have come up.
What do customers want/expect from your shop?
Honesty, expertise, value, convenience.
What is your approach to technician training?
Quality over quantity. Fortunately, we have John Thornton classes offered every few months in Grand Rapids. John is an Instructor with Automotive Seminars, very highly regarded, especially for more advanced training. The Auto Value Tech Expo, an annual training event in Grand Rapids also rivals nationwide training opportunities.
How does ASP benefit your business?
Over the past five years we have become so much more connected to our industry. In part because of Podcasts like Carm’s and magazines like ASP. We appreciate the enlightenment and the positive influence this has had on our industry.