We recently had a conversation with our client, friend, and Portland business owner Jake Hammer about his experience as a small business owner. With a team of 18 employees and a growing business, Jake has experience and insight about the high’s and low’s of business.
Jake has been working with Everett Street Autoworks in Old Town for over 13 years. In 2007, Jake graduated from General Manager of the store to owner & operator. Since then, Everett Street Autoworks has become one of the largest auto repair shops in downtown.
In our conversation with Jake, we asked the following questions about small business growth:
1. Please share the services you offer and your business philosophy.
We offer mechanical service and repair on foreign and domestic vehicles. Services range from oil changes, tune ups, brake repairs…all the way to major fluid leaks and engine rebuilds. Our goal is to make people and cars safe and happy and we work our hardest to make every customer experience as good and positive as possible.
2. You’ve been part of the downtown Portland business community since 2001. During your time at Everett Street Autoworks, tell us what advancements your industry has made?
Our industry has gone digital. In 2001, the average “late model” car (5 plus years old) had a couple of computers in them that controlled different components within the vehicle. As time has passed, vehicles became more and more dependent upon computers to operate the different systems within the vehicle. Some vehicles have over 10 different computers within them controlling the various components. We have had to continually educate ourselves with the rapid changes in technology as well as motivate our staff to keep up with advancements.
3. Being in Old Town is really convenient for professionals who work in downtown. How have you improved your services to accommodate downtown workers?
Being in Oldtown is very convenient for anyone who works and lives in the downtown Portland area. We have added two loaner vehicles to our fleet for customer convenience and we have, also, negotiated good terms with a rental car company two blocks from us (Dollar Rent a Car).
In addition, we offer complimentary pick up and delivery for customers that would prefer to not use the MAX or TriMet buses that operate outside our doors. Most recently, we have introduced an UBER business account so that we can have our customers picked up and brought to us towards the end of the work day.
4. What is one of the top business lessons you’ve learned as an owner that you would pass along to other entrepreneurs?
One of the top lessons that I’ve learned is that it is ok to fail. I fail all the time. Too often the apprehension from not trying something new or overthinking a situation can cause paralysis, which leads to something worse than failure…in action.
5. Your team is close to 20 employees strong. Please share your approach to team building.
Personally, I would never ask an employee to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. Also, team building takes time. We have set team goals in the past with minor rewards (dinners, bonuses) to large rewards (trip to Vegas). It is always rewarding to see the team hit a goal and enjoy the worthy reward.
6. As a successful, profitable and growing business, what advice can you give other business owners who are either in startup phase or may be setting goals to grow their team, their business, or their revenue?
I wish I had a better idea of the finances and a more structure approach/plan at the beginning. Learning key metrics to measure performance of the business and the employees is key to accountability and goal setting. Also, when possible, it is always better to work on the business and not in the business. Operations can drown out the energy and the creative side of any entrepreneur.
If you have questions for Jake about Everett Street Autoworks or the auto repair industry, contact Jake to see how he can help.