Uncle Frank

You Must Not Forget …

What motivates the teenager to pursue a career in automotive service? Most all of us dreamed of working on performance cars and being really creative as we were coming along. I remember when my uncle, who owned numerous auto parts stores in Eastern North Carolina, was trying to help me land my first real technician job. He had a friend in Greensboro who he had grown up with. It seems every guy in his neighborhood was connected with motorcycle racing. A friend he raced with now owned Burton Motors which was an established auto service center near Downtown. My uncle was going to contact his friend, Bill Gibson, and help open the door for me as he knew my technician dreams were real and lasting.  It was the summer after I had graduated from The American Motorcycle Institute. I  was planning to attend nearby A & T State University in the coming fall. They had a really strong automotive technology program at A & T at the time and I knew I had to continue the pursuit of completing my college education in order to keep my mother satisfied. Otherwise she would have no part of my career choice.

My uncle called one evening and asked me “Before I call Bill to help land you the job, what is it that makes you think you’re going to stick with being a technician?” I shared with him about all the custom bikes and vans I had built and that I knew everything about George Barris, the famous custom car builder in California. I told him I wanted my own shop and we were going to do nothing but custom cars and bikes. My uncle saw my passion and creativity, yet he rightfully feared I would become bored with repetitious tasks and the everyday grind he knew existed in many general repair shops. He told me to keep at my motorcycle racing and custom builds in order to keep my interest peaked…”But that’s not your main focus” he reminded me. He said I might be doing a few  boring things in my day job, but to not lose sight of where this was heading. He coached me regarding the custom builds and suggested that once I got the skills developed, which could provide me a stable income I may consider doing the custom thing as a side venture, but he also sternly warned me that while my ambitions were great, he wanted me to get the basic and fundamental skills honed so that I would be most versatile with my career plans. It’s important that you know I got the job. It worked out really well. As I rode a Honda motorcycle at the time, I almost immediately became the “Import Specialist” at Burton Motors. At that time most of their seasoned techs didn’t want anything to do with all the new Japanese brands showing up more and more on the roads. Bill knew he better take in some of the foreign cars for service because many of his “regulars” were starting to buy them.

The young people coming to work in our shops still have very similar dreams. Nearly every one of them that I have hired has always got something special going on with their personal car. Their car is an extension of their personality and that’s how they want to be known. Coming to work for us is not just a way to earn money. Rather they want to learn more about tricking out their car and being able to do it all themselves. They always love knowing they’ll get their parts at cost and have a place where they maybe get their car up on a lift once in a while.  When they run into a challenge on their personal car projects they can always ask our shop foreman for direction; they know he did it too and kind of gets a thrill out of helping them.

We need to remember this part of the package as there are some extremely talented young people out there and they have some highly creative thoughts. We need to show them how all their energy and passion connects to a stable career and not shut down their dreams. They’ll get the details figured out as they go along but it helps to remember the part of them that keeps the flames burning and thoughts going in their creative minds. Help them out when they need direction on some project you know is much bigger than they ever imagined. Yes, they’re just like you and me and need to experience the full package of being an automotive technician. Don’t kill their dreams. Look at us. We did it the same way and we turned out OK.  Uncle Frank you were right!