When Don Lenartz took over the Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care franchise here in April, 2005, it was a struggling business. Lenartz, who had been a fleet manager for a major baked goods company for 25 years, had never run his own business.
How did he turn the business around?
“I found that honesty and integrity are the best new business tools,” said Lenartz, 56.
Earning A Great Reputation
The Grand Rapids native, who spent much of his career as fleet manager for Interstate Bakeries, best-known for its Wonder® Bread and Twinkies® brands, puts an emphasis on educating his customers by taking them back into the shop to show and explain on their own cars why a repair is needed – or sometimes why not.
In the car repair business, he said, there are many unscrupulous people who try to sell repairs or parts whether or not they are actually necessary. “It hurts all of us in this business, so it basically comes down to trust,” Lenartz noted. “That’s why we actually show customers what may be causing a problem, so they can see for themselves. Earning their trust is well worth the extra time it takes to explain it properly.”
Lenartz’ Cottman of Grand Rapids center has earned such a good reputation in the community that other repair shops and car dealers in the region bring their transmission repairs to him.
The center, at 5174 Plainfield Ave. NE, has a solid crew anchored by one of the best transmission rebuilders in the area. Lenartz said he is constantly upgrading the facility and equipment, including a new scanner system that quickly creates a computer printout to help the customer easily understand what work is recommended and what it will cost.
“It’s part of our ongoing efforts to educate our customers and help them understand the work that’s being done and why,” he said. His older son Ryan, 32, has been a manager at the shop for six years and is a strong believer in educating the customer with a focus on honesty and integrity.
Expert Transmission Repair In Grand Rapids
“It’s a great feeling when a new customer comes in and said his friend or co-worker told him we do good work and that we’re honest,” Lenartz said. “Good referrals are an important part of keeping a business strong and growing, and our focus on customer service has helped keep referrals coming our way.”
He points with pride to letters he has received from satisfied customers, who praise him for his integrity and thank him for explaining the “what and why” of the work done on their cars.
Cottman of Grand Rapids can be reached at www.cottmanofgrandrapids.com.