I heard a saying long ago that, “if you want something that you have never had, then you have to do things that you have never done before.” This is so true in life, let alone business, but wedged in between those two lines is a never-give-up attitude.

When a child first attempts to walk, he or she falls many times, but gets back up and goes at it again, till they are running down the hallways. My grandson, Evan, loved to march around our backyard with his little American flag. I put it on the end of a PVC pipe, so it could be high in the air. Well, during the construction of my small home shop a few years ago, I had this 15-foot-high mound of dirt. Evan was at our house and went out the back door to march around the yard with his flag. He spotted that hill and proceeded to climb it, with flagpole in hand. It took the little guy nearly 45 minutes to reach the top, because he kept sliding back down that hill, but he made it and planted his flag atop his mountain. Evan looked at me, put his little hands on his hips, and said, “Never give up!” OK, he actually said “Pirates never give up,” but you get my point. From the mouths of babes, we get a very strong life message, of never give up. 

Who do you know who starts up a business, whether it is a muffler, general repair or other specialty shop and gets into that business, just so he or she could fail? No one, absolutely no one! I will share with you my recipe for success. You can add your own spices.

Begin with a business/trade that you have a passion for. This is the most important ingredient. Mine happened to be the exhaust business. I worked for other shops for almost 28 years before I went out on my own. I guess you could say I am a slow learner.

Make a list of your basic shop tools you will need before you jump in with both feet. Having the right tools means you have no excuse, not to do a good job.

Believe in your product. If you don’t believe, you cannot sell it to your customer; so not only believe in your product, but know it well enough to explain how it works and how it will benefit your customer. Working for other shops, in the beginning, gave me opportunity to learn about many different products and how well the manufacturer served their clients.

Truth be known, it was a little tough in the beginning, but whether it was my stubborn attitude or the lack of some necessary brain cells, I just never gave up my dream of being a successful craftsman, businessman, employer and friend to all those who used my services, as well as those who served me.

I hope you don’t mind me repeating myself, when I share this one story of “never” giving up.

It was nearly 20 years ago that I got up the nerve to approach a very large fleet account. It was AT&T. I would be driving down the highway and hear those trucks, with leaking exhaust manifolds, pass me up. I just thought, “Gosh, that would be a great account to have!”

I had some friends at the gym that worked for AT&T and asked them who I could speak to about their vehicles. I could not give up on the idea that it was possible to have such a large client. I was given the name of the company’s local fleet manager, John Fiore. Well, John was a very busy man and just did not seem interested in outsourcing any of his work. I would give him a call every so often, figuring that I might get him in a weak moment. I must have hit that day, and I got a 15-minute meeting with him to give him my pitch. With sweaty palms, and a “never-give-up” attitude, I met with this man. John’s first impression on me was a New York cab driver. He definitely did not look like an easy pitch and sounded just as tough. Was I nervous? Well, let us just say I was “shaking like a cat trying to pass a peach seed,” when we first met, but I was not going out that door until I explained to him how I could be some help.

Once I explained that I could take care of those broken bolts in the heads of his Ford trucks, I think I not only won him over, but all his mechanics that were in the room with us. I did not ask to do any other repairs, other than fix that one problem and let him know what experts we were in exhaust. That first meeting with John seemed like an eternity, but lasted less than 10 minutes. I did not know that I had spoken to the San Diego regional fleet manager, but when I left his office, I had just won his trust and his entire fleet including part of Los Angeles.

Now, I heard a saying once that goes like this: “I am not here to please, nor satisfy my customer, but completely amaze him!” My job was to amaze John and I got my first opportunity, that first week. John gave me a call to pick up a truck that had six broken bolts in the head, and to pick it up the next morning in the AT&T lot. I was there at 4 a.m., picked it up and to my shop before 4:30 am. I had that manifold off, 6 bolts removed, manifold machined and back on and delivered before 9 a.m. that same morning. John gets in at 10 a.m. and I get the phone call: “I thought you were going to pick up my truck today? I need to get it back in the fleet in the next few days.” I told him it was done already, and the silence was almost deafening. The next thing I heard was a truck starting up and then John’s voice. “I thought that you would have this truck for a couple of days? I was sure you would give up on it, when you saw all those broken bolts.” I told John that I don’t give up that easy.

Because I did not give up, I had a working relationship with AT&T for more than 20 years. So, in the words of a 3-year old, “Pirates never give up!”