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Entrepreneurial owners expand business prospects through their Colorado shop

Monday, August 22, 2016 - 06:00
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At age 21 Terry Keller hit the ground running. Hired in 1972 as an apprentice mechanic, two years later he was one of the first and youngest technicians in the country to receive ASE’s newly minted Master Technician certificate. Shortly after that he bought his place of employment; rechristened Keller Brothers Auto Repair, Terry molded the business into one of the leading repair shops in metropolitan Denver, CO, eventually getting rated the #1 Auto Repair Facility in the Nation by CarQuest.

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But along the way there were a few bumps. “I was the technician-turned-business-owner at age 23,” Keller explains. “I knew how to fix cars really well. I knew how to talk to people fairly well. But I didn’t understand how to manage employees: how to hire, train, hold accountable—no clue. One year I remember sending out 102 W-2 forms, and I only had 12 part time and full time positions.”

Despite growing success—or perhaps because of it—this was Keller’s Achilles heel. “The thing I didn’t understand was if you knew what your expectations were, but your employees didn’t and weren’t training to meet them, how in the world can you expect them to do a good job and take care of your customers? I also didn’t know how to speak to customers in an empowering way—not communicating with them at a level that was respectful to them. And I certainly knew nothing about marketing. It was an absolute miracle that I was able to stay in business.”

Terry and Margaret Keller David Rogers

Enter David Rogers. Hired as a service writer in 1997, Rogers quickly realized something was wrong. “I had worked in two shops before and had seen the exact same thing,” he reveals. “When you have multiple customers a day screaming in your face, you know you’ve got a problem.” Having previously operated in the high-end hospitality sector of five star restaurants and hotels, this situation was inexplicable to him. Still, Keller Bros. was unique.

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