Mike Matejek has been personally overseeing construction at the new site and actively participating in the building process. He also runs a 15-head Black Angus cattle ranch and flies his own airplane.
“In my younger life I had wanted to fly for 30 years,” says Matejek, explaining that he finally took off in pursuit of a pilot’s license “when we moved to a neighborhood that was in the flight path of an airport.”
Only 22 percent of the people who seek a pilot’s license actually attain the document, according to Matejek, referring to the inherent difficulty of learning all the required details.
Some of that knowledge has been applied to the shop in the form of formulating checklists to ensure that every task is performed to perfection on every repair. “I use a lot of checklists,” Matejek reports. “There are 117 items to check off before you can take off, so I share that concept with the fellows” on the shop floor.
A marketing campaign encompassing all three locations is being rolled out, and in the meantime bold signage, a clean and attractive look from the street, enthusiastic outside sales personnel for soliciting fleet and car dealer accounts, word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers and gentle recommendations from pleased insurance agents are all combining to deliver growth and prosperity for the business.
“Maintaining positive relationships with insurance providers is an easy task,” Johnston asserts. “They have guidelines for us to follow like any business. If we provide quality repairs in the appropriate time and give great customer service while following their guidelines our customers are happy and the provider is happy.”
In working with vendors, such as CCC ONE, AkzoNobel and FinishMaster, it is important to “set realistic expectations of our needs and pay early,” according to Johnston. “Life is all about relationships; having great relationships with automotive affiliates strengthens their willingness to refer customers to us and also steers our customers to them.”
As for dealing with the customers, “accidents, whether big or small, are traumatic,” he notes, “but getting your vehicle repaired doesn’t have to be. We understand that auto repair is inconvenient, that’s why we make it one of our top priorities to get your car in top condition and back on the road as soon as possible.”
Being able to provide onsite mechanical repairs has proven to be a significant plus for customers and company alike. “There are many mechanical components that can be damaged in a collision,” says Johnston, expressing confidence that any issues regarding a vehicle’s suspension, electrical system, radiator, door locks, window motors, air conditioning, steering, exhaust, upholstery, and other components can be efficiently addressed without leaving the premises.
Paintless dent repair and towing are additional sources of revenue, plus Matejek and Johnston own four boat and recreational vehicle storage facilities.
Prior to founding Westside and First Choice with Matejek, Johnston had been a body and frame technician for 18 years. Matejek had an equally strong industry background, especially as it relates to mechanical repairs, as part-owner of a body/mechanical parts house in Katy, Texas.
As Matejek parted company with his then-partners in search of a different career goal, “we worked together at three different shops for several years and became hunting and fishing buds. On one of our annual pheasant hunting trips I told Mike that we should open our own shop,” Johnston recalls. “Then the following year on the same hunting trip I mentioned it again, and he said he was ‘tired of hearing about it -- so let’s stop talking and do it.’”