Cindy and Bob Cowie had each spent nearly 20 years working hard at their jobs. But 18 years ago, they both decided if they were going to work so hard, they may as well do it for themselves.
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They investigated lots of options, and decided that opening a franchised auto repair center would be something that could make good use of their business backgrounds. Bob had spent years as a top executive at a food distribution company, followed by a nine-year stint as operations director for a major oil business. Cindy had a strong background in customer service at a home heating oil business owned by her parents.
“In both cases,” Bob recalls, “we were constantly on the line to keep customers satisfied. It’s what we both did well. And we knew customer service was key to success in the car care business.”
He has also seen his management skills, honed at his previous jobs, have been an essential part of the success of their business. A good auto repair center, he says, relies on a team who are all good at their jobs and are properly trained and supervised.
The couple opened their Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care center at 5970 E Virginia Beach Blvd. in August, 1998. They took over a building that had housed a tire service center and converted it for transmission and car repair work.
Cindy said before opening their Cottman center, Bob wouldn’t even change his own oil.
Although he never was a do-it-yourself car enthusiast, he has become expert at diagnosing transmissions and engines. He then consults with his technicians and they get the job done right, he added.
Bob is proud of the steady growth of the business. The shop is now the third highest in sales volume among the Cottman centers throughout the U.S. “I’m aiming to be No. 1,” he says. “In our 17 years in business, we’ve had sales growth every year except one. It’s something we’re very proud of.”
Bob and Cindy have built a loyal following by doing top quality work and giving outstanding customer service. “We stand behind our warranties,” he says. “And our customers know they can call us for help any time, including evenings and weekends. When it comes to customer service, we’re a 24/7 business.” The shop offers pickup service and loaner cars for customers, so they are not inconvenienced while their car is being serviced.
The couple is in the process of major renovations of their shop, including an exterior facelift and modernization of the customer waiting area. “Even after 17 years, we are still in this for the long haul, serving our customers.”
For more information, visit www.cottmanofnorfolk.com or call (757) 745-9971
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