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Cottman Man of Waldorf says customer service always must be top priority

Monday, April 20, 2015 - 07:00
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By any measure, Ken Barker would be considered a success in business. The owner of one of the top-performing shops in the nationwide chain of Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care centers, Ken spent more than 20 years earlier in his career turning around underperforming stores at one of the nation’s largest big box stores and a leading drugstore chain.

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Barker understands that so much of a business’ success depends on providing the best in customer service. “That applies to any business that provides goods and services. It’s about selling a good product or service and backing it up with reliable and honest service and a fair price.”

Barker worked his way through college working for K-Mart, starting in the automotive department and ending his career with K-Mart as a General Store Co-Manager. He then had an opportunity to continue his career with the Eckerd drug store chain, where he spent more than 10 years overseeing operations. He continued to turn around underperforming stores.  He ended his tenure as a regional operations manager for a territory which included more than 160 stores. During Barker’s retail career he won numerous awards. 

It was around that time that the entrepreneurial bug bit him, and Barker began looking for a business he could own and operate. Barker worked with a franchise broker and looked at several franchise opportunities. He had heard good things about Cottman and in 2003 he bought his first underperforming Cottman center in Marlow Heights, Md. 

In the 12 years he’s been in the Cottman family, Barker has owned several franchises, and he’s operated as many as three simultaneously. Late in 2008, he purchased the shop he still owns and operates in Waldorf.

During his time with Cottman, Barker has earned a reputation for turning around troubled centers. Not long after he purchased the Waldorf shop, which had been having problems, the recession hit hard. But even during those challenging years, he managed to increase sales and took the shop into the top five in sales throughout the chain. Barker successfully transitioned his center from a transmission specialty shop to a Total Auto Care and Transmission Center.

Barker believes that customer service is the key. Customer service not only includes the human element, but also includes the ability to provide the latest in technology, equipment, and training. He solves transportation issues, one customer at a time.

Barker's wife Cara, who handles outside sales for the center, works with customers who need financing,  and also does the financials, said, “We never sell repairs to the customer that they don’t need. That’s how we’ve built a reputation for honesty and integrity.”  

Barker and his team enjoy helping others. He also helps neighbors in his community, supporting various charities, including Wounded Warriors. Barker and his team recently began providing repairs and maintenance for the school bus fleet of a local Christian school.

“It all comes back to treating others the way we would want to be treated,” Cara Barker said. 

Ken and Cara Barker’s Cottman shop is at 11780 Holly Auto Center Lane in Waldorf, Md.  They can be reached at www.cottmanofwaldorf.com.

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