A Holiday Card….From Your Local Gas Station

 

Rich Wark runs a great little business. A profitable business. A hands-on business!

Rich and his sister are the owners of Bob Wark’s Liberty, a gas station and repair shop in a suburb of Philadelphia. The business was started more than 40 years ago by Rich’s father – a car mechanic himself, and has grown over the years to serve thousands of customers in many neighboring towns. Rich’s father’s reputation of being the best of the best was achieved through hard work, integrity and dedication not only to the business, but to his many valued customers and the surrounding community. And many of these customers (like me), and their children, have stayed loyal to the business over the years. There’s something to be said for quality and Wark’s Liberty is known for its quality work.

Running a gas station and repair shop requires a lot of time and money. Employees need training. New equipment needs to be purchased. There’s insurance, utilities, payroll and benefits to consider. The work is demanding and so are the customers. Wark’s is open before the morning rush and stays open until late in the evening. Rich competes against other other repair shops in the area not only for customers but for skilled people too. According to Rich, “our business has always been based on the belief that our customers’ needs are of the utmost importance.” That kind of attitude has seen the business through multiple decades of change.

When it comes to his customers, it’s the little things that matter the most. Dropping a car off at a busy person’s home instead of having them come in to pick it up. Taking a few dollars off a bill where they can. Making room in their repair schedule to accommodate an emergency. Being on hand in the middle of the night to take acceptance of a towed-in car that broke down on the highway. And saying thanks.

Particularly during the holidays. This is the time of the year when it means the most. And Rich makes it a point to reach out to his customer base and say thanks. This year, like other years, he’s sending out holiday cards. I suggested that he get them this year from his local Staples Copy & Print center. And not only that, he could use Staples Copy & Print center for special calendars for his customers and posters for his employees too.

Why? Because Staples definitely makes more happen. Staples Copy & Print is offering new, low prices on their products and services. And the idea worked.

“Everyone at Staples makes this easy,” Rich told me. “I’m not a design guy. I’m a mechanic and a business owner. At my Staples store I get suggestions for holiday cards. I can also look at all the ideas they have online. I also designed a great calendar for my customers and created a few custom posters, using antique cars, for my mechanics. They loved it.”

My other advice to Rich: use this time of year to say thanks, and thanks only. Some business owners make the mistake of trying to sell when it’s not time to sell. By “touching” his customers with a simple card he’s making them remember Warks.   Together we worked to create a good database of customers from his accounting and email systems. The idea, I recommended, is to use this database throughout the year – not just the holidays. Sending cards at the holidays is nice. Sending another card mid-year will really stand out too. Having a good database is critical for this.

But back to the holiday cards, calendars and posters. This is not something to be taken lightly, and I have made mistakes before. Mistakes that I advised Rich to avoid. Wark’s has many Jewish and Muslim customers. He can’t just say “Merry Christmas” or send something that might offend, no matter how innocent. The cards should be simple in design with the right message of thanks and gratefulness. A lot of thought should go into choosing the right card each year. And each year Rich can get help from the people at Staples so that he can make the right decision.

And so we did. After discussing some card designs and messages, we chose cards for this year. A design showing a winter scene and wishing a warm holiday season. The price was right. The cards got turned around quickly. And his customers will be pleased. How many times have you received a nice little card from a local shop, thanking you for your business and wishing you a good holiday? Not many, I’m sure. Some business owners just don’t get it. But Rich does. And that’s why his customers love him.

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