Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Entrepreneur Encounters: Zach Bolton

Today, I'm proud to introduce you to another hardworking and creative entrepreneur - Zach Bolton.

Zach owns Auto-Medic in Cartersville, Georgia with his wife Jessica.

How did you get started in this business, Zach?

I spent most of my career in the automotive industry, where I’ve held nearly every position, from general service technician to Service Manager. While working full time for a large dealership service department as a Fleet Service Manager, I found myself missing the day to day of automotive repair. I decided to fix vehicles on my day off just as a hobby and to keep up with my trade skills.

I decided not to pursue the general public for repairs, as I didn’t want to detract from any potential service work my dealership could perform. Instead, I went to small independent used car dealerships and offered my services at a substantially discounted rate. I soon came to realize the demand for this type of service and found myself working from 7am until sometimes midnight on my days off, just to keep up with the demand.

My wife and I decided that if we could duplicate the success we were having a few days out of the month, into something we did daily and full-time, we might have something. So we began to plan and found our first small brick and mortar location in Cartersville, GA.

Initially, it was only the two of us, but now, two years later, we've moved to a 25,000 sq ft facility, and employ 8 people. It has all moved quite fast, and we are excited for continued growth in the future.

What's your biggest challenge as a small business owner?

The biggest challenge for us has been staffing and all that entails, including payroll. Our particular trade requires certified technicians, with experience and the tools to complete the job. Skilled trade workers are at an all time low, as most young people attend college and pursue white-collar degrees. The second most challenging part is effectively managing payroll versus the accounts receivable that we deal with, since our business focuses primarily on servicing used car lots and commercial fleets. Balancing weekly payroll against monthly billing, creates many challenges, especially as a small business free of bank debt. Cash flow is always at the front of every decision.

Share a story with us about a specific moment in your business that changed you, or made a difference somehow in what you do.

Within just a few months of opening our first brick and mortar location, we were doing surprisingly well. We focused mainly on the average consumer, the drive-by customer needing service and maintenance and for having no customer base initially, it went pretty well. Then, we were suddenly faced with a horrible month, I mean it literally cost more to keep the lights on than we made. We were devastated.

It was in that devastation that we decided to really look at who we wanted to be as a company. Did we want to continue? What changes could we make? For the next month, we thought about what got us to this point and came to the same consensus: used car lots. So we drafted a letter, nothing fancy - a single page, and mailed it to 10 local dealers. Six of those dealers are still clients with us today. It made all the difference in our operation, it gave us a defined customer base to market to, and a niche within the auto repair industry that is slightly unique. By later emphasizing and incorporating small and medium business fleets (taxis, heating & air, plumbers) on top of our used car dealers, we created our own market segment that distinguished us from the repair shop on every corner.

About the Entrepreneur:

Zach Bolton is an entrepreneur with a background in automotive management and repair.

He lives in Cartersville, GA with his loving wife and business partner, Jessica. They share their day to day shop operation with their German shepherd, Dexter, and their chihuahua, Dolly, both whom customers and vendors look forward to seeing every day.

Learn more about Zach and his business on Auto-Medic Cartersville's Facebook page.

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