Homelessness to Shop Owner: The Power of Passion & Education

Editor’s Note: The following article was recently published in Aftermarket Matters

Benjamin Hart is a recent Cuyamaca College graduate from Southern California with an inspiring story about how he overcame the struggles of battling addiction, and recovering from homelessness, to owning a successful automotive repair shop, TBH Complete Auto Care. Through resilience and unwavering determination, his journey is a testament to the power of pursuing one’s passion and the transformative impact of education and hard work.

Benjamin Hart TBH Complete Auto Care

Back in 2013, Benjamin Hart worked as a case manager for the chronically homeless in downtown San Diego, California. Having experienced the difficulties of addiction and homelessness firsthand, he aspired to help others in similar situations. Realizing that furthering his career required a degree, Hart made the courageous decision to resign and pursue a career in the automotive service industry.

Embracing Automotive Repair as a True Passion

Growing up in San Diego’s Normal Heights neighborhood, Hart always had an interest in working at the local auto repair shop, Smitty’s Service. While initially joining as a full-time service writer’s assistant, he soon realized that fixing cars was his true passion. Recognizing the value of education in the industry, Hart understood that obtaining an automotive repair education could provide him with better job opportunities and a strong foundation for his future business.

Overcoming Challenges Through Education

Seeking guidance, Hart turned to his trusted boss, Mike Magers, who directed him to Cuyamaca College’s automotive program. Balancing full-time work at Smitty’s and attending classes from 6 to 10 p.m., Hart’s commitment and perseverance were evident. As the sole provider for his four children, he remained focused on his goals, motivated by the desire to succeed in his automotive career.

From Employee to Business Owner

Hart’s dream of owning his own auto repair shop began to take shape when a friend and former coworker offered him the opportunity to work on used cars in his extra bay until he could establish his own business. Eager to seize the chance, Hart opened TBH Complete Auto Care in June 2020, building upon the knowledge and skills acquired through his education and work experience.

Inspiring Others Through Commencement Speech

As a June 2023 graduate from Cuyamaca College’s automotive technology program with an associate’s degree in science, Hart’s inspiring story of resilience and determination caught the attention of many. He was honored with the opportunity to deliver the commencement speech at his graduation, sharing valuable lessons with his fellow graduates. Hart’s words emphasized the importance of choosing one’s path, working relentlessly and never giving up on the pursuit of greatness.

Hart proudly told his class, “Choose what you want and grind for it. Education and hard work are the keys to building the future you desire, so seek greatness regardless of how long it takes you. If you are persistent and never quit, you will win.”

The Importance of Skilled Diagnosticians

In today’s world, Hart says the industry faces challenges in attracting individuals to pursue a career in auto repair due to various societal factors. He believes that there is a generational gap, with younger people being more interested in internet fame and less inclined toward manual labor. However, Hart emphasizes the importance of working with one’s hands and the rewarding nature of the automotive industry, especially as the economy and technology shift toward electric vehicles.

Hart asserts, “As the industry evolves and wiring schematics become increasingly complex, accurate diagnostics become crucial. Skilled diagnosticians are what the industry needs most. Unfortunately, they are hard to come by. However, this scarcity presents a great opportunity for success among those who wish to enter the industry as knowledgeable and trustworthy technicians.”

A Customer-Centric Approach at TBH Complete Auto Care

At TBH Complete Auto Care, Hart is committed to establishing a reputation as a repair center that always puts customers first. TBH Complete Auto Care, a one-man show, is dedicated to providing efficient, trusted and accurate auto care services. Hart emphasizes the importance of honesty and transparency with his customers.

He says he is able to efficiently manage his workload and ensures smooth operations with the assistance of ProDemand® auto repair information and Manager SE shop management software from Mitchell 1.

These software solutions enable him to quickly attend to cars, ensuring a seamless flow in and out of his bays. He believes that maintaining a comprehensive record of all transactions is crucial. This approach allows for easy retrieval of service history, work performed and communication details.

Efficient Customer Service

Hart shared an example where a customer contacted him several months later with a complaint about a recurring issue in their vehicle. Thanks to the detailed documentation in Manager SE, Hart swiftly referred to the previous work conducted on the vehicle. This documentation revealed that Hart had previously recommended replacing a specific part, but the customer had declined, opting for a quick fix instead.

Since all relevant information was saved and organized, Hart was able to remind the customer of their previous conversation, highlighting the recommended part replacement. This enabled Hart to offer a timely solution to the customer’s recurring issue. The customer, impressed by Hart’s meticulous organization and honesty, gladly requested the new part and walked away as a satisfied customer.

Final Thoughts

Hart’s dedication and commitment to his craft serve as an inspiration to others facing similar challenges. In today’s world, where societal factors make it challenging to attract individuals to pursue a career in auto repair, Hart’s story also stands as a shining example of the rewarding nature of the automotive industry. By highlighting the importance of skilled diagnosticians, Hart encourages others to consider this field. Ultimately, his journey demonstrates that with the right education, dedication and commitment, individuals can overcome challenges and achieve success in any chosen field.

About the Author

Abagail Lucero

Abagail Lucero is the Product Marketing Manager for ProDemand. She joined the company in 2011 as a member of the SocialCRM shop marketing team and has served in many roles at Mitchell1, lastly as Security and Compliance Supervisor. Abagail holds a Bachelor of Science degree from California University of Pennsylvania.