Shop Shares Secrets of Success in Magazine Cover Story

Shop Shares Secrets of Success in Magazine Cover Story

It’s always gratifying when we see one of our Mitchell 1 auto service shop customers featured in an industry publication. So, we were delighted to see Summers Automotive Service Inc. in Kirkland Washington featured on the cover of the December 2014 Northwest edition of Parts and People Magazine. Owner Brian Estell runs a very lean and successful business and the article delves into some of his secrets to success.

Summers Automotive on the cover of Parts and People Magazine

As noted in the article, Brian and shop manager Jeff Randolph are alumni of our Shop Management Workshop. I recall in that class, that whenever Brian heard something he knew could positively impact his business operations, he’d light up with a broad smile and pen some notes to take back to the shop. We’re very proud that Brian relies on the Mitchell 1 shop management system to run his business – and that our software portfolio helps him be successful.

Congratulations to Brian and everyone at Summers Automotive! We’re reprinting the article below with permission from Parts and People Magazine.

Shop Management Systems Vital to Daily Ops

Kirkland repair facility relies on Mitchell 1 for all aspects of business

December 1, 2014 | by Jerold B. Smith

Kirkland, Wash.—Summers Automotive Service Inc. Owner Brian Estell said he was likely one of the first in the region to begin using the Mitchell shop management system. Founded by Nathan Summers in 1979, Estell said he joined its shop staff in 1980 and the management system was installed just a few years later under his ownership at the 9,500-square-foot shop.

Known today as Mitchell 1, Estell said in the beginning it was simply Mitchell and it was a relatively simple system compared to the sophisticated offerings today. “We chose them because they were the first company that said they could take all of our existing customer data and enter it into a new system, and it worked.”

Jeff Randolph (l.), service advisor and shop manager at Summers Automotive Service, and Owner Brian Estell say they use Mitchell’s SureTrack system for diagnostics.

In his early days at the shop, Estell said he was owner, manager, service advisor, and technician, so having a system that worked for the shop was vital to daily operations. “When I finally attended a Mitchell workshop, I found out that the system offered more than just a storage and CRM program. It was amazing what we learned and how much more we could use the management system.” In subsequent workshops, he said he learned how to use shortcuts that assisted the operation of the business.

Reminder cards to customers used to be hand written, Estell said, but today they custom print reminders using the Mitchell 1 system, use it for all of the CRM data, including e-mails to customers, compile and store all of the shop data, and interact with parts suppliers to check inventory and pricing on needed repair parts. The shop also uses the Mitchell 1 system to generate invoices, as well as review financial data on spreadsheets, from technician billable time to profit margins to percentages billed on customer invoices. “Mitchell’s ProDemand estimating and repair program is awesome and even OE parts pricing is generally accurate.”

“We rely on the parts ordering system and it works well for us,” he said. “It is connected to all of our major suppliers that include WORLDPAC, NAPA, SAD, Olympic Brake Supply, IMC, O’Reilly, Auto Zone, and others, including some OE suppliers.”

 Estell said the Mitchell SureTrack system is also used for diagnostic support through the Snap-on/Mitchell alliance. “We have a complete set of (hardbound) Mitchell repair manuals we refer to for work on older vehicles, but we use the Mitchell system online for most of our technical data, and use Snap-on diagnostic tools throughout the shop,” he said, adding that its three ASE-certified technicians, two of them Master-certified techs, at the shop also use iATN for technical data.

“For us, the Mitchell system has been valuable and we like the support staff we’ve dealt with over the years, including John Roe who is now a regional manager,” Estell said. “We update and expand the system regularly and find it easy to do so and use added updates.”

The shop is now using the new VIN Decoder program from Mitchell that allows a quick cell phone photo of the VIN plate that downloads into the customer database, Estell said.

Noting that Summers Automotive is not the typical repair facility in today’s market, Estell said his shop does about 60 percent heavy mechanical work, from timing belts to head gasket replacement to engine and transmission service and repair, with a substantial amount of that as diesel-oriented service. “While we certainly perform diagnostic service and vehicle maintenance, most shops do more of that and less mechanical repair today,” he said, adding that while his shop’s repair orders are often larger than most shops, often the profit margins are less.

“We know most of the local shops and many of them, from Kirkland, Kenmore, Redmond, and other areas, send us their more difficult mechanical work and (complex) diagnostic jobs,” Estell said. Working on engines, transmissions, differentials, transfer cases, and other vehicle systems, often times older import and domestic cars and trucks, is a daily occurrence at Summers Automotive that has 14 bays, seven lifts and services 220 vehicles a month on average, he said.

Even working on go-karts is part of Estell’s work at the shop as his 21-year-old son is a kart racer.

“We enjoy supporting his efforts and he has won two national events. In mid-November we’re off to Las Vegas to compete in another major race.”

A longtime member of ASA Northwest, Estell said shop staff will be attending the Automotive Training Expo (ATE) next March for ongoing training.

“We’re also an AAA-Approved Auto Repair shop and enjoy the business that we get from AAA members,” said Estell, who worked at a Sears automotive service center for five years after graduating from the South Seattle Community College automotive program.

  • CLICK HERE to read the article online and see additional photos of Summers Automotive crew in action.


About the Author

Tim McDonnell

Tim McDonnell first joined Mitchell 1 in 1985 and is a senior product marketing manager for Manager SE. He has experience with various Mitchell 1 products and is the company’s primary media developer for product training assets and a subject matter expert in shop management software and other Mitchell 1 products. He also served as the Vice-Chair of the AMI Board of Trustees from 2009-2015. He is also the “voice of Mitchell 1” – you’ll hear him on the recorded message when you call the Mitchell 1 office.