By Chris Watson
Cars are not what they use to be. Computers, GPS, self-parking, battery assist (or hybrid drive), plus collision alarming, over-the-line warning and airbag toting. Cars today have more technology per square inch that what sent us to the moon. That, inherently, can make people apprehensive, concerned, or downright suspicious of vehicle repair. Given their complexity, cars might as well be jumbo jets.
“We know how difficult it is when your vehicle isn’t working,” says Bill Wilson, owner of Express Transmissions in Holland Ohio. “It doesn’t matter to us whether this is your first car or one of a fleet of vehicles you use to keep your business running. We are always aware of how difficult and let’s face it, expensive, car repair can be.”
From the Ground Floor
Wilson is a long-standing car guy. He originally opened a small shop in 1995. “Express Transmissions was the result of more than a decade of previous industry experience,” says Wilson, who worked his way through the ranks of automotive repair including time as an R&R trainee, rebuilder, sales, and finally sales management. “My time before Express was
a great catalyst to starting my own shop.”
Starting small on Nebraska Avenue, Express Transmissions has grown to a large facility in Holland , which includes warehousing of in-stock rebuild and replacement transmissions. Express now employs around 7 full time technicians, installers, and rebuild specialists. “In truth this is a business that still values ground floor up experience,” Wilson says strongly. “My son, who now works with me, is learning that first hand. This is, after all, a skill and a trade. Anyone who turns their vehicle over to service provider should feel confident in that provider.”
Many on Wilson’s staff have been with him a decade or more. Others are just beginning their career. “It is one of the things I love about this job,” says Wilson. “It is constantly evolving and changing. Sure, we have to keep up on new technology. However, a car is still a car and great service has the same principals. As a team we get to work with great new technology plus value old school patience, care and skill. There are not many businesses that have that can maintain that blend.”
The Three “Whats”
“When a customer calls with a problem they look to us for help,” remarks Willson. “Right off the bat we know how inconvenient it is to be without a vehicle. For most people being without a car means a threat to either income of livelihood. In the case of fleets there is no question that time lost is income lost. However, we apply the same sense of urgency to the individual customer. Not having a vehicle can be a tremendous disruption, costing time, energy, and of course money.”
The problem, says Willson, is reputation. “Our first job is to help our customers feel comfortable. There is a natural fear of being ‘taken’ by auto repair companies. There are two reasons for this. First, cars are complex and most people don’t know much, if reputation, from untrained mechanics, DIY mishaps, national chains that are overly profit driven, and care salesman more interested in selling a car than solving a transportation problem.”
That storm of fear and bad repute is at the heart of every transaction. “Ultimately our clients want to know three things: What is wrong, what can I do about it, and what does it cost? If we can answer those questions honestly then a person can make an informed decision about whether to move forward with rebuilding or repairing.” That basic strategy has helped Express Transmissions build a sterling reputation in the industry.
Transmissions Large and Small
“I have always tried to support the local community,” says Wilson. “After all we are a basic local business. However, once I was big enough to service fleets of vehicles that ability to directly engage with our local businesses and nonprofits has become a centerpiece of our business.”
Express Transmissions certainly backups Wilson’s comments with action. Express fleet clients locally include TARTA (Toledo Area Regional Transport Authority), Anne Grady Services, and Sunshine Services. “One of the great things is that we are able to keep rebuilds in stock for these clients. This means we can get their vehicles back on the road quickly and, ultimately, keep them providing their vital community services.”
Wilson brings the same care, experience, and skill to each job, large and small. “I have
worked in some real pits of places. Dirty, messy, and unreliable. Efficiency goes out the window. My staff and I pride ourselves that our shop is clean and well set up. This saves time and energy. It also saves money, for us and our customer.”
The bottom line is investment. “Vehicles are investments, for companies, for services providers, and of course for families. Although we live in a disposable world, vehicles have actually gone the other way. When I started in 1994 it wasn’t unusual for a car to start having problems at 70K miles. Today, with great maintenance and perhaps a major repair, these vehicles are lasting up to 200K on a regular basis. With that kind of longevity, isn’t it work looking into a major repair rather than a new vehicle?”
Most importantly, Wilson and his staff believe in an honest, open approach to vehicle service. “It is simple,” says Wilson. “We want people to do their homework which includes checking out our shop, looking up with the Better Business Bureau, checking our on line reviews, and looking at our staff via our website.”
It all comes down to community. “We live here,” says Wilson. “Like our customers, we shop here, go to church here, have kids in school here. That last think we need is to sell someone something they don’t need.” Wilson finishes with a smile. “When we say ‘Express’ we mean doing the job in a timely manner. When it comes to a relationships, our goal is a lifetime.”
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931 Hamilton Dr.