Understanding how entrepreneurs become and remain successful is key to achieving similar success. Is this article we interview Grand Rapids entrepreneur Mike Veenstra. owner of Veenstra’s Garage, His auto repair and service company have been in existence since 1925 (88 years!). He provides advice to would-be entreprenuers about what he has learned over the years. Contact him at 616-454-6597
What does your company do?
Veenstra’s Garage is dedicated to providing quality repair and excellent service to all makes and models of vehicles.
What made you want to be an entrepreneur?
I am a third generation owner. I followed in my father’s footsteps.
Why did you choose your business?
I chose to go to work, not knowing where it would lead, but thinking that it would lead toward succession.
What prepared you for entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship and learning how to run Veenstra’s has been a journey. I’ve learned the details of the business, but also learned to think out of the box and big enough to see some vision for how it can grow better.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Building a business that works, and has been around for 80 plus years, has been the greatest achievement for me.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being my own boss has been very rewarding as well as being able to hire the right people to make Veenstra’s look and run successfully.
What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur?
Finding those right people to work inside the company as well as outside the company, to act as advisors to me has been something to work at. It has been exciting, but also challenging to surround myself and Veenstra’s Garage with people who will contribute to its success.
Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
I wish I could have found these advisors and mentors sooner, maybe I would have found this success sooner.
How can others get started in this business?
My advice would be to follow the advice of those who have succeeded before them.
Do you have any advice for future entrepreneurs?
It’s important not to be a lone ranger. We often have a great idea to go into business with – make sure to find the experts in that field and allow them to guide and advise you. Follow in their line of thinking and don’t be afraid to work hard.
What does Veenstra’s Garage Service entail?
Veenstra’s Garage provides quality repair and excellent service to all makes and models of vehicles.
Why choose Veenstra’s Garage over a less expensive garage?
Competing on price alone will not allow for success in a high technology service business. If people choose to compete on price lone, they’re going to have a short shelf life.
Have you been running Veenstra’s Garage long?
I have been running Veenstra’s Garage for 25 years, but Veenstra’s Garage has been around for 80 years.
What did you do before you started Veenstra’s Garage?
I worked inside the company. Running Veenstra’s was more about passing the baton and less about starting the business. I took over what my relatives had already created.
What do you think is unique about the Grand Rapids market?
I think we have such cool business leaders. The DeVos and Van Andel family, for instance. These people have given back and created hope in smaller business leaders like me and they have created a better market and strong business community for us.
Have you made any major changes in your service offerings since starting out?
We have changed the method of how we do business to a more structured, trainable system.
How large is your staff?
What does the background of the people you hire tend to be? We have a staff of ten. As far as background goes, I look for people that have demonstrated a strong track record, whether they be in a technician or customer service or sales position. For entry level positions, I look at their character and background. I look for where they went to school and where they demonstrated excellence, whether that be in school or as part of a team or club.
Are most of your customers of one particular type or another?
We have a wide range of customers, from students to business owners to stay at home mothers. We like to build a trusting relationship with our customers, so someone that wanted a service provider that actually desires a relationship like this would be someone that could benefit from working with us. We want to prove we are trustworthy with both their money and their vehicle.
What trends are we likely to see with garages in the future?
The industry will continue to become more high-tech. So where we used to value our technicians being really advanced mechanically, we now also value their ability to learn new technology and work with computers as their primary tool for repair.
How have you found most of your customers?
We have found most of our customers through advertising and referrals.
Are you doing any marketing at the moment?
We are currently doing several different kinds of marketing, including print and online advertising.
What are your goals for the future?
I would like to grow the business to another location as well as develop a succession plan for when I am no longer a part of the business.