I had the pleasure of speaking with OnDeck customer, Meghan Garrity, owner of Performance Detailing, an auto detailing and performance parts service in Orland Park, IL. We talked about her background, what it’s like to own a small business, how she and her husband Doug manage the day-to-day, as well as prepare for the future.
OnDeck: Tell me about your background.
Meghan Garrity: My background is in management. I worked in restaurants for over 15 years, and went through the whole gamut – waitress, bartender, and manager – at a popular chain named after a day of the week. The skills I learned in the restaurant business have helped with managing people and with customer service. Doug’s background is in high performance automobiles, including wrenching and racing. Doug helped build one of the fastest street cars for Sutton Ford when their High Performance Parts department was still open. Doug and his brother race 79’ trans Am and a 70.5’ Trans Am. They are fixtures at Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois.
OnDeck: How did the idea of your business begin, and what services does your business provide?
MG: Doug always wanted to own some sort of speed shop or detailing business. When he was let go from Ford because of the recession, we thought it would be a brilliant time to open a business. He led Ford’s High Performance Department, so he had a lot of valuable experience. And I always said, if we can start a business during a down economy, we can get through anything.
OnDeck: What do you wish you knew before you started your business?
MG: I wish we knew that the leap of faith was going to be worth the struggle! We started with no employees and no money, so like a lot of business owners we pinched pennies and worked all hours of the night. I was about six months pregnant at the time with our first child and still working a full-time job. Doug would work until midnight and start again at 7am. The shop had to work because that was our livelihood.
OnDeck: How did you start marketing your services? What tactics have you had the most success with?
MG: When we first started, we used any type of free or low-cost option available: social media, flyers, etc. The best marketing so far has been Groupon, social media, and good old-fashioned word of mouth. Groupon was great for advertising because it got our name out there and also helped with referrals. We see a lot of customers now calling and telling us they are on their second or third vehicle that we have tinted, which is really exciting! We also do work for our village’s Public Works Department, and that has been beneficial to getting our name out to a larger local audience, including the police and fire departments. Doug’s ties to the automotive community helps, too, since car guys like doing work with other car guys!
OnDeck: You have a storefront and an online store. What are the different ways you market products on both, and are the promotion elements the same or different?
MG: I am able to do most of my marketing from the comfort of my home using different apps and social media platforms. Strategy is mostly the same, but depending on what I am marketing, it makes a difference in whom I am marketing to. Jeep and off-road accessories are usually marketed online, while detailing and tint is usually marketed through email or local platforms. Sales are mostly from local dealership business and online comes from a large Female Jeep club I admin on.
OnDeck: Speaking of social media, you have a robust presence on a few platforms. What is the key to keeping up with regular posts, and do you have any tips that may help other business owners with their social media?
MG: Social media is extremely important, especially when dealing with a younger demographic. My biggest advice is to stay current and relevant and post and respond often. Follow businesses that inspire you and have a good presence, and this will give you a template for what to post. Also, I use many different apps on my phone for adding text and watermarks – this helps with uniformity.
OnDeck: How valuable customer reviews to your business, and how do you handle any negative comments?
MG: Reviews are important, but unfortunately in today’s world you get fake negative reviews from time to time. As far as responding to our reviews, we always look to fix any type of negative situation with a positive as soon as we can. Whether the customer is willing to work with us on a resolve is another issue. If we believe the review is false we simple respond with additional questions like “when were you here, what vehicle did you have.” I think our customers are savvy enough to spot a real review from a fake.
OnDeck: What metrics do you look at to assess your business growth? How often do you look at these numbers?
MG: We monitor a lot of metrics including website traffic, Google ads, and Facebook trends. This gives me a good idea of what is working and what isn’t. We can usually see if an ad is working based on the clicks and sales. The weather plays a big part in our sales, too. When the first snowstorm hits, we see products like remote starters skyrocket!
OnDeck: What was it like looking for financing as a small business owner? What sources of capital did you look into? What did you like about OnDeck?
MG: Financing is hard especially when you are a new business. Banks want to see numbers and a good credit history. We turned to OnDeck for our last 5-6 small loans. Honestly, we researched other banks and companies, and our OnDeck representative is friendly and takes time out to talk with us. It’s the customer service that stood out to me.
OnDeck: How has OnDeck helped your business grow? ROI, hires, top/bottom line increases, new clients?
MG: OnDeck has given us the freedom to run our business with peace of mind. It has been a convenient and simple process obtaining the funds needed for our business. We recently expanded and had quite a bit of overhead with new flooring, lighting, displays, and more. OnDeck was able to provide us with the money we needed to make it a smooth transition. With the expansion, we were able to purchase new equipment that helped to speed up operation and increase our profit by 20% in that department.
OnDeck: What are you most excited about when thinking about the future of your business?
MG: Doug and I are looking forward to retirement! But until then, we’d like to franchise or open a second location.