An interview with Douglas McAllister, president of Douglas Automotive with locations in Crystal Lake and Barrington.
Q: Describe your business. What do you do?
Address: 123 E. Virginia Road, Crystal Lake, IL 60014 and
417 W. Main Street, Barrington, IL 60010
Owners: Douglas and Janet McAllister
Year business started: 1993
Web address: douglasautomotive.com
A: Douglas Automotive is an automotive repair and maintenance business, equipped to service most makes and models. We perform simple maintenance such as an oil change or flat repair all the way up to complicated computer diagnostics or engine and transmission replacement. We also are a full service tire dealer featuring Michelin and BF Goodrich with additional availability of every brand tire. Our mission is to make auto repair understandable and easy while reducing the cost of ownership.
Q: You recently moved, tell us about that.
A: We just celebrated our 20 year anniversary and have been in the same location at our Barrington shop ever since then. With our lease winding down it was our desire to get a location that would bring us out onto a main road, so we could be more easily seen. We frequently had people tell us, "I have lived in Barrington for 30 years and I never knew you were here." Having our name right out on Main Street should put an end to that. We have been cleaning, painting and redecorating this repair shop for a couple months now. The end result is quite beautiful if I do say so myself.
Q: What made you start your business?
A: I got my start in the full service gas station business back in the 70s. I was eventually managing the Amoco Station at the corner of Hough and Station streets in Barrington. I had always wanted to have my own shop but it was postponed for 5 1/2 years while I worked on staff at Willow Creek Community Church taking care of the fleet and all the grounds equipment and starting a volunteer ministry called CARS. While I loved being on staff at Willow, I just couldn't shake the desire to have my own shop, and so in September of 1993 we opened Douglas Automotive. My goal was to bring the local friendliness of a corner service station and the professionalism of a dealership together. It seems like a no-brainer today, but we started right off being computerized.
Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running or starting a small business?
A: I would say acquiring the right people seems to be the biggest challenge. This is complicated with multiple locations for the obvious reason that I can't be at more than one spot. Janet and I are very grateful for the wonderful staff that we currently have. Some of our staff has been with us for over 12 years. We also have had great success in training young tech school graduates into full blown journeyman technicians.
Q: What do you enjoy most about operating your business?
A: I love the interaction with clients, vendors and employees. I also love being involved in the communities we are located in.
Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young?
A: When I was little I always thought I would follow in my dad's footsteps and become a mechanical engineer. However, I disliked school and fell in love with cars in high school and it became pretty clear that I would not be going to college.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: I usually sleep pretty good, but one thing I let get to me is the fact that our little company is responsible for 20 people and their families. It's scary if I dwell on that for too long.
Q: If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?
I have a few:
• Get ready to work long and hard.
• If the cash flow seems good, don't blow it. Put some away you might need it later. • Try to get out of debt and stay out of debt.
• Join some kind of a peer group so that you are not out there on your own.
• Take good care of your clients and do whatever you can to keep them because they are hard to get.
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