Christopher Petersen owns Northwest Automotive in Kalispell, MT. Here is his story.
None of Christopher Petersen’s family members have been (to his knowledge) in the auto industry. His dad was an electrician that specialized in security systems. Christopher remembers elementary school when the other kids on the block were playing football or basketball, right in front of his house. But not him. He was in the garage, reading his father’s college AC/DC theory book, and doing the tests at the end of each chapter. He always thought that he would go into design because he loved building things. He even took 4 years of computer-aided drafting in high school.
When Christopher was thirteen he got his first vehicle and discovered it had a flat cam lobe. His dad was no help, as he knew nothing of engines. He studied the service manual for a few days and replaced the cam and lifters.
At seventeen he went to work for a Toyota/Dodge dealer as a lube tech, and hated it! He found it mundane but knew that he didn’t have the experience to be a line tech, and certainly didn’t have enough experience to be a drivability tech.
Christopher ended up replying to an ad for a service advisor position at an independent shop in town. He wasn’t sure what the SA did, but thought he put an app in and see where it lead. He got the job and found he had a knack for talking. Later he was promoted to shop foreman, even though he wasn’t a tech. Christopher handled all the estimating and parts procurement, as well as work order dispatching. Seeing the customer concerns, then reading the tech’s notes helped him amass a large repair knowledge base which boosted his confidence that he could actually be a drivability tech.
From there, Christopher bounced around a few types of shops. He wanted to experience many different brands. He worked in a euro shop for a while and then each of the domestic brands. Christopher was Master Honda certified (as well as ASE Master, and L1). Honda was the first real home he felt.
A back injury put a serious hamper on being a line tech and he went back to the service advisor world. But this time he was an SA at a dealer. He hated it. Not only did the bean counters in the corporate structure only see employees as percentages and production numbers, they saw customers the same way. Christopher didn’t feel he could really help people the way he thought they should be helped.
So it was time to find his own way….after 20 years doing it for other companies, Christopher started to do it his way.
|Number of locations:||1|
|Total square feet of all facilities:||7500|
|Years in industry:||22|
|Years business ownership:||2.5|
|Number of technicians:||4|
|Number of service advisers:||2|
|Number of lifts:||10|
|Number of bays:||11|
|Days open:||Mon – Fri|
|Annual estimated volume:||$1M|
|Average repair order (ARO) $:||$422|
|YTD gross profit percent:||60|
|Percent Repair vs Maintenance vs Other:||75/25/0|
|Personal certifications:||ASE Master + L1 & Honda Master|
|Shop management system (SMS):||NAPA TRACS|
|Completely paperless in the shop?;||Yes|
|Digital Vehicle Inspection:||AutoVitals|
|Supplier marketing program:||NAPA Auto Care|
|Entrepreneur hack:||Digital inspections and standardizing all procedures.|
|Philanthropy:||Board member of Kalispell Business Improvement District|
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