Zen and the art of Honda maintenance

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I have been wanting to have a “public” conversation about  Pat Cadam’s business for close to a decade.  And now I finally get to on my radio show today.

Pat runs a shop called Pat’s Garage in San Francisco.  He services Hondas, Acuras, Subarus and Hybrids.  Any semblance of a traditional garage stops there.

His business is offbeat, vibrant, welcoming and delivers excellent technical and customer service.  His mechanics are dreamers, poets, artists and writers, in addition to being experts in their technical field.  And Pat is one of the most talented managers I have ever met, and I have met thousands of them in every business you can imagine.

I first met Pat as a customer, as I had to service my 10-year old second-hand Honda.  As soon as I walked in, I knew something was different.  I didn’t feel my instinctive reaction which was “I will wrestle you to the ground if you leer, demean my lack of car knowledge or try to trick me into getting service I don’t need.”    Pat and his staff were welcoming, open and non-threatening.

And the best part?  Really, really great coffee.  Not the watered down Folgers crap that you find at most shops, but jet fuel grade, organic and flavorful coffee. Served in real mugs.

The more I got to know Pat, the more I was fascinated by his story of creating a totally unique and valuable business in a crowded niche.  He once told me “My business is not really about cars, it is about people.  When I focus on my customers and their needs and concerns, my business thrives.”

Pat started his career as a school teacher and quickly learned that a traditional academic environment was not for him.  So he carefully researched a business to open, based on his interests and skills.  He seems to have picked the right one, as he always seems to be enjoying himself, and his customers follow him loyally as if he were the Pied Piper.

His wisdom at running a business applies to every industry I can think of.  So I do hope you will join us today for the show!

Show details:

Date:  Friday, May 25
Time:  11am-12pm Pacific Standard Time
Topic:  Zen and the art of Honda maintenance
To listenClick here

If you miss the live show, you can always listen later, through the link above.  To download as an Mp3, you will have to click on the title of the show, which will bring up the “download as Mp3” option.

4 Responses to “Zen and the art of Honda maintenance”

  1. Ben says:

    Hi Pam,

    I’m starting my first year at a Bay Area business school this fall, and I’ll be driving my soon-to-be-purchased used vehicle cross country to get there, as will more than one of my classmates that I know of. It’s great to find this little pearl in an unexpected place because you can be sure when my car needs servicing, Pat’s will be my first stop (unless it’s covered by the warranty ;o). Pat should give you a free tune up because this glowing referral won him my business and possibly the business of more than a few of my classmates. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pam,
    Unfortunately I cannot share your enthusiasm about a garage, but I envy you for having found one such as Pat’s.
    However, starting from your “His wisdom at running a business applies to every industry I can think of”, I can say that I completely agree. I would even dare to say that if you don’t love what you do, if you’re not a dreamer and and artist when it comes to your job, then it’s most likely that you’ll never be successful in what you do.
    In my opinion, one of the key ingredients to success is to be a dreamer (examples are useless I think). Second key ingredient is a little bit of luck, or “professional fairy dust”. The rest will then follow. Don’t you agree?

  3. Edward Dorrington says:

    Pam,

    I love Pat’s! I used to go there years ago, where Tiffany would take excellent care of my Acura. I wish they serviced Mazda’s so I could still go there. To this day I still recommend Pat’s as the best garage I’ve ever used.

    It’s very useful for me to think about how much easier it is to provide excellent customer service when you work in an environment that encourages your passion, and conversely, how difficult it is when you work in a place that actively discourages it.

    I still remember one time when Tiffany discovered and fixed an annoying rattle that had been bothering me for ages. She was so excited to show me exactly where the problem was, and how she had tracked it down, that her obvious passion was contagious and I found myself eagerly listening to her detective story.

    The fact that Pat’s is the kind of place that allows (in fact, encourages) their employees to spend 20 minutes showing a customer exactly how they found and fixed a problem, exemplifies excellent customer service.

    I’m looking forward to hearing you and Pat talk!

  4. Pam,
    Finding a good garage can be a huge multi-year task. Once you do you sometimes hesitate to tell others. It seems like once they get too big they cannot serve the customers as well as they used to.
    One of my favorites, when I was a grad student (= no money), was Homer’s in Monrovia California. I think he retired, it has been over 12 years since I graduated. His entire staff was mostly older guys who took life a little slower. When you drove up they casually walked out to your car. Looked it and you over and decided if you were their type of customer. If you had a very fancy car or seemed too rushed they told you some great places where you could get the kind of service you seemed to want. If you looked like the type who would listen to their advice and your car was a car not a person they would ask you what you wanted. Homer once told me I could “…go two more weeks on those brakes.” and sent me away. He never every sold me a repair I did not need. They always did fix something else they found at no charge if it was minor. They never did anything major without asking and giving a cost upfront.
    Homer did not need to advertise. Enough people knew where he was to provide him with enough business. His place was behind a row of stores in the old part of Monrovia (downtown in a bunch of movies). You could not see his shop from the main street. You had to go behind. That kind of location seems contrary to most marketing folks but Homer didn’t need the extra traffic.
    I will never forget Homer. His way of doing business is my goal. BTW – I don’t think there were cubicles in his shop!

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