How I Work: Rochelle Gotsdiner
Rochelle Gotsdiner was at lunch with her brother, Vladic, when she looked at him and blurted out: “We have to get involved in the family business.”
The news came as a surprise to Vladic; although their parents opened the shop in 1995 after immigrating to the U.S. from Russia with nothing more than a pair of suitcases and $400, the family business had never been forced upon either sibling.
But despite a solid reputation in the community and a story as classic as the American dream, Rochelle’s parents were experiencing financial difficulties. That challenge is exactly what prompted Rochelle to quit her health career in 2017 and help her parents out.
“I quit my job to start managing the shop and on my first day, I didn’t even know what a VIN was,” recalls Rochelle, now the shop’s managing partner. “There’s no shame in letting people know that.”
The shop went under a transformation in 2015 when the team decided to add on a collision repair shop and changed its name to Northrich Automotive & Collision Center.
She took on the role of running the shop’s operations and business development alongside her dad, Alex, and within two years, kickstarted the business to produce $70,000 in sales each month. Not only did she increase revenue, she gained a strong presence on social media, received positive customer reviews and made a name for herself locally.
Gotsdiner splits her time between the auto repair shop and the body shop, with an office located at the latter. While she still occasionally faces challenges in the industry, Gotsdiner now spends her days being the primary authority figure in the shop.
As told to Melissa Steinken
If my business hours begin at 8 a.m., then I expect my staff to be in before then and ready to service vehicles at that time. You don’t walk in at 8:05 a.m. I personally try to get into the shop by 7:45 a.m. at the latest. Last year, when it was really rough and the location was going through so many changes, I spent more time at the business to help see it through to be successful. I’d come in some days as early as 6:30 a.m. and not leave until 8 p.m. I had to basically start the business from the ground up, recruit and retrain an entire staff.
We went through financial issues and a huge remodel process that set us up for success. Being on Season 2 of Garage Rehab gave our shop the tools and platform to see what was happening financially with the business. The shop floor had no organization, parts tended to be scattered here and there, and it was just a cluttered environment. After the makeover on the show, the shop is a beautiful facility.
I encourage my team to hustle and let them know that I’m the person that’s willing to open doors early or close later if a customer needs us to.
My days vary now because I go between the two locations and split some tasks with my father.
I often take a break during the day to recharge my mind. If I have time, I’ll get out of the office and do some yoga. It also helps me clear my mind and go for the short drive to our auto repair center. That takes roughly 15 minutes and allows me to be by myself with my thoughts.
If I go and refresh my mind, I come back into the shop even better than I was in the morning. Especially, when I first started, I noticed I’d get frustrated easily because I’m a detail-oriented person and a perfectionist. Collision repair is a difficult industry to be in when you’re both.
It’s nice that a large chunk of my day is spent doing marketing and social media, because, if I need to get away from the shop for a little while, I can still work remotely.
When I first started in this industry, I asked a lot of questions. I didn’t know anything about the automotive industry, much less collision repair. So, I started carrying around repair manuals with me in my purse. They were like my version of “Car Repair for Dummies” and showed me diagrams of the cars and labeled where every part was on the car.
I’d also get my hands dirty and ask my team to show me how to repair something so I could learn. It was all trial and error. My staff was annoyed with me at first because it seemed like I was micro-managing their work but asking questions was truly the only way I would learn.
Every morning, I walk in and say, “Good morning.” I tell each of my employees “good morning” every day, even if they’re grumpy or mad at me. I think that setting the tone for the day’s work can help someone view their day better.
At first, my employees did take advantage of me. I think it was because I came into the shop not knowing the industry and I was a woman. But, I realized that the only way to act was to set my expectations for the day and go from there.
I start each day planning my day and working on some finance paperwork. I work out of a traditional, physical planner that sits on my desk, my calendar on my phone and a calendar through Outlook.
I’m basically balancing any charges or any funds that we received the day before. I’m also helping to check in cars with my estimator. I help out by taking care of the ticket and interacting with the customer.
Then, I spend about two hours per day working on social media or networking. I follow up on the reviews we’ve received, make the shop’s social media posts, and occasionally I’ll have to work a lot with our parts vendors or make sure our contracts are up to date.
I handle any of the human resources stuff like paperwork. I hire people, write employees up, pay them, and also let them go. For instance, maybe the employee has an excused absence for the day, so I am the one to document that. I keep all my paperwork in a fireproof filing safe.
I’m trying to go more paperless but, right now, some of our physical storage is needed because of laws for the state.
Every week, I attend a business group meeting in our town. I used to be part of two Chamber of Commerce groups. I was part of one for the town that our auto repair shop is in and part of one for the town in which our collision repair shop is located.
I received a rookie of the year award last year for my stellar membership and am now a member liaison for the group this year. The group is called High Five and it encompasses the business district near our shops. That way, I can be in a group that works for both facilities.
These meetings are held on a come-and-go-as-you-need basis, however, you’re encouraged to meet one on one with other members. I just met with another business owner last Friday.
The one-on-one meetings are a chance to see how you can help other, local businesses. You’re encouraged to have consistent meetings with other members and discuss what each of you is working on for the business. It’s a time to see how you can help each other accomplish goals.
You have to pay a yearly fee to join the business group but as a member liaison, I got a member discount.
In my spare time, I just became a race car driver. My best friend and I are the first female-only team to complete this race called One Lap of America. During the race, I got to put my car repair skills to use. I was able to check tire pressure and reattach any parts of the car that might have fallen off.
SHOP STATS: Northrich Automotive & Collision Center Location: Garland, Texas. Operator: Alex Gotsdiner Average Monthly Car Count: 40-45 cars Staff Size: 8(1 painter, 2 body techs, 1 estimator, 1 bookkeeper, 1 owner, 1 managing partner) Shop Size: 20,000 square feet; Annual Revenue;$800,000