Built on a reputation, Raymond's is booming in flux economy

Jan. 1, 2020
"If you build it, they will come." While no one was whispering this classic "Field of Dreams" phrase in Dennis Raymond's ear, he was saying something similar to loan officers when he endeavored to expand his business. On his reputation alone, Raymond
"If you build it, they will come." While no one was whispering this classic "Field of Dreams" phrase in Dennis Raymond's ear, he was saying something similar to loan officers when he endeavored to expand his business. On his reputation alone, Raymond was going to jump from a two-car garage at his house to what is now Raymond's Auto Repair LLC's 10,000-square-foot facility, capable of doing everything from state emissions inspections to big rig diesel repair. By 1995, Raymond had decided to go it alone, having built up a loyal client base and having worked for many years at various dealerships and garages. With no advertising whatsoever, his home-based business grew quickly, requiring scheduled appointments and more employees. After a couple of years it was obvious to Raymond that he would need something bigger — a lot bigger. "I proposed to (the banks) that if I did the same amount of work that I was already doing, I could pay my mortgage and bills since I was doing a quarter of (a) million a year," he explains. With six acres of land already lined up along a road estimated to have 25,000 cars a day passing by, the banks' answer was a no-brainer.
"The reason we have a lot of customers is because my motto is, 'We quote by the book,'" Raymond elaborates. "If the book says it's a 10-hour job, I don't care if it takes me 20, I want the job done right. My technicians get paid hourly to do the job right, so my customers are happy and don't have to come back. I don't make as high a profit as some of the shops, but we produce high quality work. All of my technicians have been with me for multiple years and understand my theory to the point that if they're here after hours, they'll actually answer the phone and make appointments." Since moving to the new building, Raymond's business has expanded in ways even he didn't foresee. Having started with one wrecker just to take care of his customers, he now has a six-truck fleet — three of them capable of handling big rigs. Constituting 20 percent of his business, towing is "growing drastically," he explains.
"Now we do tractor-trailers, complete recovery and heavy transport, like moving equipment," he adds. "It's growing to the point where we're looking at buying two more wreckers right now." Yet with the economy in flux, his regular repair business has seen changes — but not in a negative sense.

"The first three months of this year were identical to the first three months of last year," he notes. "While we're producing fewer repair orders, we're actually doing bigger jobs. People are not fixing their cars unless they're broke, bypassing any maintenance. It's pretty much business as usual, because I've got a pretty good mix of techs. The only thing I would have to say is we actually hired one guy just to do emission tests. Since the jobs were getting bigger, it was tying up techs for longer periods of time."

With his shop running smoothly, Raymond now spends a lot of time driving one of the tow trucks, but early in his career ASE recognized him for his all-around technical skills.

"When I started working, I was one of the first 300 guys in the country to become certified for auto body, heavy-duty trucks and cars," he recalls. Shortly thereafter, he received a certificate announcing his name would be "perpetually inscribed in the Automotive Hall of Fame."

Supposedly sharing space with such luminaries as Henry Ford, Alfred Sloan and Lee Iacocca, has Raymond ever been curious enough to see if his moniker is actually engraved in Dearborn? "That's on my list of things to do," Raymond laughs.

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