Workshops are often a hotbed for stress, but this family-run village garage proves with some clever work and life techniques, the friendly trusted local garage can still exist.
I had only been at Buderim Auto Service on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for around ten minutes and already Lance and Jenny Collett had personally greeted four customers and fielded three phone calls. In each instance, they were met with calm good manners and each was known by their first name. In many ways, this longestablished family run workshop reminded of the good old days – imagined or otherwise – when the customer was more than just a number. Giant workshops often don’t and probably can’t feel this way. You and your car are shepherded into a production line and often you never get to even speak to the mechanic working on your car. My visit to Buderim Auto Service felt the opposite, with the husband-and-wife team – supported by Lance’s mechanic son Luke – giving off an air of stress-free calm. Customers were properly listened to, before having the work required explained in layman’s terms.
“Customer service is imperative,” Jenny said. “Lance especially spends time with each customer to ensure the work is understood. Listening to customers, doing test drives with them, and if other issues are found during work, informing them before going ahead with extra work.” These key points hadn’t changed in Lance’s decadeslong work as a mechanic, even if the nature of the cars he works on certainly has. The garage is near the heart of bustling Buderim village, a lofty, buzzing place with incredible views to the ocean. The simple building features a workshop with single hoist, a cosy waiting area with tongue-andgroove walls (very Queenslander) with some lovely automobilia and antique touches, while behind is a tidy shed with space for another few vehicles being repaired. The whole place has a homely feel, rather than the hyper-clinical one of many large garages. Work orders are neatly laid out on clipboards, complete with required oil and air filters ready to go. They specialise in tuning, repairs, log book servicing, tyres (they’re Master Dealers of Kumho rubber), brakes, suspension, batteries and “no matter the job, we can’t wait to get our hands greasy.” Lance’s hands have seen their fair share of said grease over the years. He started his apprenticeship aged 17 at the very place he now owns. “Once I completed my apprenticeship I was able to operate my own mechanical business in the back workshop for a number of years,” he said. “About twenty years ago I took over the ownership and purchase of the whole property.” With a staff of just three, Jenny said they like to have at least ten vehicles booked in each day, plus the expected steady flow of drop-in customers with issues or questions. She said when she joined the business over a decade ago, although she was skilled in administration, the specific expertise needed in running a small business meant she wanted to up-skill. “I did an intensive business course to learn strategies and skills to run a small business, and we were able to look at ways to improve an already successful business and keep learning.” Being active in the community has been key. It’s not been forced, either, with Lance a true Buderim local and highly regarded in the region. “We really appreciate the loyalty given to us by our local customers,” said Jenny. “We support our chaplains at local schools, the Lifepointe Church Christmas Lights which attracts about 30,000 people each year, and also support six Compassion children in overseas Third World countries. Lance has also participated in local school programs giving advice and talks to students.” They’ve also been a part of the local postal code’s 4556 Chamber of Commerce, which Jenny said “helps us interact with other business owners, to network, and to encourage and learn from those in similar small business situations, while making new friendships.” Running a small business is often beset with challenges, not least if you’re a mechanic in the current climate with the industry changing at ever-increasing speed. “Both Lance and Luke are constantly upgrading their skills by doing courses to keep up with any changes,” Jenny said. “We’ve been going over thirty years, and look at the changes in computerisation, safety, hybrids and now electric cars during that time.”
Above all, Lance reminded there’s never any need to stop educating yourself, no matter how many decades you’ve been in the game. “Learn, learn, learn,” he said. “Take advice, watch, listen, and be proactive in your training.” The business took part in the Sunshine Coast Council’s “B-Well & Prosper” program, where local wellness and business coaches gave small business owners free financial advice, health tips, wellness ideas and form connections with other locals for a better work-life balance. For many, the working day just seems too busy to focus on such things, but the Collett family swear by such practices. If their workshop’s measured calm is anything to go by – plus a decent stream of engaged customers – there’s got to be something in it. “A great tip is don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Lance said. With the 2020 most of us have had, this advice is probably more important now than ever. For more information visit http://buderimauto.com.au ACM