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5 Tips for Running an Auto Repair Shop from UTI Grad Richard Perez

UTI Profile Image Universal Technical Institute Dec 6, 2019 ·

Nowadays, it seems like everyone wants to start their own business. While this can be an incredibly rewarding path, any business owner will tell you that it doesn’t come easy. Successfully starting and running your own business takes hard work, dedication and persistence.

UTI graduate Richard Perez knows what it’s like to start a business firsthand. After graduating from UTI and working for various different shops in the industry, he decided to open a shop of his own: Perlu Advanced Auto Repair.

Keep reading to learn all about Richard’s story, including his journey at UTI, the path to starting his own business, his tips for running a successful auto repair shop and more.

Meet Richard Perez

Richard was born and raised in Stockton, California. Growing up, his dad and uncle would always tinker with cars, which is what initially sparked his interest in the industry. This passion developed more in high school, where he started to explore what a career working on cars could look like.

One day while he was in high school, Richard and two friends were scheduled to visit another trade school. However, one of his counselors encouraged them to stay, because UTI was coming to visit their school. That was the day Richard decided UTI was the right fit for him! After graduating, he packed his bags and headed to UTI in Arizona to complete the Automotive and Diesel programs.

Richard has always been mechanically inclined and skilled in electronics. By the time he started at UTI, he already had experience with technology and knew this was the career path he wanted to pursue. This allowed him to really dive into his education and learn everything he needed to know about the industry. 

When reflecting on his UTI experience, Richard shares, “It was both fun and tough, but I would do it all over again.” Leaving home for the first time and traveling to another state alone was scary at first, but worth it in the end. He went straight through the program without taking any breaks, and would work nights after finishing his days at school.  

Richard enjoyed being part of a community and getting to know his classmates, many of whom shared his same passion. They all lived in the same apartment complex near campus, which made him feel right at home. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. It helped make me who I am today,” Richard says.

The Road to Becoming an Entrepreneur

After graduating from UTI in 1994, Richard landed a job working for a small shop. At first, he wasn't making a lot of money. However, one of his UTI instructors encouraged him and reminded him of the importance of gaining experience. He told Richard, “You have your whole life to make money, but now is the time to learn,” which has resonated with Richard to this day.

Richard learned a lot working at this shop and after three and a half years, went to work for another company, where he took on a higher position and tripled his earnings. He worked at this shop for three years and eventually went on to work for another shop for 16 years, where he advanced to head mechanic and learned the ins and outs of how the business ran. He quickly became known as the guy who could do it all.

Once he left this job, Richard decided that his next career move was to open a shop of his own. A building located just one block from his house opened, and he knew it was the right location. Investors bought the building while he secured the loans and everything he needed to get the right equipment. He transformed the vacant building into a beautiful shop and showroom, and Perlu Advanced Auto Repair was born! 

Perlu Advanced Auto Repair exterior opened by UTI Avondale graduate Richard Perez

About Perlu Advanced Auto Repair

Perlu Advanced Auto Repair has been in business for three years now, and according to Richard, they continue to grow every year. The service center offers auto repair, maintenance, inspections, engine diagnostics and more. They are star certified for smog and offer a wide range of maintenance services, like oil changes and diagnostics for check-engine lights and drivability.

As a family owned and operated company, Perlu Advanced Auto Repair truly cares about their customers and their vehicle transportation. Regardless of a customer’s automotive knowledge, the team takes the time to ensure customers have a full understanding of what’s going on with their car.

One of the things that makes Perlu Advanced Auto Repair unique is their commitment to supporting the local community. One of the ways they do this is by offering labor discounts for veterans, first responders and teachers. They also take part in various activities to serve veterans, end childhood hunger in the community, and more. 

5 Tips from an Award-Winning Service Center

Richard and his team have accomplished incredible things in the short three years they’ve been in business. In fact, Perlu Advanced Auto Repair received the Service Center of the Year award from Certified Auto Repair in 2018! This award resulted in news coverage and generated buzz in the local community about all of the incredible things the shop was doing.

So what does it take to run an award-winning service center? Here are five things Richard attributes his success to: 

  1. Be Honest: Richard is often surprised by the number of customers who thank him for the honesty of him and his staff. Unfortunately, many shops today don’t have the best interest of their customers in mind, which leads to a poor reputation. This is why Richard and his team are always open and honest with their customers, which leads to a trusting relationship. “It’s not about making every dollar on every customer,” Richard shares.
  2. Give back to the Community: From day one, supporting the local community has been an important aspect of Richard’s business. Offering labor discounts for veterans, first responders and teachers as well as supporting organizations such as No Kid Hungry has allowed Perlu Advanced Auto Repair to make a positive impact on the community, beyond providing exceptional repair services.
  3. Always Show Respect: Owning a business often means you will be up against competitors in the local area. Richard takes pride in the fact that Perlu Advanced Auto Repair has always shown respect to its competitors. In fact, Perlu has a good relationship with one of the other leading repair shops in town and will refer customers to them if they can’t get the job done. As a result, the shop also sends business to Perlu, benefitting both companies.
  4. Utilize Social Media & Networking: Richard shares that utilizing free advertising methods, such as social media, have made a huge impact on his business. In this industry, it’s important to be where your customers are, which often requires having a social media presence. Positive reviews go a long way in this industry, so utilizing the web to gather reviews and get your name out there can be a great way to attract more customers. “Social media and having good reviews is priceless,” Richard shares.
  5. Be Smart with Your Investments: As a business owner, it’s important to be smart with your investments. When you’re first starting out, a lot of options to market yourself will be thrown at you. However, it’s important to invest your time and money in the methods that drive results. For Richard, this has been having a presence on RepairPal, Google and Yelp. Richard shares that being on RepairPal has been one of the single most important decisions he has made to boost his business.  

Keeping Up with an Evolving Industry

Perlu Advanced Auto Repair building interior opened by UTI Avondale graduate Richard Perez

It’s no secret that the automotive industry continues to change due to technological advancements. Whether you’re a business owner or employee, it’s important to stay current and evolve right alongside the industry to stay relevant.

One of the biggest shifts in technology that has impacted Richard’s business is hybrid cars. He shares that this is becoming more of a common occurrence in his shop, so he has had to learn everything he can about these cars in order to meet the needs of his customers.

According to Richard, having the right tools and equipment is essential to staying current with technology. He shares that whenever there are new tools or equipment his techs need in the shop, he orders it. “It’s part of staying up to date with what’s coming up,” he says.

What Do Employers Look for When Hiring Technicians?

As an employer, there are several traits Richard looks for when hiring technicians. He shares that in addition to having the right experience, attitude and work ethic go a long way. “It’s about being smart and hard working. Many people think they’re one or the other,” he says.

According to Richard, a successful technician isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty. This is something he has embodied in his own career. “When people come to the shop, they think my service manager up front is the boss, because I’m in the back sweating,” he shares. “When they see that, they know what kind of business this is, and they appreciate it.”

Richard’s advice for those looking to pursue a career in the industry or even start a business of their own is to take the time to learn everything you can. “If you want to open your own business, know that you’re not going to do it overnight,” he says. “Learn the ins and outs of the business. It’s not just turning wrenches—there are so many things behind the scenes that you have to know,” he continues.

All in all, Richard encourages aspiring technicians and business owners to not be afraid to start somewhere. Get your foot in the door, work hard, and you never know where you might end up! 

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