By Falcon Media Staff
The sign says Frank’s Automotive, but the business is really about people as evidenced by a recent visit to the North Main Street location.
As Wendy Weldon chatted with a visitor, Frank Weldon III talked a customer through the diagnostics done on vehicle. Frank patiently explained everything the technician had done and that no real problem had been found. When the customer asked about what he owed, Frank shrugged his shoulders.
“Just come by, say thank you, pick up the keys, and I think we’ll be good,” he said. The customer had one final question. “Sure, I’d be happy to call your stepfather and explain. What’s the number? OK, and the name? No problem.”
It’s a hallmark of a business soon to enter its third decade that began when Frank had an epiphany after years of working at a factory as well as side jobs in the auto industry.
“I didn’t want to look up one day and say, ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda,’ so I knew I had to get off the sideline and do something,” he said.
So he dug into his savings, invested his retirement into his company, and began a journey of learning, sometimes the hard way.
“There have been ups and downs and oops,” he said, adding that when he makes a mistake, he hopes that he can learn from it and not make the same mistake.
Even though he never took any classes in business, he knew what he wanted his company to be.
“I want it to be more about the people than the numbers,” he said. I felt like we’d have an impact on people’s lives if we could do something the help them when they needed it.”
That can mean Frank taking extra time to explain things on the phone or, when necessary, drawing pictures to help demystify the sometimes confusing workings of a car. Or it can mean Wendy taking some time to talk about more than just the car.
“We get to know our customers,” she said. “We chat with them, find out how their day is going. It makes them feel comfortable and cared for. I think they like that it’s more personal.”
Frank said that’s important because often times people come in under duress since people depend on their car for independence and many don’t understand why it’s not working properly. On the other side of the business – towing, people are often upset that their car isn’t where they left it.
When it comes to repairs, he’ll take the time to explain what needs to be done and, just as importantly, what doesn’t need to be done. That can also mean a difficult conversation when a car isn’t worth the investment of a repair. When it comes to towing, Frank often deals with irate people and he explains that it’s not personal, they just made a mistake.
“When it comes to parking on campus, it’s important to be mindful of permits,” he said. “Sometimes a student is running behind, they see a parking spot and think, ‘Oh, I’ll only be there 45 minutes’ and leave their car there. One thing leads to another and it gets towed. That doesn’t make them a bad person, they just made a mistake.”
And whether it’s a tow or a repair, Frank is happy to talk customers through the process.
“People feel like they are at a disadvantage, and they are concerned,” he said. “That’s why I give them as much information as possible and let them know it’s OK to ask questions.”