In my 30 years of writing columns, I’ve focused mainly on the gaming industry. After all, it’s the business I’ve been in all these decades. But every once in a while, I like to write about something from another industry. Something instructive. Something from which casinos could learn. Some concept or innovation that they should steal.
Which leads me to Greg’s Garage.
I’d been trying to find a new auto mechanic for the past couple of years. My previous guy, Jim, was terrific, very fairly priced, and totally trustworthy, but was becoming less available. Auto repair was a side job for him on top of his union construction job. He was getting close to retirement and had several projects of his own that he wanted to work on.
So I asked Jim for a recommendation. He was less than enthusiastic, but he did suggest a couple of repair shops that he said would do good work. I tried one of his recommendations. They weren’t bad, but I never developed a strong sense of trust with them. And in six visits with our two cars, they never remembered me as a customer. So I began my search for a new shop.
I’d seen several TV commercials for Greg’s Garage over my 25 years in Reno. I liked that Greg Doyle, the owner, plus his actual employees, were in all the commercials. He seemed like a nice guy. I started paying close attention to the commercials. In one, Greg talked about how his mechanics were trained and certified. In another, he discussed why Greg’s returned the replaced parts to the customer. There were tips on tires, radiators, battery service, winter driving. Greg explained all the shop’s COVID safety measures and introduced a quick new oil-change service.
We gave Greg’s Garage a shot with our 2003 Chevy Tahoe and 2005 Chevy Aveo, both cherished relics that we’d purchased from my dearly departed best friend, Dale Magruder, a car dealer in Palm Springs. It’s strange, but we also felt that Dale was watching over us as we drove around in these reliable near-classic cars over the years.
It took only one car-repair visit to become a raving fan of Greg’s Garage. Our service writer, Daylen, was as cordial as could be. We got a full car inspection before we committed to the repair job. When the work was completed, Daylen walked us to our repaired car in the parking lot to explain what was done and why. We were shown the old parts that had been replaced. We were thanked warmly for our business. The invoice was detailed, professional, and easy to understand. A few days later, we received a follow-up from Lance Sims, Greg’s general manager, to make sure everything was okay with our car and repair experience. It was all a real WOW.
Greg’s slogan is “Service You Can Trust.” That’s a bold claim, but for Greg’s Garage, it’s not only an assertion. It also happens to be true.
As I pondered what Greg’s Garage could teach the casino industry, I realized that car repair and gambling are both low-trust businesses. In car repair, many customers often feel overcharged and that unnecessary work might be done. With casinos, players feel that the house, actively tries to keep them from winning — you know, the “guy in the back room with his foot on the pedal who knows when I’m winning.”
That led me to interview Greg Doyle of to understand why he’s so successful and how “Service You Can Trust” has become his competitive advantage. It sure says something that Greg would graciously give a stranger, a brand-new customer, an hour of his time to discuss Greg’s Garage’s “secret sauce.”
Greg has been in Reno almost all his adult life. He attended Reno High when it offered Industrial Arts and he studied automotive for four years. “I just loved working on cars and fixing things,” he said. “I took over my dad’s garage when I was a teenager and all my friends came and hung out. Dad didn’t like that.”
Greg went to work at a gas station, when most of them did repairs. Then he went to work for dealerships, box stores, franchises, and independent repair shops. He was a sponge for learning. He took business classes at the community college. He was first at the head of the line when the Automotive Service Association offered its first training in Reno and he credits that with understanding what true auto-repair customer service looks like. “When they come in, how are they treated? Is it consistent? Are you forthright in your work?”
Soon, smart car-repair shop owners in Reno were letting Greg stretch his wings. “I ran some of the companies I worked for. I was doing everything — talking to the customers, writing work orders, ordering the parts, fixing the cars, collecting payment.”
Of the last owner he worked for, he says, “He came back from Hawaii after two weeks and told me, ‘Man, you did a great job while I was gone. But I’m sorry. I spent all of my money in Hawaii, so there’s no bonus this year.’ Right then, I decided it was time to open up my own shop.” And he did, taking $5,000 to buy the smallest and cheapest facility he could find.
Fast forward 30 some years. Greg’s Garage is in the top 10% of car-repair businesses in the country in size and sales (“That’s pretty good for Reno,” he says). He has 10 mechanics working for him. His Master Mechanics average nearly nine years at his shop, while mechanics at other repair shops last only a little more than three years. Reno residents see Greg at the grocery store and sing him the jingle from Greg’s Garage commercials.
So what makes Greg’s Garage so successful, something that casinos should emulate? I’ll break it down by categories and let Greg Doyle describe it in his own words.
Focus on the car in the shop
“Early on, I realized it’s about fixing the car that’s in the shop. Things fail, for whatever reason, but if you focus on the car-repair failure and get it back to the customer as fast as possible, you create great word of mouth, even if it doesn’t seem to be the most profitable thing you can do at that moment.”
Casino Lesson: What are you doing for your customers who’ve had a bad experience? Are you focusing on customers who are here with you right now or just looking to drive bodies through your doors?
Professionalize the business
“Auto mechanics in some ways are like many doctors or lawyers. They may be great at their craft, but not at the rest of their business. That’s why I always wanted the invoice to look as good as the repair. In the early nineties before computers were common in my business, I bought a management system that tracks hours, parts, and profits, so I could see the profitability of every job. Some car-repair shops still don’t use these tools and end up doing work that’s not profitable and are always trying to catch up. Before they know it, to cover their poor planning, they might start doing repairs that aren’t needed or they end up gouging the customer.”
Casino Lesson: Where are your systems, procedures, and staff less than professional? Are you frittering away profits or showing your customers an amateurish experience? Where do you need technology to optimize your business and where are you not fully using technology you already have?
Use effective marketing
“The first day I opened Greg’s Garage, I said to myself, ‘Man, no one knows I’m here.’ But then in walked Ron Haines [a prior customer at another shop] and I realized the importance of good word of mouth and that I already had some of that living and working in Reno.
“I put all my employees in my TV commercials, because customers want to know who’s working on their cars. I use my face in commercials for association to the name and I think it gives the advertising a little more depth and impact.
“I don’t think it’s so much about the media you use, it’s the media rep you use. A good one uses the right marketing tools at the right times to help you get more bang for your buck. Today, for me, they hear about Greg’s Garage from Google. I move my marketing around, using different media and targeting different demographics, so it feels like I’m everywhere.
“In my business, getting new customers is important to make up for normal attrition and losing customers always looking for the cheapest repair. I ask them how they heard about Greg’s, so I have a sense what brought them in. But I also make sure to cultivate my customers, keeping the ones that are profitable and appreciate our work.”
Casino Lesson: Do you have a sense of what marketing is best for your casino and can you measure its results? Do you have a pipeline for new customers and a process for cultivating the profitable ones? Do you have trustworthy outside marketing reps and advisors who can help you negotiate the maze of 21st century marketing?
Take care of your people
“You want a good work environment and employees who enjoy coming to work. We have that here and it spills over into workmanship. I make sure my people are well taken care of and give them as many perks as I can, even as much as any big company can. If the government is closed or the bank is closed, why shouldn’t I be? We tried staying open on Saturdays, but it cost us productivity and morale.
“We didn’t have trouble finding people during the pandemic. Sure, we lost a few, but we quickly replaced them, because the word on the street is that Greg’s Garage provides good work, takes care of its mechanics, and doesn’t like screwing its customers. Mechanics hate places that screw their customers, because it reflects back on them and their work. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of you, your customers, and your business.”
Casino Lesson: Would your employees say you take care of them as well as Greg’s Garage takes care of its employees? Do they enjoy coming to work? Do you benchmark what you do for your employees against your “competitive set” only or other industries as well? Would your employees say they’re proud to work for you?
I’m sure you can get quality car-repair service at any number of shops in the Reno area. But there’s only one Greg’s Garage. I think Greg Doyle’s success story tells us that if you treat your employees well, allow yourself the tools and training to run your business professionally, know your customers and cultivate the right ones, and sprinkle in a touch of effective marketing, maybe you could be the Greg’s Garage of your own industry. And whether you’re a casino or a car repair shop, we could sure use a little more “service you can trust.”
Earlier posts by Dennis:
- I Need Help!
- Top 10 things casino players hate
- Making lemons out of lemonade
- David Kranes: The most unappreciated man in gaming
- Two Dinosaurs Walk into a Bar
- The magic of Barona
- My Top 10 big-picture casino-industry trends
- I am your customer
- The Rad Bar — If I owned a video poker bar
- Stop eroding player value
- What? You’re still alive?