Merry Christmas!

23 12 2013

Merry Christmas

Regardless of what traditions you have, personal vocations you follow, or family/friends you might have near – we’re certain the majority of you find favor in this season.

“Giving” is the spirit in the air, and that’s always a good thing.  True to this form, we’d like to make certain you know how grateful we are for all of you.  Community Automotive Repair has enjoyed a challenging but rewarding year, and we simply couldn’t have done it without you.

It is our heart’s desire that you find peace and comfort this holiday season.  May all of you enjoy the fullness of the company with your loved ones, or whomever might be fortunate to join you.

Thank you for your continued trust and confidence.

Blessings,
CAR

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Got Google?

18 12 2012

Google Logo 2010

By now we must all be aware of the Goliath enterprise known as Google.  In fact, the greater majority of people reading this post will have already used the search tool a few times today.  Suffice it to say convenience has its advantages, yet it’s important to understand the entire story.  To a small independent business, this comes at a heavy price.

In order to be established online, one simply must embrace and utilize Google.  That, in and of itself, is not wrong.  What becomes difficult, however, is the level of dependence (and ultimately control) this major company breeds.  You see, questions do not need to be asked beforehand concerning what might work best for everyone.  In other words, the developments of the Google platform are not a democratic process whatsoever.  You/we receive what is dictated to us, period.  We’ll come back to this important point in just a moment.

E-commerce has changed, and rightfully so.  No longer do people rely on their own intuition for making purchasing decisions, rather the real weight is now bore by a collective community of “reviewers.”  Businesses work hard to cultivate high quality relations, and ideally the experiences consumers have with each respective establishment will be shared among their peers and family through resources available on the internet.  This is the direction we’re headed, and it will (so far as we can tell) not change anytime soon.  We’re not sure it should either.  It’s important to gain a better understanding of why we turn to others’ opinion when it comes to making decisions of our own, and the answer there is because it provides unbiased (theoretically) points of view we may relate to one way or another.  In other words, we’re seeking consensus and weighing our options.

A second element of building an online reputation rests heavily on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), in which Google, Yahoo, Bing, YP.com, and several others come into play.  It’s inevitable that businesses invest time and resources into making sure people can find them, and we’re no different.  There is a defining characteristic, however, that makes or breaks a company’s ability to “rank” higher, and that clearly is money.  Plain and simple, in this case, as in many others in life, the Presidents of our past speak loud and clear.  Companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, Red Bull, and their counterparts… they can easily drop six figures monthly, to assure their place on “the list.”  With that said, how do small businesses compete?  Well, they strategically approach their “online footprint” in the same fashion, only with significantly less zeros at the end of their monthly bill.

OK, now let’s return to that point a couple paragraphs ago.  These “search engines” utilize what’s called an algorithm, and believe us when we tell you it is constantly evolving.  In fact, one of the key changes we’d like to highlight here is also a main reason for writing this blog entry – weight of online reviews, and more specifically how they’re recognized.  In August of 2011, Google in particular crushed the spirit of countless small businesses across the nation, including ours.  At the time, we had 179 of our customers submit qualified reviews based on the service(s) they received through our shop.  Those testimonials were displayed prominently at the top of our main Google page, adorning the site with a badge of honor that was neither freely given nor achieved without sacrifice.  Point being, our commitment to service and complete customer satisfaction earned every line of feedback we received – good, bad, or indifferent.

Come one cold morning in August of 2011, literally overnight, our viewable (without conscious effort) reviews were reduced to 17.  That’s right, 162 of our reviews were considered inferior to those left directly through Google.com’s mainframe.  They were still there, in that they didn’t disappear, but online visitors would be forced to scroll down to the bottom of the page to find them… and even then Google didn’t make that process easy.  There was reason to believe that might be the final blow, so to speak.

Enter Google + into the picture and well, you guessed it… Google decides to make more changes, once again not designed to protect or preserve small businesses.  Thus far Google’s answer to facebook has been less than impressive, but they’re committed to building on this platform.  Recent changes (implementation of Zagat scores) cater to the proposed growth of their Google + environment.  To be clear, Google used to be set up on a “star” grading system.  This is what most people recall… and honestly, what made the most sense.  I mean, when was the last time you didn’t understand the notion of 5-Star dining or hospitality?  When you read the Entertainment section in your local newspaper, does it not sink in when the critic says your highly anticipated summer blockbuster was given 3.5 out of 5 stars?  Right, and so our point is who in the world needed a different system?  Google apparently felt all of us did.

Zagat scores were intended to compile a numerical value based on Google’s ability to decipher (read as interpret, or misinterpret, as it were) each review.  In other words, a bot (short for robot, and yes… this means exactly as it sounds) scans the text left by our customers (and yours, if you’re a business owner) and decides for itself how “valuable” they might be.  Our experience has actually shown some of our most favorable reviews to be given low scores, so does anyone want to explain that to us?  If you’re wondering, we reached out to Google… and well, no comment.
_______

IT’S TIME FOR ACTION.

What does all of this mean?  We’re glad you asked.  We hope you’ve made it through this blog post and now feel better educated on how this process works.  We want this for you because it makes you a more conscious consumer, but also… make no mistake about it, we’d like your help.  Based on these changes our small business has gone from a 4.5 out of 5 star rating with 179 easy viewable reviews, to a 20 out of 30 (which is less than average) Zagat score with 51 reviews, several of which Google’s bot has scored incorrectly.

If you have a Google account (gmail, YouTube, GoogleDocs, etc), we graciously invite you to follow this link and leave our business a review directly:

CLICK HERE and you’ll find a Royal Blue radio button labeled “Write a review.”

Google will make a decision (by design) to consider your review very important, as it’s been submitted directly through their system.  Bottom line, with the ongoing developments in how we approach local commerce, small businesses NEED Google, period.  We must play by their rules and make the best of what’s available to us.

We greatly appreciate your time, trust, and confidence.  In our nearly 40 years of Community Automotive Repair serving the greater Grand Rapids community we’ve come across and have had to be flexible with countless items of change.  This definitely constitutes one of the most challenging, in terms of the importance we give online correspondence and reputation.

From all of us, to all of you… have a safe and pleasant holiday season.  Regardless of how or where you celebrate, know that we’re very grateful for you.

-CAR

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Progress

27 09 2012

It’s been almost two years since the initial concept of this expansion proposal was first discussed.  We’ve learned a great deal through this process, probably none more important than the routine intricacies and protocol that must be adhered to verbatim.  Also, it became very evident just how delicately we had to navigate each step at times so the best advice we can offer is “do your homework well ahead of schedule.”

Thank you to everyone in our immediate neighborhood and surrounding communities, especially independent local business owners.  We’re really fortunate to be members of such a forward thinking and supportive business alliance, and we can’t express enough gratitude to the East Fulton / Wealthy / East Hills / Midtown/ Eastown / Uptown areas.  Truly, we believe just about anything is possible with this group, collectively.

Phase 1 consists of making room for 10-12 additional parking spaces, something we’ve desperately needed and know will please our neighbors.  Phase 2 (which is still inconclusive) is to build out 5 additional mechanic bays.  Our business flow warrants the expansion, but given our lack of desire to relocate or open a second location, we’re limited by what real estate may be available.  Consistent efforts will be made to achieve our goal of growing this business to meet the demands of our community.  Once we have definitive updates, we’ll post them to our website.

Thanks again for hanging in there with us.  It means more than we can properly convey.





Local. Honest. Service.

30 04 2012

Our  farmers market (Fulton Street Farmers Market) is preparing to reopen Saturday.  This exciting news has us thinking about the importance of local marketplace.

Reputable pop culture site fanpop recently conducted another series of surveys.  When asked specific questions about what made The Brady Bunch or other famed sitcoms of our past the treasured icons they’ve become, the greater majority of responses described “simple, personal, relate-able, and local ” as ingredients for their mainstream success.  When you stop and think about it (and that’s what we’re asking you to do here), the latter is where it begins.  What does it really mean to be local?  Has your experience of “local” been met with “simple, personal, and relate-able?”  Let’s play further into this Brady Bunch example, where we believe the answer to at least one of these questions is easily found.

Who doesn’t remember Sam the Butcher?  What makes Sam’s character unforgettable, assuming you’ve followed along up to this point?  Some of the more popular answers offered through the fanpop survey included: “Sam was like extended family,” “Alice and the Brady family never really had to say much, Sam often knew their needs,” “Sam knew everyone in the Brady family well enough that it didn’t matter who showed up, he’d deliver every time,” and our personal favorite “Sam was the man, hands down.”  We’re not sure if that last opinion is to be read into further or if it’s just machismo, but either way it’s hard to refute.  Suffice it to say Sam was highly respected, trusted, and the person everyone turned to when there was a need for the type of services he offered.  Doesn’t that describe what most business owners would like to achieve?  Who wouldn’t want to be like Sam?

Whether it’s Sam the Butcher from The Brady Bunch, Aunt Bee of Mayberry, or perhaps even Arnold (early Pat Morita fame) from Happy Days, the aforementioned “simple, personal, and relate-able” apply across the board.  These are characters people easily fell in love with, and attributes they shared helped pave the way for many more winning formulas in television.  It’s less important who their successors might be today, rather we’d like to keep your attention on the heart of their character, respectively.

If you unpack the culture of these times and take a closer look at what worked best, you don’t really have to search further than local commerce.  Aunt Bee may be the exception but she still carried the heartfelt mentality of raising Opie, not unlike Sam and Arnold did with their patrons.  You see, in these times (fiction or not) there weren’t many national corporations competing for the attention of the public.  The “big box” places existed but careful research shows local business owners weren’t nearly as threatened (if they saw them as a threat at all) because the community at large had committed to a sustainable strategy, not the least of which was their own engagement, to promote and utilize services available through their neighborhood grocer, dentist, butcher, farmer, mechanic, doctor, etc.  How amazing would life be today if every one of us had our own “professional” when our need consisted of something we couldn’t/shouldn’t do ourselves?  We realize this isn’t Little House on the Prairie and Grand Rapids is far too vast to suggest only a few people could handle the masses, but is it wrong to be motivated by the “quality” this notion affords?  We think not.  Of course, it can be taken too far and one doesn’t have to look any further than the 1998 drama Pleasantville for the most exaggerated example of this.  After all, we’re not sure it’s a good idea for your doctor, postman, and baker to be the same person.  You get the point.

Where does Community Automotive Repair fit into these examples?  We’re glad you asked.  We contend our commitment to “local” offers an experience very similar to Arnold’s Diner or Sam’s Butcher Shop.  Our customers know we’ve served the greater Grand Rapids area since 1975, and since day one we’ve been devoted to doing so with friendly, honest, and dependable people.  Although the marketplace shifted and radical changes occurred, we’ve never strayed from our core values and continue to offer the same level of quality our customers deserve and expect.  We know and fully recognize that’s not possible without YOU.  We’re in this together.

For us, local means family.  Local also means sowing seeds into the community in which we/you live.  Local is a partnership, where business owners and people that depend on their services stand in the gap for each other.  Local is realizing your part in the equation and pursuing it with intense passion.  Local most definitely, among other things, is “simple, personal, and relate-able.”  Speaking emotionally, local is the feeling you get when you know you MATTER, when you can sense you’re not a mere statistic, and when you relate to the collective difference you’re making in the bigger picture.  Local doesn’t happen without a community.  As they say, “It takes a village…” and we’d like everyone reading this to know how much a privilege it’s been to be on this journey together.  As we discuss the future and turn to our partners, friends, and family alike, we’re deeply grateful and look forward to providing local, honest service for many years to come.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t make it a point to thank the incredible team of Local First of West Michigan for the many great opportunities to collaborate.  We decided long ago this was a movement and organization with which we placed a great deal of value, and they have truly surpassed any expectations we’ve had.  If you are in local business and haven’t already joined forces with Local First, we greatly encourage doing so today.  No business is too small or large, so long as you’re private (not publicly traded) and based in Michigan.  Local First’s 10% Shift campaign promotes and validates the ideas behind this blog entry, that the community in which we live will be a far better place if we intentionally support locally owned and operated businesses FIRST.

Consider your part.  Make a choice to save Michigan – buy local.

(Ann Arbor artist Amanda Jane Jones’ piece pictured above is for sale HERE)

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Seasons Greetings

23 12 2011

No matter how you observe this time of year, we’d like to be certain that you’re aware of our gratitude.

This is time for a lot of things, not the least of which is reflection and introspection.

To that end, we’re reminded of the many ways our lives are enriched by having you as a part of them.

So as we prepare to put a wrap (no pun intended) on 2011, know that we are equally thrilled to usher in 2012 with all of you.

We wish each of you peace and joy.

Merry Christmas from Community Automotive Repair

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Happy FrEEday!

24 06 2011

06.24.11 marks the launch of another small way we hope to give back to all of you that have supported Community Automotive Repair.

We made it clear from the beginning that we would never lobby or become political for somebody’s vote to “like” us. That said, it took a long time for us to develop a manner in which to grow this social presence and stay committed to our original core values.

In several talks we’ve had with other small businesses we’re fortunate to call neighbors, partners, and friends… we’ve arrived at one simple solution we hope meets your approval.

We’d like more people to know about us (doesn’t that go without saying?) but we don’t tolerate popularity contests. That’s why we invite you to share information about this (what will likely be one of many others to come) small promotion with other you know would directly benefit from hearing about it.

We’d like to introduce you to Free Friday (or FrEEday for short). Every Friday going forward we’re going to give you the opportunity to win a valuable service for FREE. We took a poll and found that most customers are interested in the opportunity to pay ZERO for the oil change service to be done on their vehicle. You made that clear and now it’s time to give you what you’ve requested.

We’re leading with and may stick with one FREE standard oil change service every Friday in 2011. The way this works is very easy.

*Instructions*
We’re asking at least 5% (based on our actual current amount of “fans”) of you to “like” our FrEEday post each week. That 5% number will increase as more people add Community Automotive Repair’s page to their feed (new “likes” of the page). Once that 5% mark is reached in “likes” of the FrEEday post every week, the amount of people IN WEST MICHIGAN that make up that 5% will be entered into a daily drawing for FREE service.

The more people you tell, the quicker we reach the qualifying point for the contest each week. 5% response is not difficult, especially as the total number of people following the contest increases. In the interest of full disclosure, this gives you an opportunity to share the news (and participate yourself) of FREE service(s) and it helps us grow our brand and social presence.  Bottom line, we’ve partnered with you in creating a win/win proposition.

OK, now you know how everything works… just a few conditions to cover and it’s GO time.
1) employees and their immediate family members are not eligible to win, but they may still participate if they choose
2) oil change service in particular is limited to standard, premium and synthetic options are available – customer simply needs to pay the difference in cost
3) oil offered for this promotion is limited to 5 quarts – customer to pay difference if vehicle requires additional oil
4) contest offer and rules are subject to change

Who wants FREE service(s)?

Happy FrEEday!





‘Tis the season for many things, but none more important than THANKS

22 12 2010

This isn’t the much anticipated “oil change interval” blog entry as promised but the purpose is worth (in our opinion) the short delay.  All of us here want to wish you and yours a safe and memorable holiday season.  In whatever manner you choose to observe this time, please do so with a great sense of gratitude.  Each day we face should be a blessing.  Try not to take anything for granted.

We appreciate all of you.  Thank you for the privilege of caring for your vehicle(s).  We are grateful for your trust and confidence in our team, and we look forward to another great year in 2011.

35 years and counting…

Warm regards,

Dick, Todd, Dave, Calvin, Tami, James, Andrew, Mark, Shane, and Kris

(and all our behind the scenes support staff, who rightly deserve acknowledgment)








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