Name: Aaron Millman
Job: Owner, Aaron's Automotive @ 2347 Old Collinsville Road, Suite F, in Belleville (618-671-7214)
Outlook: "I'm here to make a living, but I'm not here to just make a quick buck off anybody. I'm trying to make an honest living and help take care of customers and keep their vehicles on the road."
After working for years as an auto mechanic, Aaron Millman opened his own full-service automotive shop last February. Last week, he talked to business writer Will Buss about the advantages to running his own shop:
Q: How did you get started in this field?
A: "All the way back during my high school years, I started working on my own vehicles and decided that's what I wanted to go into a career. I went to Rankin Technical College in St. Louis and graduated with honors from there. While I was going to school there, I was in a work co-op program with Dobbs, so they took me on part time and I actually stayed there for 14 years. I worked in the same location in Fairview Heights and worked my way up. For the last five or six years there I was the lead tech there in the store. I was the go-to guy. I then thought it was time for a change and I shortly worked for an independent over in St. Louis and decided driving across the river wasn't for me and sat down and talked with my wife and took a shot at opening my own business."
Q: What is the range of services you provide?
A: "I pretty much do everything from basic maintenance, from oil changes all the way up to pretty heavy mechanical repair. I'll get into head gaskets, intake gaskets, timing belts. I don't do transmissions. That's typical. Most auto repair shops source that out, even if they don't tell you, they do. Even at Dobbs, we didn't touch transmissions. It's all outsourced, other than maintenance, obviously. We can drop in a pan and a filter and stuff like that. But any kind of internal transmission work, I don't do. But I can do tires. I have a tire machine and everything in between. I do diagnostics. That's kind of what I considered myself to be when I was at Dobbs. I was the guy that got all of the check engine lights diagnostics. I'm a master technician with an L1 certification, which is for engine performance. That's what I enjoyed doing the most. I can do brakes all day long, but if you get me an electrical problem. ...I can figure out the problems that a lot of guys can't."
Q: Are you running the shop on your own?
A: "Right now it's just me. I'm a one-man show. I do everything from the front work to the estimating to doing the work myself. At least the people come through the door know that the guy you're talking to is the one who will be working on the car, which is a plus, I think."
Q: What separates your business from others?
A: "My experience and my level of certification. Like I said, I am a master tech. Throughout my career at Dobbs, they sent us to ongoing training and our parts suppliers would bring in trainers and offer training. Sometimes they do it for free and sometimes you have to pay for it. Any chance or opportunity I get to go learn from somebody, I take."
A: "I was just at one and the trainer made a statement that across the nation, a percentage of technicians who attend after-market training is around 10 percent or less. And that kind of blew me away. I think that's kind of sad in our industry that a lot of guys that just don't want to learn anything new. With the way technology in the cars are changing so much, there's a lot of guys out there just stuck in their old ways and they're going to fall off by the wayside because as soon as the older vehicles are (gone), they're not going to be able to work on there. Everything is computerized and electronic. And if you don't know what you're doing, you could actually end up messing something up more than you can helping it."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 618-239-2526.