TELEGRAPH BUSINESS PROFILE: Running Into Jeff
The foundation of communities the world over and in particular in small towns like Rossland are the small business owners who provide jobs and give back to the community. A great example of this, while being humble and not wanting to take too much credit, is Jeff Martin of Jeff’s Collision.
For 23 years Jeff has been operating his autobody shop in the town he and his family grew up in. Sitting down with Jeff we chatted about getting the business started, running a business in Rossland and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
So where are you from originally?
I’m born and raised in Rossland. Third generation. My grandmother lived here, my mother was born in the Rossland hospital, I was born in the Rossland Hospital, and now my kids are still here, but they were born in the Trail Hospital. That’s three full generations in Rossland.
How did you get started with Jeff’s Collision?
I got into cars after graduation from high school and started my business in ‘86. First I rented the space in the old Golf station downtown beside where the furniture store is now. I opened this shop in 1989 with the car wash with half of this current building and then added the other half five years later and I’ve been working on cars ever since.
I started with old cars but now I’m over that. If you look out the window you’ll see my old car across the road. It used to be mine and I sold it to my dad when I started my business because I needed the money and he’s kept it ever since. That was a nice car, a ’55 Chev.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business?
Being able to, I guess, provide myself with a decent living and providing service to the community with the car wash. The car wash doesn’t make any money; it’s just a service for the community.
Being able to do things for the community also. My daughter is graduating this year, so last weekend we hosted a car wash here and raised 400 bucks for the RSS Grad. I’ve been a volunteer fireman for ever, on Search and Rescue forever and I helped run the bobsled race this year. I’ve got eight employees that all make decent money, it’s not Mcdonalds money: it’s a wage you can live on.
What has been the biggest challenge over the years?
The biggest challenge is that it’s hard on your home life. I spend twelve hours a day here and I’ve been doing that for 23 years. Seven days a week you wake up and come to work. It is a lot of work so that’s a challenge.
I’ve got a book of bad ideas about two inches thick. All of the things I’ve tried that didn’t work. For example a boxliner business.
What advice would you give other up and coming entrepreneurs out there?
I think any business you get out of it what you put into it. If you’re willing to spend the twelve hours a day it’s going to come back to you. It will always come back.
Also I think Rossland really needs another car business. Anything automotive, whether it’s a detail shop or a repair shop. A mechanical shop would be number one. It would probably do very well if they put the time in. Rossland could really use a mechanic.
How have you seen Rossland’s business community change over the years you’ve been in business?
When I was a kid there were eight gas stations in Rossland. There was the Texaco out where the motel is, there was one at Red, there was the Gulf, the Shell another Texaco and a Chevron and that’s not that long ago, like 20 years ago. There were that many gas stations and one where the Library is now too. We’ve gone from a lot of automotive, repair shops and gas station and now we‘ve got one gas station and one body shop. That’s all that’s left.
Why do you think that is?
We run quite a professional operation in the sense that you’re not ashamed to drop your car off or sit in the office. Things now have gone to a dealership level so you go to the GM dealer or the Ford dealer. There’s more big corporations now and less independent shops around. Unless you are professional, you don’t survive.
Any key lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Well I don’t advertise other than with the Telegraph. I’ve got that one little ad going. I spend like 1% on advertising. It’s mostly just word of mouth and doing good work for years and years and years. Do it right, fix their car, fix it properly. If you have a problem with your car and your not happy, bring it back right away and we’ll fix it up for you.
That’s my advertising. I’m out there and everybody knows me. In the last few years I’m seeing a lot more people come in that I don’t know. There’s a lot of new people in town so that’s been good too.
What have been some of the strangest or funniest things you’ve experienced with the business?
Lot’s of times we’ll end up with two neighbours that ran into each other and they’ll both show up at the same time for estimates. That kind of thing.
What’s the next step for you down the road?
Training someone else to run the place so i don’t have to be here everyday is the next step. After that I’m not sure yet.
I want to be out at 50. I always work, so I’ll do something else. No more cars though, I’ll probably do something different. Maybe I’ll do something like helping my other friends in the industry. For example, maybe if my friend in Nakusp wants to go away for a few weeks I’ll go up and run his shop for a little bit.
For now, you can find Jeff either hard at work at his Third Avenue shop or out enjoying the outdoors, snowmobiling, spending time at Christina Lake, hunting, fishing, working on his hobby farm in Sheep Creek, volunteering at community events or spending time with his family relaxing. Next time you’re in the area give him a wave and say hello to one of the cornerstones of the Rossland business community.