As the calendar gets ready to flip to 2009, it is natural to reflect a bit on 2008.
The past year has been eventful one for Suzanne and I. I "retired" from Lexmark after nearly 14 years (I walked off the campus for the last time in November 2007, but my official departure was in February), while talking with Lowell and Betty about buying Lowell's. After many twists and turns, we completed the purchase of Lowell's at the beginning of July.
And it turned out better than we imagined: Employees, customers, and Lowell and Betty have all embraced us as the new owners of the business they built over the past 29 years.
All of our employees have stayed with us after the ownership change. Their knowledge, expertise, and patience were enormously helpful to me as I drank from the firehose to learn about Lowell's. I've been able to focus on the financial and technical details of the business, while they continue to run day-to-day operations.
I initially worried that customers might leave after Lowell and Betty retired. I shouldn't have. Our customers have been wonderful to us — it is clear that they want the business to continue to live up to its great reputation.
Lowell and Betty have also been exceptionally generous with their time and insights after the purchase. Their openness and honesty were a big part of our decision to buy Lowell's. They still come in each week to help me with questions, issues, and much-appreciated advice.
Even as the economy crumbled and business slowed, the commitment of our employees and customers has kept us relatively healthy as we see other businesses struggle.
We had a couple of disappointments this year.
The first was that one of our technicians broke his ankle in a mountain biking accident in late October. As a result, he has been unable to work on cars for a couple of months, and still has a couple of months more left on his recovery. We've been working with him to find "non-vehicular" ways he can help us from home, and he has started calling customers to follow up on the quality of our service. We've also asked him to study to improve his technical skills and increase his certification level. But we still miss his repair contribution, and we eagerly look forward to his return near the end of February.
The second was that both ACE Weekly and the Lexington Herald-Leader dropped the automotive service category from their annual readers' polls.
- After having won ACE's Best in Lex poll for "Best Mechanic" 7 times – including 2007 – ACE's editors decided to "retire" the category in 2008.
- And after winning our second Herald-Leader's Readers' Choice Award for "Best Repair Shop" in 2007, the category disappeared from the 2008 poll (We do, however, appreciate the nice write-ups this year from Herald-Leader business columnist Jim Jordan).
Over the years, these polls — coupled with the enthusiasm and loyalty of our customers — have helped us create enough credibility to attract new customers and continue to grow. So, we were sorry to see them go, and hope that "automotive service" might make a return appearance in 2009.
A Great Year
All in all, 2008 was a pretty great year for us: we finally owned our own business — and it was a good one — and we were able to work with and serve fantastic people. Who could ask for more?
[where: 111 Mechanic St, Lexington, KY 40507]