COMMUNITY FIRST

In this series of articles, Automotive Repairers Council of Australia (ARCA) convener, Mike Smith, will take a look at issues that will affect automotive repairer workshops and topics of interest to the sector including occasional profiles of mechanics and other key personnel. msmith@aaaa.com.au

The family owned and run Ashbury Service Centre is known not only for its outstanding service and quality of work, but also for its commitment to its community

This commitment has seen the business and its members recognised alongside the ‘goliaths’ of its region time and time again.
Nicole Kastner is one of those members, recently being awarded as 2018’s ‘Outstanding Inner Western Woman of the Year’ by the respected organisation Western Sydney Women in recognition of her success in business and her community work.
In part due to her work, Ashbury Service Centre has also been recognised as a finalist in the 2018 Australian Small Business Champion Awards – which has also listed Nicole’s brother and Ashbury Service Centre lead mechanic Danny Cardoso as a finalist for its Young Small Business Champion Entrepreneur Award. These nods of approval follow on from the business receiving numerous nominations in 2017 and its winning of the Local Business Awards in 2016.
“My parents came over to Australia when I was only nine months old and none of us spoke any English. My dad worked hard and was on the verge of retirement when Danny decided to take up the trade with an apprenticeship at a local dealership,” Nicole explains.
“Dad decided to keep working for a couple of extra years and when Danny got to his final year of his apprenticeship, they decided to rent out what was a truly terrible space to start what is now Ashbury Service Centre from basically nothing. We have a clear memory of one day where the only work we performed was repairing the flat tyre of a passer-by’s bicycle – we weren’t even comfortable charging for it!
“Ashbury Service Centre started off as a family business, and today is still family-owned and operated. When we started out, I manned the customer service desk, while my younger brother Danny and my father Manuel were the two mechanics.
“After a lot of hard work and dedication and quality workmanship, the word of mouth started to spread, and we were able to purchase a building around the corner a few years later where we set up shop.
“That is where we really started to succeed and grow and now we have a team of four on the floor, a full-time receptionist and a great base of return clients; are being recognised for awards sponsored by the likes of KPMG and nominated alongside huge names like the Western Sydney Wanderers and the Parramatta Eels; and are seeing our people recognised too – Danny for instance is only 28 and after starting to run the floor at only 21 is now being recognised as a finalist in prestigious awards.”

Nicole’s role in the business has grown too, from working on the customer service desk to now managing the business’ marketing and promotions, handling all finance and creating a strong customer service program; as well as work which all at the business hold very close to their hearts – working with the local community.
“We want to change the stereotype of the local mechanic as somewhere scary or intimidating, especially for those who aren’t ‘car people’,” Nicole explained.
“We have a family-friendly reception area stocked full of kids’ toys, we send hand-written notes to all of our new customers, and all customers get a two-week follow-up call to make sure they are happy with the work performed and the service received.
“We also offer a free courtesy car, free road-side assistance and free pick-up and drop-off service, call our customers when their registrations are expiring, and it’s not uncommon for us to see a customer out and about with a broken tail light, so we will give them a call to let them know and invite them back in.
“Our mechanics are also trained up to be child seat installers and we offer this service at a discounted price. It doesn’t cover our time, but it is important to us to see our community having their car seats installed correctly and its children safe.
“We all live local, have grown up local, went to local schools and work local – our community is very important to us and we are very pleased to be able to serve it however we can.
“On top of all of that, we focus on supplying the best quality workmanship we can – Dad and Danny supervise a team with a focus on training and up to date equipment, and we can do that because we have that strong repeat customer base.
“At the end of the day, I think we are more than a mechanic, we are a one-stop shop for all of your vehicle’s needs and we ensure that all of the finer details are taken care of.
“We have an average of five stars after eight years of business across all review sites, and I think that is due to not only our workmanship, but also the lengths we go to be a valuable part of our community and truly help and connect with our customers.”

Nicole has also personally created and established a ‘Ladies Car Care Course’, designed by a woman, for women.
“I run the car course in conjunction with Danny and together I feel that we can provide the perfect combination of technical knowledge and accessibility,” Nicole explained.
“The course is basically a sell-out every month.”
The work of Nicole and Ashbury Service Centre to support the community isn’t limited to its business services either, with a number of charitable key projects underway.
These include special courses for the community, working pro-bono with those who need it, and most recently, working with the local Men’s Shed to establish a portable free community mini-library which will be hosted out the front of the business.
“I am very excited about a project we are working on right now to establish a free mini-library for the community, which will be on wheels and located outside of our business. The local Men’s Shed is working with us to make this a reality and I can’t wait to have it up and running,” Nicole explained.
“We are also very proud to be working with important women’s charity Share the Dignity – we are one of the first automotive workshops to act as a collection point for their fundraising drives and just recently we drove around the city in a Ferrari and collected up pre-organised donations. The amount we were able to receive was just astronomical and amongst the highest in our area.
“From the early onset of our business we have always worked with the mantra of treating every customer as family – as a result, we have seen the community embrace us and we are very humbled by their support, it is our honour to be able to give back to them.”

For more on Ashbury Service Centre, please visit www.ashburyservicecentre.com.au or www.facebook.com/AshburyServiceCentre