An Industry with Roots

July 1, 2024
Exploring the familial connection to quick maintenance.

Some family trees have branches that extend to include more than just people. Look at the top of the tree and you may just find a family shop that ties everyone together.  

These shops can leave a lasting impression. But why is the familial connection so strong in automotive specifically? How does it shape the work that’s being done in the industry each day? NOLN looked at two family-oriented examples to find out.  

Generational Appeal

Pro Lube in Rigby, Idaho, is a shop built from old growth. Blair Hill, who has been working in the oil and lube industry since the 1990s, started Pro Lube in 2019 after managing another shop for many years.

But Pro Lube wasn’t a solo venture. Blair and his son Jordan, who is the shop’s operations manager, have built the business together.

Jordan originally started working alongside his father when he was 14 years old. It’s no surprise that he started young, as he grew up on the family’s three-generation farm watching his father and grandfather work on machinery.

Pair that with the work his father was doing managing a shop at the time, and the automotive industry connection was inevitable.

“From a young age, at the time I was 6 and 7 (years old), I remember tearing carburetors apart on snowmobiles and dirt bikes and taking old parts off of old dead machines and throwing them on one that worked,” Jordan Hill says.

Hill has had three jobs in his life—and at 28 years old, he says he knows this industry is where he’s meant to be.

“To me, this is home,” Hill says. “This is what I do and what I enjoy.” 

Serving the small community of Rigby is fulfilling for Hill, as his father’s established career in the industry has allowed Pro Lube to see entire families of customers come through its bays.

“We changed grandpa’s oil and now his kids and ... his grandkids are our customers,” Hill says. “So, we’ve gotten to know a lot of our returning customer base for generations.” 

Hill says customers appreciate the family dynamic of the shop. When they come for an oil change, it’s not just an oil change. It’s an opportunity to make a personal connection and check in with one another.

“We’re building friendships and catching up on old memories,” Hill says.

Hill learned about the importance of genuine customer service by watching his father interact with people—and those aren’t the only relationships that are strong. Hill says he and his father simply work well together.

“Our dynamic and our relationship is really awesome,” Hill says. “A lot of times, you hear of family businesses that don’t work out—the father/son relationship thing doesn’t really work. Luckily, in our situation it’s awesome. Him and I are both like-minded (and) have the same drive, motivation, (and) the same end goal.”

Their working relationship is part of what motivates customers to return. Hill says customers will drive from outside of the Rigby area to get their oil changed, not because there isn’t anything closer to them, but because of the way they’re treated at Pro Lube—like family.

“If you need help or you’re in trouble, the first people you’re going to go to (are) your family. You’re not going to run to some total stranger and ask for help,” Hill says. “You’re going to go to somebody that you know that you trust; somebody that you can confide in.” 

The Pro Lube priority is to have customers leave the shop with a smile on their face, says Hill. Establishing trust is a big part of this approach.

“When our customers come in here, they know they’re getting taken care of. They know that they’re getting a quality service,” Hill says. “They know that if they leave our shop, they can go on a 2,000-mile road trip without a hiccup—and that’s what we want. That whole aspect right there, that’s our goal. That’s what we strive for.” 

The emphasis on relationship building is part of what helped inspire Hill to dedicate himself to the quick lube industry long-term. He says taking care of people and their cars while hearing their stories is part of who he is as a person and is what he wants to spend his time doing.

“That really sparked a desire within myself to stay in this industry and keep building that dream that my dad instilled in me from a young age,” Hill says.

A saying often conveyed at Pro Lube is that you shear a sheep 1,000 times but you can only skin a sheep once—and Hill’s not in the game of skinning sheep.

“Those family values of doing an honest job and those kinds of things are what keeps you in business and what builds a business,” Hill says.

People don’t want to feel like a number, Hill says—they want to feel important. He describes the feeling he has after a busy day at the shop when every customer leaves happy and they tell other people about their great experience.

Word-of-mouth marketing is a major consideration at Pro Lube. Hill says it’s as either “your biggest advertisement or your biggest downfall.” That’s why it’s an honor in his eyes to be recommended by others. 

“To have somebody trust you and appreciate you enough to refer their friends and family to you is more rewarding than anything,” Hill says.

Ultimately, it all ties back to that family atmosphere and having a service-forward mindset. Investing effort into customers by treating them like family means they’ll do the same in return.

“If you’re focused on those family values and doing a great job ... the community will take care of you,” Hill says. 


The Heart of It

Scott Accardo has a deeply rooted connection to SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service, where he currently serves as the vice president of operations.

It started in the 1980s during Accardo’s childhood in Louisiana. His father opened the very first SpeeDee franchise location. Early exposure to the SpeeDee model allowed Accardo to learn and gain shop skill sets.

“You name it, I did it,” Accardo says of the tasks he performed. “My dad always told me that you’ll never move up in the company until you master the one below you.”

Accardo started on courtesy—washing windows, vacuuming, and the like. From there, he moved to the pit. Then he went under the hood. Eventually, he became ASE certified.

Growing up in the shop environment, Accardo witnessed all the ins and outs of the automotive aftermarket, which, like any other industry, has its ups and downs.

“One thing I’ll say is, it’s not ... always perfect. It’s not always the easiest job to do. So, there are a lot of challenges in there,” Accardo says. “And it was stressful at times.” 

His father didn’t shy away from showing the “not-so-good times,” like when the shop would have a bad week but still had payroll to make. Accardo says seeing this helped show how the bad and good can go together.

Shop life also helped build his people skills by learning how to talk to customers from an early age. His father also encouraged him to take the Dale Carnegie Training Course, which revolves around themes of professional development and public speaking. Accardo graduated with 100% attendance, and it helped boost his confidence even more.

“If you’re not interested in talking to the consumers, this is not the job for you, because we want to be out there talking to the customers,” Accardo says. 

What started as one shop turned into three locations under his family’s purview—and the day eventually came when a manager position opened. Accardo says he’ll never forget when his father approached him with the job offer.

“And of course, me being me, I always want to learn something new,” Accardo says. “So, I jumped into the position in a second—wanting to do it. So, then I was managing the store.”

As time went on, Accardo says his father would step away from tasks around the shop and allow Accardo to step into them. Accardo took over the operational side and his sister did the books until she left the business.

“I’ve pretty much done every single job that’s in a quick lube because I would never expect anyone to do something in the store that I hadn’t done before,” Accardo says. “And I’m a big believer on that.” 

Jumping in to do any task is something that Accardo says goes a long way. He says when employees see their bosses in the pit, greeting the customer, and spending all day in the shop, they have an increased inspiration of dedication to the business.

This type of dedication is something Accardo himself held onto, even when he went to college and received a degree in criminology. He says he felt a “tug” to rejoin the family business. It was something he truly wanted to return to, despite exploring the possibilities of a different career. 

Two major things pulled him back in: one being the desire to continue working with his family, and the other being the strong customer base. He paid special attention to cultivating lasting customer relationships.

“My goal was for the customer to not just ask for me, but ask for anybody that was employed there,” Accardo says. “And that was a huge success that I did at the store, was getting those customers to come in and say, ‘Where’s Scott? Where’s Mike? Where are these individuals? Oh, they’re off today? OK, I’ll come back tomorrow.’”

Accardo learned from his father not to be afraid to be a “tester,” as he puts it. His father would try new ideas at the shop and learn from how well each approach worked.

“So, that was a huge experience in my life, knowing to step outside the box and take those chances,” Accardo says. “Not all of them are going to work out, but you learn from your mistakes.” 

Accardo stepped even further out of the box when he ultimately left his family’s store for a job with SpeeDee corporate, where he helped grow SpeeDee locations. Accardo says whenever a new location would open, he’d call up his father and tell him the news.

“He was so proud of growing the SpeeDee name, that it just made me proud of what I did,” Accardo says. “And my dad was a huge supporter of whatever I did, but growing the SpeeDee system was something that we really took to our hearts because we had been doing it since the beginning.”

Accardo says spending a career in a shop setting has been rewarding. He’s formed meaningful bonds with customers and seen other franchisees succeed firsthand—just like his father did.

“The word ‘care’ goes a long way, especially in today’s industry, because when the franchisee is at the store and the customers can talk to them, they know that they’re there—they’re watching over their business, they care for their customers, and they’re there to solve any problem if they were to have one right then and there," Accardo says.  

Accardo has used what he refers to as GEMS (Greeting Enhancement Mechanisms) to cultivate this bond. He introduces himself and talks to people as a friend—oftentimes bringing up topics of conversation that have nothing to do with the work performed on the vehicle. It makes a difference.

Accardo says family-owned shops can find success with longtime customers because when they see a family running a business, they feel a connection—and “a family member wants to deal with a family.”

His family-first experience with the industry not only formed some of his experiences growing up, but also led to a fruitful career with the SpeeDee name—learning, growing, and making it his own while remaining connected to how he got there.

“I’ve always wanted to make a name for myself. I wanted to show others what I was capable of accomplishing,” Accardo says. “Anything that was put in front of me—I didn’t run from it, I spearheaded it. And I wanted to make sure that I could either solve the problem or learn from the mistakes.”

About the Author

Hanna Bubser | Editor

Hanna Bubser is the editor of National Oil and Lube News and has been writing about the automotive aftermarket since 2022. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a teenager, she drove a green 1996 Jeep Cherokee that was previously used as a forest service vehicle. Currently, she drives a 2019 Subaru Impreza. She's an avid bumper sticker collector and loves adorning her vehicle with brightly-colored conversation starters. 

Teryl Jackson Photography
Courtesy of Glenn Ables
Illustration 158628704 © Woodhouse84 | Dreamstime.com
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez