The blazing hot sun beat down on Mike Vasheghani, adding to the burden of rolling a heavily loaded ice-cream cart day after day in his native Iran. It was hard work, but he was glad to do it and proud of his effort. The opportunity to make good money in his neighborhood was worth the sacrifice of toiling outside nine hours a day all summer.
He was only 8 years old.
But even at that young age, Vasheghani was an ambitious entrepreneur who sought ways to better himself. It was a pattern that would serve him throughout his life—applying hard work and tenacity to challenges and coming out on top.
As he neared adulthood, Vasheghani planned to go to college, but there were few opportunities to do so in Iran. So he came to the United States on a student visa with the intent of returning to his homeland after he graduated. But before he could do so, the 1979 Iranian Revolution brought waves of violence and oppression to his native country.
After a decade of working in the U.S. and hoping for things to change, Vasheghani decided to make America his permanent home. He opened several businesses, including car washes and hotels. But he had always wanted to build his career in the automotive world.
“I was interested in cars when I was a child back home,” he says. “I love doing technical things with cars, and I was always going to car races.”
Finally, in 1997, Vasheghani realized his dream of owning an automotive service business. He signed on with Kwik Industries to open Kwik Kar Lube and Tune of Mesquite, Texas, and the shop was turning a profit after two years.
The initial model focused on oil changes, but he had his eyes on expanding the business into a full-service auto repair shop. The agreement he had with Kwik gave him considerable freedom to do so, but the move was difficult nonetheless. Although the one-stop-shop aspect of offering full repair services can be a benefit to customers, it can be difficult to mesh such work with a quick lube shop’s promise of convenience and speed.
In addition, the small staff of his fledgling business made the move even more difficult.
“It was very hard,” Vasheghani says. “I was trying to be the manager, lube tech, customer service person, and then I’d help the mechanic. I had so many issues in the beginning, but I never gave up. Once you decide to do something, you need to stay with it. Because if you change your mind and then go a different way, you’re going to lose your career.”
Running in the Family
Vasheghani’s Kwik Kar shop is still going strong in its original location, in the middle-class suburb of Mesquite, just east of Dallas. Through hard work and perseverance, he was able to make repairs and quick lube services coexist effectively, and he continues to offer both. With eight bays and 10 employees, the shop is well equipped to handle its average of roughly 65 cars a day on the lube and inspection side, and four to eight cars per day in the repair bays.
Although he has thought about expanding to other locations, Vasheghani feels it’s best to focus all of his attention on his one original shop and make the most of it.
“I always wanted to open another shop and grow my business,” he says. “But I didn’t, because I believe one business, if you run it right, is better than having five businesses and you don’t run them well.”
More recently, Vasheghani brought his sons, Sumun and Sianak, into the business.
“I needed help,” Vasheghani says. “They started to work with me after they finished college in 2014. They were supposed to go on to get a Ph.D. and be doctors. But it was good for me that they changed their mind. The business is run far better now, because I’ve got good help. It’s much, much easier for me.”
Among the many responsibilities the two sons assumed when they joined the business is the job of marketing and promotion. They’ve tried many different methods and media, including Google ads and social media posts. But none have been nearly as effective as the time-honored method of sending reminders to existing customers.
“We’re really trying to send all our customers emails,” Sumun says. “That way, they don’t forget about the sticker on the window. They can also get an email for an oil change and a survey on how we did. Then we can monitor the surveys on Google, Brandify, and Valvoline Express Care.”
No matter what methods the Vasheghani family uses to bring in customers, it ultimately comes down to doing good work and fostering referrals.
“Word of mouth has built the foundation to where Mike doesn’t really have to stress out about marketing too much,” Sumun says. “Customers even come from Frisco, an hour away.”
To keep his clientele spreading the good word to other potential customers, the Vasheghanis strive to provide exceptional customer service, which is rooted in the quality of the company’s staff.
“The motivation comes mostly from Mike’s actions,” Sumun says. “When employees see someone from the upper level showing up every day to the shop, it says a lot about caring for the employee. They can always depend on him. When you go to lube centers where the owner is absent, there are just too many issues.”
To this platform of personal care and day-to-day involvement, Mike adds further motivation with commission-based incentives and competition bonuses for employees. The greatest testament to the effectiveness of Mike’s management and motivation methods is the shop’s low turnover.
“The average employee has been with us seven years,” says Sumun. “The longest right now is about 15 years.”
Additionally, he says they’ve had no problems hiring lately, even amid the labor shortages that are crippling many businesses as this is being written.
A Business with Heart
Mike will turn 69 this November. But that’s just a number to him—he had to stop and think for a few moments when we asked how old he is. And that says a lot about how he approaches his life and his business. It’s not about age. It’s about drive, passion, and the desire to do better.
At a point in life when many business owners would be strongly considering retirement, Mike still works six days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Granted, he’s no longer on his feet all day working in the shop. But he still has greater endurance than many people half his age.
“Mike doesn’t take any days off,” Sumun says. “He’s just always there.”
And although the Vasheghanis are quite serious about their work, it’s readily apparent that they run the business with heart and soul, as evidenced by the easygoing warmth and genuineness that flows through our conversation.
That spirit certainly isn’t lost on customers.
“After 25 years in business, I’ve still got customers that I’ve had since the beginning,” Vasheghani says. “Their families come in. Their sons come in. Their grandsons come in. Most of the people in our city know me. They trust me for my service.”
Along with Vasheghani and his sons, customers have also come to know Leo, their 150-pound Belarus-born Cane Corso Mastiff dog.
“Leo is an icon,” Sumun says. “He’s our security. He’s the mascot. He’s our brand ambassador—how we set ourselves apart.”
Besides making people smile every day, Leo pulls his weight in the business too. Sumun says that Leo can help put customers at ease during the stress of getting a vehicle repaired or serviced.
To accommodate giant Leo and the two dogs that preceded him—tiny dachshunds, ironically — Mike built a dog park behind the shop. While Leo enjoys the freedom to roam independently, other dog lovers are attracted to the business, knowing they can bring their dogs and let them enjoy the space as well.
The combined effect of all these elements is a calm, relaxed confidence—the warmth of family and the precision of a well-honed business formula that’s been developed over decades.
But that’s not to say Vasheghani is coasting. Far from it. He says that his location has the potential to grow and reach as many as 20 employees.
Vasheghani knows no other way than to put all he’s got into what he’s doing.
“It’s in my blood,” he says. “Everybody says to me, ‘Hey, slow down. You’re working too hard.’ But I can’t. I like the challenge. I want only to be better and better the next day. That’s what my goal is.
“If you believe in what you’re doing, you can make it,” Mike continues. “Running a lube center isn’t easy. I’ve seen a lot of other locations that couldn’t handle it, or they have a problem. They gave up after four or five years. You have to make a commitment to yourself.”
And the business is in good family hands.
Sumun jokes, “If Mike doesn’t want to retire at some point, I’ll have to put a defibrillator in the bays. Everyone’s going to have a lube-tech certification and an AED certification.”