Marina Motors started life as a love story. The former owner of the garage ran a petrol forecourt where he fell head over spanner in love with a young pump attendant called Marina. He named the garage after her and it has stuck to this day.
Phil Guest inherited the ‘shop when the lovestruck owner asked him to run it as a partnership. Phil had started in the trade at a young age: “I worked at a scrapyard as a kid and then started stock car racing when I was about 15. We had an old Hillman Minx which we used to race.
“That had a big influence on me, on what I wanted to do. I applied for an apprenticeship and I got one with the biggest franchised dealer in West Yorkshire. I got on their racing team as well. We used to go all over with the team.”
The site has grown and expanded in the 42 years Phil has been there, but it’s only in the past few that he’s taken the decision to become a member of the Bosch Autocrew network: “We were asked to be a Bosch service centre about 12 years ago. We had just rebranded the whole site and we didn’t want to re-sign the place. Autocrew kept asking, however, so eventually we said yes.”
Phil says the technical backup and support from Bosch is very good, but he hasn’t seen any work materialise from the group’s deal with the RAC.
Marina Motors isn’t short of work, though. Phil says his business is built on three strands: from the local housing estates; West Yorkshire Police; and 1Link lease company work.
“We have a massive customer base and we just keep going. Our accountant can look at our month-on-month figures and tell us what we’ll bring in. It’s predictable like that.”
Equally predictable is the sort of work Marina Motors is turning over when CAT visits in winter. Batteries, batteries, batteries. So many of them, in fact, that the business has won a Bosch competition for selling batteries and invested in new testing equipment. “The tester proves the condition of the battery, the starter and the alternator,” says Phil. “It’s peace of mind for the customer if everything’s alright, and extra work if it identifies a problem.”
Extra work is always welcome, but in an area as crowded as this it’s also hard to come by. Phil has grown his business through loyalty, both from his customers and to his factors. While he gets most of his parts from nationals already in the town, there’s also a regular account with a local factor down the road.
Customers coming through the door are met by any one of three office staff. With a third of his workforce working on reception Phil admits it’s overkill, but seeing to a customer fast is part of his business plan. Advertising is key, too: “The thing with business is that you have to be thinking outside the box all the time. We’re always running campaigns, for discounted MOTs or discounted service. We blitz advertise air conditioning or winter servicing. We’re always doing leaflet drops and things like that.”
Marina Motors has a number of strategies to fall back on if work from the public dries up in any triple dip recession that might hit us. There’s a recovery side to the business and a steady stream of work from other local garages that either can’t do a job or have done something wrong.
This is welcome extra work for Phil, but it does worry him, too: “The problem is that anyone can open a place and say it’s a garage. There was a workshop which opened nearby, and we thought we would lose work. In fact we’ve gained work from it because we have to keep fixing their mistakes.”
Marina Motors has also found glory in being a CAT Award Finalist this year.
Phil believes there’s only one option left for workshops: “I think formal licensing is the only way now, it will happen. It needs a government body to take over. There are lots of places out there that don’t know what they’re doing.
“If someone says you have to have a license, I would be all for it. It would finish the people who are putting lives at risk. It’s not all about making money. How do I know everyone else is doing a good job?” How indeed.