Woodward Auto

Woodward Auto

Great Teamwork Helps a Small Business Grow

August 2011

Entrepreneurship requires determination, patience and fortitude.  These qualities help an entrepreneur get through the very early-stages of the business and when times get tough.  John Mihelich, owner of Woodward Auto, has demonstrated what it means to have these qualities and built his automotive business into a successful entrepreneurial endeavor.

Woodward-Auto-300x232Mihelich has not always been an entrepreneur.  He began his automotive career as a service technician for a European dealership in Birmingham.  His goal was to open his own automotive facility, which he fulfilled in 1988 when he leased a building on Woodward Avenue.  The business was initially just himself and his office manager, Cindy Glaspie, who “has been with us since the beginning.”  In 2000, they celebrated the Grand Opening of their new automotive facility that Michelich designed and built on Woodward Avenue, which services all of his customers’ automotive needs.  The dealership now offers car sales as well as service, repair, accessories, restoration and storage.  The business currently employs 10 full-time staff members.

Mihelich needed a loan to help with building his new location, so he contacted the Oakland County SBA office about their 504(a) loan program.  “We had a great team to work with,” stated Mihelich.  “Together we reviewed the program step-by-step to get the work done to make it happen and now we are halfway through the program.”  In addition, Mihelich was intrigued by the business training sessions provided by the Southeast Michigan region of the MI-SBTDC.  Along with attending several training sessions, Mihelich participated in the Fiscal Fitness program and began working with a MI-SBTDC consultant and Oakland County Business Center ­director, Lola Aré, on their marketing plan.

“We did not have a marketing plan initially.  I’ve always gone with my instinct with regards to our marketing.  But Lola helped us establish a marketing strategy that could help us better target our audience.  We now have programs for different times of the year and we offer incentives based on customer and seasonal needs,” said Mihelich.  They also worked on identifying and marketing some of their key differentiators.

In addition, Mihelich met with Chris Olzem, a Finance and Strategy Specialist with the SBTDC, to go over the company’s financials and identify their corporate needs.  “Chris has been a great resource to us.  He was an integral part in assisting us with the renewal of the company’s real estate and lines of credit,” Michelich commented.  “He has also provided us with a way to review our financial information quickly and easily. It allows our company to identify any problems before they happen.”

Olzem comments the work of Michelich and his team.  “I am impressed by the company’s willingness to adapt and improve their operations by challenging the mechanics and efficiencies of the in-house processes that have evolved throughout the past 20 years.  In the last four months, they have had many discussions with their business manager, their CPA, as well as the MI-SBTDC counselors, regarding ways to improve the overall financial strength and ultimately, the profitability of the company.”

While times in the automotive industry have been rough, Mihelich continues to set high goals for the company.  “We are looking at possibly expanding our facility to a second location.  We are always setting goals.  It never stops,” he noted.

Having built the business from just a small operation, Mihelich also provides some great advice for other entrepreneurs.  “Bear down and stick with it.  Set your goals, understand your financial situation and take advantage of all the great programs and support the MI-SBTDC had to offer!”

Learn more about Woodward Auto at woodwardauto.com