Rodrigo wanted to implement processes to improve quality of life for employees so that their work was more productive and genuine, customers felt more satisfied coming into the store, and a sense of community was created.
Based in Hayward, CA, DNA Motor Lab provides maintenance, upgrades, and repairs for motorcycles and scooters, both in their garage and via roadside service. We met Rodrigo Cedeño Jr. when he was still an employee at DNA Motor Labs and had the opportunity to purchase the company. He couldn’t get funding from a traditional bank, and secured a $100,000 loan from Pacific Community Ventures (PCV) to help finance the acquisition.
Rodrigo was paired with pro-bono advisor Ryan Rasieleski, a Revenue Portfolio Analyst at Northland Investment Corporation. Ryan’s skills in finance, business development, and scaling operations aligned very well with Rodrigo’s business challenges. Additionally, Ryan’s passion for auto body shops along with his entrepreneurial experience made him an exceptional fit as Rodrigo’s advisor. Rodrigo’s goal was to expand his business in a financially healthy way.
Ryan began by helping Rodrigo take control of his finances and formalize his bookkeeping using software tools such as Commanderne and Quickbooks to analyze the business’ performance. Ryan suggested ways in which Rodrigo could cut expenses, allocate spending capital, and improve budgeting. Together they also created a plan to hire two employees – a mechanic/technician and a customer service employee to help write estimates and manage appointments.
DNA Motor Labs is also a participant in PCV’s Good Jobs, Good Business Toolkit launch pilot program, an initiative to provide business owners with the resources they need to create and offer quality jobs. When the pilot began, Rodrigo had recently purchased the company and was asking strategic questions: How are we going to grow? How are we going to continue doing what we’re doing, but do it better? The Toolkit provided Rodrigo and Ryan with a resource to analyze the business and prioritize changes from an employee perspective.
Rodrigo wanted to implement processes to improve quality of life for employees so that their work was more productive and genuine, customers felt more satisfied coming into the store, and a sense of community was created. Rodrigo and Ryan used the toolkit as a guideline to set their meeting agendas to brainstorm ways to improve Rodrigo’s operations.
They determined that focusing on employee retention by investing in professional development would benefit both: DNA’s employees and the business. With Ryan’s guidance, Rodrigo analyzed his profit and loss statement and KPIs to uncover what job quality investments they could make that would be most cost efficient and immediately available for reinvestment in the business so DNA could continue growing. Ryan stated: “Good Jobs, Good Business gets the owner really thinking about what’s important from a business perspective, and what can we influence now to make a big difference.”
Rodrigo created a short term goal of establishing performance development meetings to show continuous improvements, celebrate victories, and build camaraderie so that employees understand their value to DNA. Rodrigo also established regular staff meetings to touch base with everybody, air out any concerns, and foresee future problems on any given project.
During weekly staff meetings, Rodrigo is able to productively highlight areas of improvement for staff members that are relevant to other staff members. For example, one technician regularly left keys in bikes when he was done working on them. At the shop, it’s important to put the keys back in the key box so that they don’t get lost and others can find them. Therefore, this was an area of improvement that could be highlighted for all to remember in the weekly staff meeting.
While it is early for Rodrigo to be able to point to quantifiable results, he is committed to investing in his employees because he believes this is part of his competitive advantage. Besides his staff, another of DNA’s competitive advantages are high-quality goods that Rodrigo prices competitively. When he looks at other bike shops, he doesn’t see a significant amount of product differentiation; instead, he sees his customer service and engagement as a key differentiator, meaning that the employees he hires and how he treats and trains them is key to his value proposition. Rodrigo believes that this is why so many of his customers are not only return customers but also want to come volunteer in the shop – this is what makes DNA unique. Furthermore, employees at other shops want to come work for DNA.
Moving forward, Rodrigo has several plans for how to continue improving the employee experience at DNA:
- Streamline and formalize training and development; this will also include looking into how Rodrigo can provide credentialing / certification to employees for the programs that they go through at DNA
- Develop employee handbook so that all employees have a clear understanding of the policies and procedures at DNA
- Work with bookkeeper to review financials; part of this review will include determining whether Rodrigo has budget to set aside for employee meetings and outings to strengthen culture
Rodrigo also has several goals for the growth of his business, and he and Ryan are eager for Rodrigo to train and develop Rodrigo’s employees to the point where Rodrigo can step away from his business to be able to work on business development, or even take time off. By focusing on the employee experience, Rodrigo is taking important steps ensuring that his employees are set up for success in their growth and development at DNA.
Rodrigo is taking the necessary steps to foster a strong company culture. His transparency and desire to provide an ever-improving workplace have transformed DNA’s environment. Rodrigo finds his employees to be happier, feeling less alone in their challenges, less stressed, and more at ease. Rodrigo hopes to see employee satisfaction improve as he invests in his employees over the course of the pilot and beyond.
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