Shop Profile: Minneapolis Repair Shop Continues to Grow Even During Recession

Shop Profile: Minneapolis Repair Shop Continues to Grow Even During Recession

Revenue at Good Carma in Minneapolis, MN, was up 37 percent in 2009. The shop, which specializes in VW and Audi repair, has a strong customer following and these satisfied customers help bring in new customers by distributing the shop's promotional magnets.

Revenue at Good Carma in Minneapolis, MN, was up 37 percent in 2009. The shop, which specializes in VW and Audi repair, has a strong customer following and these satisfied customers help bring in new customers by distributing the shop’s promotional magnets.

Below is the article as it appeared on the Star Tribune website.

Minneapolis’ Good Carma goes the extra mile for VW, Audi owners
Auto repair shop geared to customers, even if it means scrapping their cars

By Dick Youngblood

Good Carma Inc.

Business: Auto repair business focused on Volkswagen and Audi repairs.
Founded: 1997
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Executives: Owners Liz and Bill Jaap
Employees: 7
2009 revenue: $820,000, up 37 percent from $600,000 in 2008. On track to reach $1 million in 2010.
Quote: "You do things right and down the line things work out for you. That’s where the karma comes in." — Bill Jaap

bill and liz jaap (dick youngblood, star tribune)When Bill Jaap opened his northeast Minneapolis Volkswagen and Audi repair shop in 1997, he vowed to go out of his way to satisfy his customers.

We’re talking a long, long way, as it turns out.

Consider the Twin Cities lady whose aging VW van broke down in Fargo, N.D., and called Jaap to coach a mechanic unfamiliar with the vehicle’s unusual mechanical configurations on how to repair it.

When that failed, Jaap hooked up a trailer to his van and drove 250 miles to Fargo to pick up the ailing vehicle and his weary customer.

His charge for the trip: The price of the gasoline he used.

But there was a payoff, Jaap insisted: "She told a lot of people about it, and that meant business down the line."

All of which reflects Jaap’s corporate slogan — "What Goes Around Comes Around" — and the name he gave his company: Good Carma Inc.

OK, so he misspelled Karma, the Buddhist concept of how people’s actions and conduct determine their destiny. But he did it on purpose, to reflect the nature of his business: cars … Carma … get it?

Add it all up and you get a business that grew 37 percent during the 2009 recession, to $820,000, and is on track to add another 22 percent jump in 2010, to about $1 million.

However you misspell it, Good Carma is an uncommon operation on several levels.

There’s the commitment to customer service, which means no unnecessary repairs, offering clients lower bills with the use of used parts whenever feasible and advising — nay, often insisting — that they junk or trade in vehicles that are not worth the price of fixing.

When it’s time to let go
The latter can be a difficult process, Jaap said, given the peculiar attachment some VW owners have to their vehicles.

You think I’m joking? They even give them affectionate names: Xanadu, Magic Bus and Margaret (Gretta, for short) are a few Jaap has encountered.

So, when it comes to a customer making the decision to abandon a beloved heap of scrap metal, Jaap resorts to what he calls "grief counseling," and even a bit of a "bereavement ceremony" that includes a few solemn words ("She’s been a good old car, but it’s time to let her go") and a final visit to reminisce.

Example: Karen, a Minneapolis customer, kept repairing her aging VW Passat because of its "sentimental value," having given birth to her second child in the vehicle’s passenger seat. When the auto needed a new engine, however, which would have cost about $2,500, Jaap was adamant that she not waste her money.

It took the lady a week and a half and several phone calls to Good Carma for "counseling" before she finally agreed — at which point Jaap invited her to bring her kids down for a photo shoot and a final farewell.

In the end, the big difference is Jaap’s willingness to go the extra mile(s) for a customer.

There was, for example, the European couple who had flown to the West Coast in the summer of 2008 and bought an ancient VW pop-up camper with the idea of driving it back across the United States.

They got as far as the Twin Cities when the engine died, then were towed to Good Carma late one midsummer afternoon. Told that repairs couldn’t be made until the next day, they asked if they could camp in Jaap’s parking lot.

"But the temperature was in the 90s and the humidity wasn’t far behind," Jaap said. So he loaded the couple in his van and took them home to spend the night.

Jaap’s wife, Liz, a partner in the business and Good Carma’s bookkeeper, was unfazed: "It was an interesting experience for the whole family," she said.

Or consider the Liberian immigrants whose Passat wagon was making odd sounds under the hood. The problem turned out to be valve damage that augured a $3,000 repair bill.

Because a breakdown was imminent, Jaap drove them home to Brooklyn Park, using the time to persuade them to trade in the damaged vehicle.

‘The Magnet’
Jaap’s experience with repair shops that sold unneeded repairs or otherwise took advantage of their customers inspired his customer-first approach — one result of which is that his customers help him promote the business.

Which brings us to "The Magnet," a truly inspired promotional scheme. Jaap invests about $1,500 a year in stacks of small vinyl magnets carrying the company’s name, address, telephone number and the "What Goes Around" slogan. Customers grab the magnets by the handfuls and attach them next to the door handle of every VW and Audi they see.

"We get at least five new customers a month this way," Jaap said. And very few complaints.

When they’re not distributing magnets, customers are busy writing thank-you notes.

Patrick Bayle of Minneapolis, for example: "Car repair is never a fun thing, but at Good Carma they ease the pain as much as possible [with] quality, reliable work at a reasonable price," he wrote. "In an age where it seems everybody is out to get the most money for the least effort, Good Carma has shown this customer that honesty and work ethic are still alive and well."

And Jennifer Burt of Eden Prairie: "You guys raise the bar on customer service."

And my favorite, from Todd Bardal of Minneapolis: "Thanks for all the help in perpetuating the love/hate relationship I have with my Audi," he wrote. "Love the vroom, hate the repairs.

"Hope I don’t see you soon," he added, "but if I do I know I’ll be treated fairly and get great service."

To read this article on the Star Tribune website, visit

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