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Tim Offen Motors - Internet could bring new hope to struggling business, explains Northamptonshire garage owner

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Published: 13:42, 25 March 2013
 A GARAGE owner from Northamptonshire has told how business is so low, he is hoping the internet will boost its profile and bring an array of fresh customers.

"I haven't earned nothing this week," said 60-year-old father-of-two Tim Offen. "A hundred quid out of a Mazda MX5. That's it, all week. I'm making nothing. 45-odd years ago when I started out as a 15-year-old, you didn't even have to look for business. People came to you all the time if their car needed servicing or a bulb needed changing. But nowadays, there's nothing. It's gone. I'm just hoping the internet might help."

Tim OffenDown to earth: While Tim Offen provides an 'old fashioned service', he always sources the highest quality parts and slams many garages who use 'cheap' second-hand parts.
Tim Offen Motors prides itself on providing a good quality service to its customers and Tim hates how national franchises have encouraged customers away from independent garages and fit what he describes as 'poor quality car parts'.

Tim always sources any parts from official suppliers to ensure he gets the real item. "I normally go to main dealers. I get a discount off them and I get proper parts for the right job and the right car. They are usually quick in getting the parts to me. If I want a part for a Ford, I just ring the dealer up and if they have not got it, they find it for me in the afternoon. Nine times out of ten, I can get important parts within 24 hours."

Tim Offen

"I try to be helpful to customers," he explained. "I suppose I try to do an old fashioned type of service. Nowadays, if you go into a main dealership, they'll just wipe it round with a bit of rag and have a quick look at it and that's it done. There's no customer service."

Tim Offen

Speaking on how the internet could transform his business, he explained: "Someone put some websites on there before but they were not brilliant. They were not good ones so I'm hoping that it's going to work." Tim recently decided took the wise decision to invest heavily in marketing his business through the MotorTrades.co.uk directory and its sister online magazine, Motortrades Insight, in the hope that business will pick up as more and more drivers turn to Google to find local garages.

FROM 15-YEAR-OLD MOTORING ENTHUSIAST TO 60-YEAR-OLD MECHANIC.

"I did a Ford apprenticeship for five years, went to college and did my City and Guilds qualification. Yes, I learned a lot but nowadays it's not worth anything. The modern car is totally different from when I started," he explained, going on to emphasise how he has to be adaptable to changes in technology and is learning every day.

Tim Offen

"On average, I now do around 20 MOTs a month. I was doing quite a few more but you see, the guy straight opposite (a nearby competitor) did MOTs. But he's gone because he can't afford it. So I have to take MOTs from his old customers and wait for them to come.

Tim, who can do 'most repairs to a car', likes to get to know his customers with his friendly and sweet manner. "I have to be careful when it comes to lifting," he said.

QUALITY AND REALITY.

"People come in and they want a good job for nothing. I try to put safety first. And you tell someone they need a couple of tyres and then they ask how much it is and say 'oh no'. It just gets to you after a while. It's all going to be a competitive price everywhere.

"I priced a clutch up the week before last on a Peugeot 107 and by the time I bought a Peugeot clutch, and fitted it, it was going to be about £400 to £500. She said she could get it done for £300, including VAT. I said, okay. But they put a cheap old clutch. And she's had to have the same job done twice now."

LITTLE GADGETS.

"I've got a small car diagnostics kit here. I just plug it into the car and it will do three types of ECU readings. It tells me what is and is not working in the car. It's only for cars built from 2000 onwards though.

Tim Offen

"With the old cars, you are back to old school and guesswork. Most of the time, I prefer the old ways as it works better than this little computer. But it has definitely helped a lot. This little computer will do what a £6,000 computer will do."

YOUNG MEMORIES.

"I had a race with a guy in a DAF when I was younger. I worked with this guy who had a pick-up truck and was into Jaguar E-Types. He didn't realise that with these DAFs, the gearstick had only forward, neutral and reverse.

"One day, he said to me 'I'll give you a race in reverse'. He got in his Jaguar E-Type and I got in my DAF in a quiet car park one day. The faster this old DAF went, it changed upgear going backwards. I just left him standing. He got too many revs on the engine. And I beat him. He was so embarrassed he never spoke to me for weeks after that. He didn't realise it was going to change up gears."

"I used to have a motor home but we got rid of that and got a caravan. We go out at weekends. Or we did, when the sun shines. I used to do a bit of sea fishing every now and again. I can remember going to the south coast, near Eastbourne, and catching a bucket load of fish one night. Whiteing. It was just unreal. I threw the line in and I hadn't even put it on the stand and I got a fish straight away. I pulled that in, chucked it in the bucket, threw the rod out again and more and more came for about an hour or so."

"I try to do a good job as much as I can for anyone, no matter who it is really. But the older you get, the harder it is. But I do the best I can."

Ultimately, Tim's full-of-life enthusiasm for achieving his best - whether it is fishing or fixing a car - is what has driven his ability to run a business as a sole trader for years.

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