Jerry Holcom’s impact on the industry is undeniable!
By Tess Owings
Photos by Aaron Lindberg
TO KNOW JERRY HOLCOM IS TO LOVE HIM.
“He’s unrelenting and what he’ll give—it’s unending. He will drop everything he is doing to help a peer, a competitor,” Chris Chesney, vice president of training and organizational development for Reparify, says of the owner of S&S Service Center.
“That’s the beautiful thing about this industry,” Chesney goes on to say. “We have competitors but we’re willing to help our brother. We don’t see that in other industries. [We have it] because it’s modeled after people like Jerry, that’s why MWACA became MWACA.”
Holcom has a list of awards and accomplishments that could make even the most ambitious of us feel slightly inadequate, including running a successful shop, co-founding VISION, 883 Automotive Management Institute credits, and being the president of MWACA, but perhaps his greatest accomplishment is the effect that he’s had on people within the industry, like Chesney.
“He’s one of my favorite people on the planet,” Chesney says.
THE EARLY YEARS
Holcom, like many, grew up in the automotive repair industry. When Holcom was five, he received a Stromberg carburetor and would spend hours taking it apart and putting it back together. When he was old enough, Holcom began helping out in his father’s shop, Holcom Auto Service (which would later become S&S Service Center) in Kansas City, Missouri, pumping gas. The shop was a huge part of Holcom’s upbringing, he even learned how to drive on the company truck.
Holcom didn’t take over the shop right away. In fact, he turned down his father when he was offered the shop at the age of 22. Holcom knew at the time that he wasn’t ready to run a shop. So, Holcom’s father, Howard Holcom, sold it to George Solomon and Bill Schwindt who renamed it S&S Service Center. Holcom stayed on to work at the shop for a few years and then went to work at a Chevrolet dealership. In 1982, Holcom found out that Schwindt would be moving and selling S&S, and he decided the time was right to purchase the shop. So, along with a financial partner, he became the owner of S&S Service Center.
A PARTNER FOR LIFE
S&S has been a second home for Holcom. He grew up in the shop and it’s been the place where he learned to work on and diagnose vehicles—his passion. It’s also the place where he met the love of his life, his wife, Kris.
The night before Thanksgiving in 1976, Holcom stopped by S&S with one of his friends to let Schwindt know what they were doing for the night. Kris happened to be dropping off her car at the time and Schwindt encouraged her to tag along.
“I had nothing else to do, I knew Bill and they were all good friends,” Kris says. “So when he said go with, I knew they were good guys.”
They went out and had a great time. Since Kris had dropped her car off, they took her home and that’s when Holcom and Kris realized they lived in the same apartment building. For years they had lived a few feet from one another and never realized it. Two years later, they were married.
Holcom says that Kris has supported him in everything that he’s done and he would not be where he is today without her. Kris volunteers at VISION and loves the opportunity to work with him and see him in his element. She loves that he has a passion for what he’s doing.
“You can tell when he gets home [from work] that he feels good about it and it makes me happy,” Kris says.
Today, there’s a multitude of training options for the automotive repair industry. From trade shows to publications to conferences, it’s relatively easy to get the information that you need to further your career. That wasn’t always the case. And, for someone like Holcom who craves knowledge, that wasn’t acceptable.
In 1990, Holcom met Bob O’Connor, the founder of the first Bottom-Line Impact group. He was inspired by what O’Connor was doing and, along with Doug Stoll, the then owner of Susquehanna Auto Clinic and The Auto Clinic, he started his own Bottom-Line Impact Group. This group decided to throw a trade and training show called the ASA MO-KAN Training. After seeing the interest and realizing its potential, Holcom wanted to grow it, but doing that took a huge leap of faith. In order to get the space he wanted, Holcom and Stoll both needed to dip into their own savings and write a check for $5,000 each. This was the birth of VISION.
“I’ve been so proud of the fact that he took the initiative to take our money and start an educational event,” Kris says. “That was early, we didn’t have money to throw away but the Midwest needed educational opportunities. That’s been the proudest thing [Holcom starting VISION], to take that and grow it,” Kris says.
And grow it has. The very first VISION had roughly 250 people in attendance. 30 years later it’s considered one of the leading training events in the industry with 3,200 attendees in 2022. Holcom says his favorite part of the weekend is volunteering at the registration desk where he gets to meet hundreds of new attendees every year. “Although we’re only there for a long weekend, many have become good friends over the years,” Holcom says.
One of those good friends, Chesney, who has been almost every year since 1999, says that VISION stands out as a training event because of the people that run it, and that all goes back to Holcom.
“They take care of their instructors better than any other event or organization,” Chesney says.
“I give him all the credit in the world for being that person that had the idea and found the right person to lead it in Sheri [Hamilton] and making sure she was aligned with his ideals,” Chesney continues. “I go back to Jerry and Doug and their vision and bringing Sheri on board. When Sheri came on board, it was young , but that stability and consistency in leadership has built a solid foundation for VISION to grow on and that original vision is still in play. That had merit then and it still holds up.”
Their vision was a place for technicians and shop owners to learn and focus on training. It’s an educational opportunity, first and foremost, the booth show is secondary. It’s for that reason that people keep coming back for 30 years.
Whether it’s inspiring his own staff by coming in every day, despite his Parkinson’s, or leading the way for quality industry training, Holcom has had a major impact on the people that have met him.
Holcom’s biggest fan, Kris, says that he has people all over the country that will engage with him and call him up for help with diagnostics. One of his closest friends, Chesney, says that Holcom is one of the funniest people in the business and that he’s like a brother to him. Holcom’s accomplished career has touched so many people and he continues to fight to advance the industry.