Friday, November 6, 2020 | November 2020
Nannette Griffin works to instill knowledge and strength in others within the industry, her staff, and the customers entering her shop
Nannette Griffin has always had a fascination with cars since she was young. This passion brought Griffin from taking cars apart and putting them back together in her garage as a kid, to working at a small dealership years later. Now, Griffin is the successful owner of Griffin Muffler & Brake Center in Fort Madison, Iowa, the business she started with her husband in 1997. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t face challenges along the way, some to do with being a woman in the male-dominated industry—particularly at the beginning of her career.
“I came across some roadblocks that you wouldn't expect, the older salesmen were not really willing to work with me. It was because it was a change for them, plus, me being a woman—they didn’t want to listen to me,” she explains. “I had to gain their trust.” Over the past 23 years as a shop owner, Nannette strives to empower other women in the industry, the staff at her shop, and the customers who enter Griffin Muffler & Brake Center. “If you truly believe in what you’re doing, you’ll find it enjoyable and be able to overcome some of those stereotypes,” she says.
Reach Out for Community In a traditionally male-dominated industry, women owners are still a small minority in most auto repair spaces. Because of that, there may not be another woman with your same position in a 100-mile, or more, radius. And as much as women can learn from men and men can learn from women, there is something particularly valuable about being in a community where individuals with similar identities can discuss their challenges and triumphs. Griffin finds this community of women shop owners at industry events, through associations, and on social media. VISION Hi-Tech Training & Expo, the annual MWACA training event, has become a top spot for Griffin to meet and connect with other women in the industry. “I think VISION was the key that opened up my eyes to what was going on elsewhere,” she says. “Events like VISION allow us to have each other's back and help out when needed.”
80 % of our customers are women, and they are the ones really making the financial decisions..
Griffin has also attended Women in Auto Care conferences as a way to network with the women who have paved the way before her, as well as Facebook groups to stay in touch with other owners. “I have that type of personality of always trying to self-improve,” she says, “and be better than I was a year ago.” Encourage Employee Growth Outside of the training Griffin attends for her own growth as an owner, she is also committed to continuous education for her staff. “It's really satisfying to watch people grow, and I want to give my staff that opportunity,” she explains. The technicians at Griffin Muffler & Brake Center are given new reasons to say “I’ve never done this before,” when presented with new learning opportunities. Recently, a new service advisor started at the shop, and Griffin is already getting her set up to get Certified Female Friendly through AskPatty.com, a program presenting automotive employees with insights on enhancing ways to communicate with women. “I have a culture where if you are thirsty to learn, the opportunities are here for you,” Griffin says. Center Women Audiences Speaking of “Certified Female Friendly,” the shop’s certification is advertised directly on griffinmuffler.com’s “About” page. Also featured on the website is that Griffin Muffler & Brake Center received a 2018 Professional Business Woman Honorary at the MVP Professional Women’s Conference, and multiple mentions of being a women-owned business. Griffin explains this is all done purposely, and as a way to make potential customers feel comfortable entering her shop. “Eighty percent of our customers are women, and they are the ones really making the financial decisions,” she says.
“We want them to be a part of the process.” Griffin explains that sometimes when she goes to other stores or service providers, the employee will direct all questions and conversations to her husband instead of her, and she doesn’t want the women coming into her shop experiencing that. “We want to empower them so they can understand their vehicle and what needs to be done to fix it, in order for them to make a decision of what they want to do,” she says. Create a Comfortable Space Over 10 years ago, a fire destroyed Griffin Muffler & Brake Center, forcing Griffin to rebuild. But in that period of loss, there was an opportunity to start fresh. She designed her shop’s waiting room in a way that now feels inviting—helping to decrease the intimidation customers may feel when entering the sometimes uncharted territory of the car repair world. You’ll see very little car decor or imagery when entering Griffin Muffler & Brake Center.
Instead, the space is filled with lots of greenery and an inviting round table. “When you're talking with your friends or family, do you sit on a stuffy couch or do you sit at the kitchen table and have a cup of coffee?” Griffin asks. “The table creates that feeling of just walking into a friend’s or family member’s place.” That feeling of comfortability and familiarness pours over into how the team at Griffin’s shop interact with the customers as well. “Katie, my service advisor, always has a great smile on her face, and is very pleasant. So, it just kind of takes away that shield customers would put up the first time that they come in,” she explains. “It gives customers the feeling that they found the right place.” There are a few brochures scattered around the waiting room if a customer has a question, but it’s being a digital shop that really adds to the trust and transparency at Griffin’s shop. Customers can look at a list of what's going to be best for their car and their family, instead of feeling like they are simply being sold to.