Interview with Boston Voyager Magazine
Damon, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I always liked the smell and sound of an engine. It didn’t matter what it was, as a kid my dream was to be able to drive and have control of this incredible machine, so I grew up getting as close as I can to an internal combustion engine. I would mow the neighbor’s lawn for free because they had a rider. I did what I can at a young age. I can remember my first car was a VW Bug. It had no brakes, which cost me 50 bucks to fix. I couldn’t afford a mechanic, so I learned the hard way, pretty soon that error became a success. Fast forward several years now, and I became a full-time BMW mechanic.
When I was 28 years old, I just got married but still had this passion for VW/Audi cars and decided to take this on as a side business after hours, as I couldn’t just do BMW. I wanted to do more. As time went by, working as a side mechanic and improving my skills, I was able to handle more jobs and sooner or later I was making more money on a side than I did at my 40 hours a week job for someone else. You could say my lifestyle revolved around eating, breathing, and cars. All of a sudden my wife Kerrie was pregnant, and we had a beautiful baby girl, Nina. She was just a few months old; my wife was on a maternity leave from her teaching job, and I remember looking into my sock drawer one day and found my sales tax exempt certificate that was five years old. I turned to Kerrie and said “when am I ever going to start this business dream of mine,” she told me with confidence that I could do it. 5 years later, I opened German AutoSport (fourteen years ago), Kerrie and I had another beautiful boy Nolan, who is now 11 yrs old (Nina 14), and we haven’t looked back since.
I would say that I can work on anything that revolves around cars, in particular in the European market, but my passion is Audi, BMW and VW cars. Right now, we have two full-time techs (including myself) and a full-time administrator. I take great pride in the work we do, every day our day changes, and it makes life challenging at times, but I wouldn’t trade this in for anything in the world.
I welcome challenges, especially when a customer who’s been around 5 shops and nobody can fix it. That keeps the adrenaline pumping; it’s the love for the automobile, smell, and sound of an internal combustion engine that will forever drive me to be a better mechanic, boss, and husband.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Sure, there were some uphill battles, scraping change on the floor of Chevy truck to get gas, the attendant says “really 75 cents of gas” yep it’s all I got, it’ll get me home, then there’s the good tech, bad tech but you weed through them. If you can do the job right the first time, word of mouth travels.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the German AutoSport story. Tell us more about the business.
What sets us apart is that we take pride in our work, if the job isn’t done or not fixed come five o’clock, we will stay and make it right.
We specialize in repairing in all kinds; we also specialize performance too. During my BMW years, I worked on several track day events a year and even built several race cars. I was once, on a popular BMW race team in the North East and have seen most of the race tracks in North America, which was pretty cool to experience, but it soon got too busy for me every three weeks and leaving for 4 days. It was just too much and to be honest, we’re all human, if I or my tech happen to break something on your vehicle accidentally, we will tell you up front, and even rent you a car. It’s just being honest with your customers, your employees, and do the right thing, and you can go home never looking over your shoulder. A good customer once told me, “Damon, don’t sweat it, cars can be fixed, people can’t” and when it gets tough I still to this day go to that quote, and it settles anybody down. We always try to do the best we can and be honest the whole way through.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Ha, you’ll always have that, I’m not sure I believe in good luck or bad, it will always be an up and down experience, but fortunately for us, more up. Being a small business owner, it can be overwhelming, but if we put our heads down and fix car’s, then I guess good luck will follow.
My father told me once, “Never promise somebody something you can’t deliver” I still think of this when I’m stuck, and then call a friend for advice,