Business Matters: Learning life lessons in a garage

Business Matters

HONOLULU (KHON2) — If it seems like Scott Tanaka is right at home in the garage, there’s a good reason.

“Pretty much my whole life, working in the shop with my father and growing up school college,” said Tanaka, who is the owner of the Aiea Collision Center. “My father was in the auto body industry. He did mostly corvettes, so I did a lot of repairs on corvettes. That’s why I started learning when I was small because my hand was small. I got to take apart the cars, pull the bumpers off.”

He said he also learned something even more valuable than tearing apart cars.

“One thing my father always taught me is it doesn’t matter what kind of car it is. Doesn’t matter what shape it is–always best repair to do the job right,” said Tanaka. “You treat every customer the same, do the best you can.”

Those words stuck with Tanaka through high school, then college at Honolulu Community College where he got into the auto body program and ultimately to his first paying jobs.

“I did work in other shops, which was a great experience because I learned a lot of different things from other people. So then eventually 2004, I had a chance to open up my own business.”

That was 2004. Today, he has two successful auto body shops and he said his dad’s words still resonate with him and his employees.

“The main thing is focus on quality repairs, keeping the customers happy and making sure everything goes good–everything kind of falls into place.”

“Scott really knows what he’s doing,” said technician Robert Bohan. “He can do all the work. It’s not just a bus, he actually understands every aspect and can do every job in the shop.”

Tanaka said that treating people with respect and doing quality work is even more important now. 

While the pandemic initially led to a slowdown in work, things have picked up. It’s all part of another learning lesson he’s taken great note of.

“I think the biggest challenge right now is maintaining the employees, maintain in the health insurance. The insurance premiums are really expensive–just keeping everybody have been doing quality work.” said Tanaka.

Going forward, Tanaka said tgat the secret to success is to always he’ll look backward.

Remembering what his father taught him, “Don’t get ahead of yourself. Be prepared for anything that could happen in the future, and try to plan ahead.”

And to always have the best people working for you.

“To me, there’s only one way to do it: It’s good or it’s no good. There’s no in-between so we always strive to do the absolute best we can,” said Tanaka. “I have really good employees. They both been with me for quite a while.”

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