“Go with what you like to do. If you do not like what you do, you are setting yourself up for failure,” says Isher Sidhu. “It’s not a race, you need to enjoy your work. If someone forces you to go to work, you will only go on for a year or two, then you will get sick of it. You can switch jobs, but how are you going to switch a business?” asks the CEO of Titan Truck Repairs.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, if I want to switch today, I don’t know what else to do. I know there are other opportunities. But this is all I know, and I enjoy it,” says the 34-year-old entrepreneur who started the business at the age of 25.
“Today’s generation gives up too easily, it is weak,” Sidhu claims. He says his father immigrated to Canada at the age of 50, working at farms and taking whatever job was available. “If a person from today’s generation would have to do the same thing, they would not be able to do it. Today’s 50-year-old person cannot pack up his five kids, go to another country and start over again,” he says.
The Centennial College grad immigrated from India aged 12, along with his parents and siblings. After working as a mechanic at a Volvo dealership for five years and at another dealer for a year after that, Sidhu decided it was time to chart his own course in the industry.
“While I was employed at the Volvo dealership, I worked with a senior mechanic who was an idol there. He retired at the age of 65. I admired him and his experience; but could not see myself working for someone else till I retired,” Sidhu says.
His bustling workshop in Mississauga, Ont. specializes in Volvos, but his staff “pretty much work on everything.” Jobs undertaken can vary from an oil change to a major engine rebuild. “Electronics are our main thing,” Sidhu says. “When other shops can’t figure something out, they refer it to us.”
Patience plays a big role in running a business, Sidhu says. “I was young, I made mistakes. I had attitude too, but not to a point where I lost customers.” When you make a mistake, call the customer, and say sorry, he adds. “I’ve done it. I had a bad day and I gave a customer attitude. I called and apologized. That customer has remained loyal and referred me to others.”
Sidhu says when it comes to customer service, if you do not have patience, people will upset you. “They are your customers, there’s going to be bad ones, there’s going to be good ones,” he adds. Learning patience takes time and comes with experience.
The young entrepreneur also emphasized the importance of hard work and eagerness to learn. When he worked at the Volvo dealership, he used to stay back after his shift ended and volunteer for unpaid work.
“I wanted to learn; I was eager. Some days I stayed two, three hours,” Sidhu says. He used to approach mechanics working on an engine and ask them if he could join them. “I used to clean the parts, clean the tools. That is how motivated I was. I would ask them, ‘what does this part do, how does it work,’” he says.
The mechanics took notice and every time they got an engine job and Sidhu was on their shift, they would ask for him. “That’s how I got their attention, most of those guys are still in touch with me,” he says.
Building and nurturing a good team will help your business grow, says Sidhu. “I have only two hands, but if I get along with people, I can build a team. I have 10 guys working for me, that means I have 20 hands,” he says.
Family plays a big part in the business. Sidhu’s brother-in-law Manpreet Grewal is his business partner and service adviser. His sister works in the back office. A cousin, nephew and best friend are employed as mechanics. “I can rely on them without a second thought,” Sidhu says.
Sidhu, who is married and has a young daughter, says it is also vital to have a supportive circle of family and friends to help his growth. “I am lucky to have such parents and friends who were always there for me,” he says.
Sharing knowledge is good for everyone. Most shops do not teach their mechanics, Sidhu says. “Go hook up the computer, check it out and that’s it. I teach my guys, so they learn,” he adds. Quoting a Punjabi saying, Sidhu says, “Knowledge is like a samundar (sea), it won’t decrease if you take a bucket of water out of it.”
He says his former employees still call him if they are stuck over an issue. “I answer their queries and try to help.” He says he always gives his former staff great references.
Sidhu says he plans to open another branch in the future as his business grows. He and his team will continue to study and bring standards up to the requirements of equipment available in the market. He will also invest in upgrades as technology changes, with electric and automated vehicles making their presence felt in the industry.
By Leo Barros, Associate Editor