Pat Cadam (far right) and his crew from Pat’s Garage, leaning into the sunny side of life
I am fascinated by the way that brands show up in the world.
If any of you read my first book, Escape from Cubicle Nation, you may remember Pat Cadam, founder of Pat’s Garage. I wrote:
“Nestled in the technology and industry heavy South of Market neighborhood was Honda shop called Pat’s Garage. On the outside, it looked like any other auto shop, with the requisite big sign and grease spots in the driveway.
As soon as I stepped inside, I knew it was a special place.
I didn’t feel my instinctive reaction which was “I will wrestle you to the ground if you leer, demean my lack of car knowledge or try to trick me into getting service I don’t need.” Pat and his staff were welcoming, open and non-threatening.
Their office walls were filled with art pieces and postcards from happy customers. The closest thing to a blond in a bikini on the wall was a picture of Hilary Clinton in S&M garb. I don’t remember exact message behind the parody, but it was in good taste and not disparaging of either Hilary or women in general.
And the best part? Really, really great coffee. Not the watered down Folgers crap that you find at most shops, but jet fuel grade, organic and flavorful coffee. Served in real mugs.
The more I got to know Pat, the more I was fascinated by his story of creating a totally unique and valuable business in a crowded niche. He once told me “My business is not really about cars, it is about people. When I focus on my customers and their needs and concerns, my business thrives.” He chose to service Hondas because “I like the kind of people that drive Hondas. In general, they are nice, funny, down to earth and environmentally aware.”
Pat started his career as a schoolteacher and quickly learned that a traditional academic environment was not for him. So he carefully researched a business to open, based on his interests and skills.
He seems to have picked the right one, as he always seems to be enjoying himself, and his customers have followed him loyally for over twenty years as if he were the Pied Piper.”
Pat embodies exactly what I mean by an indispensable brand:
- He offers something real and valuable to a market that needs it
- He works with a specific, defined niche
- His personality clearly shows up in every part of his business, from the message on his answering machine to his website to the quality of his work to his physical location
- He inspires trust, enthusiasm and evangelism in every one of his customers. You walk away after working with Pat and not only feel great having given him money, but want to tell twelve of your friends about his auto shop. I actually held on to my Honda longer than planned since I was so sad about leaving him.
- He attracts a great team. He values and supports his employees better than most leaders I met in entrepreneurial and corporate settings. He once told me, after explaining how he was paying for his mechanic to take a day off a week to take an art class, “When you learn what is important to people who work for you and support that, no matter if it is related to the work they do for you, they will be happier. That translates into better work and natural loyalty.
Pat’s success was not a fluke. Pat’s Garage has an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars, averaged from 497 ratings! And they were voted the Guardian’s Best Car Mechanic of the San Francisco Bay Area for 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and….2014!
I think the same things that make a company brand great also makes a personal brand great.
I am on a mission to collect a list of diverse and interesting brands that people love, so that I can dissect what makes them tick and share the lessons.
What are your favorite brands and why? I would LOVE to hear your examples. Share them in the comments below!