Fixing cars is not a glamorous business, but it is a fundamental service for anyone who lives in Oundle and who relies on a car to get to work and school. The people at Oundle Tyre and Exhausts are so good at their job, that their business is considered one of the best small enterprises in town.
One resident posted on a community Facebook page: “I can’t recommend the gents at Oundle Tyre and Exhaust highly enough, I really can’t.” She said the people working there helped her immediately.
The flood of comments that followed echoed her appreciation.
“Ask your average Joe on the street what makes a business successful and you’ll likely hear something about making a lot of money. But as a business professional, you know there’s a lot more to success than just what gets put in the bank,” said a business research blogger at Pro Opinion.
Tony Shaw and his son Steven are the ones handling all repairs. After joining the business in 1990, Mr Shaw took some years away and returned permanently in 1999. His son joined in 2005. They take their customer service seriously.
Oundle Tyre and Exhaust has been in business at the end of New Road from before 1990, fixing car punctures, repairing exhausts, tyres, cracked windshields, brakes and providing general assistance for anyone who needs it. Quite simply: “We fix them.”
Tony Shaw said: “We can’t compete with the big boys out there, but if you go to them for a cracked windshield they’ll ask a fortune for it, while we’ll change it, and try to be as reasonable as we can.”
Mr Shaw started engineer training with Baker-Perkins back in the day when there were still proper apprenticeships.
“My father signed me over to an indentured four year programme. I rotated around in the trades and then specialised as a turner.”
The business currently keeps 747 tyres in stock. When it first opened, the tyres were smaller and they kept 3500 in stock. He observes that tyres got larger and “got stupider”. “Today’s tyres are nothing like they should be. They’re not fit for proper 4×4 driving.”
The tools of the trade have evolved considerably and a business must have diagnostic equipment to do everything. Mr Shaw looks forward to new developments and believes that electric cars are the future.
He is concerned about the Brexit negotiations and their impact on small businesses that will still depend on Europe for the supply chain and technical specifications of Euro standard parts.
“Suppliers may just go to the large dealerships,” he said.
Most work is a “panic buy”. “No one plans a tyre repair; most purchases are a distress purchase. You don’t plan to replace the exhaust, it just falls off.”
It is much like the work of a local blacksmith, Mr Shaw said. “Someone comes in with a stone, gotta fix it.”
The Quaker philosophy of the founders – and of many of their employees – became part of the Baker Perkins tradition, and has influenced the principles by which Mr Shaw conducts business.
This may be the reason for all the positive comments from their customers. “It doesn’t cost me anything to help someone in this world,” he said.