Owner Mike Austin of LAD Automotive inspects a car in Medford on Friday. - Mail Tribune / Julia Moore

Home Grown

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? We're a general automotive repair shop, says Mike Austin, LAD Automotive's owner. I started working at the business in 1989 and purchased it in 1998 from Chuck DeBo. The company was started in 1976, and LAD is from the original owners — Lloyd, Adrian and Doug — whose last names I don't know.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I was born and raised here and went to Phoenix High School.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? I've always been into cars. My dad raced cars, and that's what I wanted to do. Working on cars seemed to be a natural. I was probably 18 when I received my first check from working on cars.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I have a really great manager for the business, Pete Hurley. I probably would have concentrated much earlier on getting somebody like him to run my business when I'm gone on the weekends. It makes every bit of difference. It's the most important thing in taking care of the customers.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? I split my time between the National Hot Rod Association circuit, racing on weekends, and running the business. Taking time away from the business is never good. Racing was very important to me when I first got started. When I first started working at the company, I liked it because I had a lot of time off and could go racing. After I purchased the company, I thought I would have more time off, but I found out that your customers want to see you. Hiring Pete went a long way in correcting that problem.

Who are your competitors? Les Schwab and Ed's Associated Tire for brakes and suspension work; they're direct competitors for that stuff.

What are your goals? I would like to see the business expand. I would like to create more bays and be able to serve more customers. We have four bays, and that's the way it was when I purchased the company. Originally, there were six people who worked in there. With the economy falling off we've had to downsize just to survive. Getting it back to that level is a goal.

What training or education did you need? You can go to trade school, but I was self-taught by my dad, Ron. I paid to go to trade school, but at the last second I backed out. I found out that hands-on experience is best. In this trade, you can learn way faster than going to school. You go to school to learn how to read books; you learn how to work on cars by working on cars.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Don't expect too much too quick because a good foundation is the key to success.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses at least five years old, contact Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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