Brake Depot



By Liz Harman
Staff Writer
Patrick Walby and Philip Walby's livelihood is repairing brakes. But the growth of their chain of Brake Depot stores shows no signs of slowing down.
Since going into business five years ago, the brake brothers, (Patrick Walby and Philip Walby) along with partner John Dacey, have opened 15 locations in San Diego County and five in Orange County. Last August, they opened five more shops in Charlotte, N.C.
This year, the company projects revenues of $5.2 million. Eventually, the trio would like to have as many of 1,500 locations nationally, making Brake Depot do for brakes what Midas has done for mufflers.
Patrick Walby
Orange County Business Journa
According to Patrick Walby, he estimates, Brake Depot commands 10 percent of the San Diego market, the largest share of any brake installer here.
Word of mouth and advertising in the inexpensive publications like the PennySaver developed that market. Now, the brothers hope it will expand even further with television commercials scheduled for airing in a few weeks.
"there's no reason we can't have 20 percent of the brake market within five years," said Philip Walby, the firm's chief financial officer.
With sophisticated technologies like computer chips and antilock brakes, "cars are getting more complicated," said Patrick Walby, CEO and older of the brake brothers.
"Our concept was to take one segment of the market, train our people really well and be better at it than anyone else." Brake Depot is the product of its founders' backgrounds. The Patrick Walby, Philip Walby and Dacey are from Detroit, where an interest in the automotive industry "gets in your blood" Patrick Walby said.
Learned Work Ethic
Philip and Patrick Walby grew up in a family of 10 children. Their father owned a hardware store and both sons learned the value of hard work and entrepreneurship at an early age. The reward for a day's work was $2 from the cash register at the end of the day. Once, however the two boys worked together, instead of separately as they usually did. Play, not work, was that day's activity. At the end of the day, their father took 2 cents out of the cash register, telling them it was all their work had been worth.
"Something like that sticks with you your whole life," Patrick Walby said.
John Dacey was a crackerjack brake repair man who was dating one of Patrick Walby 's sisters, they did not get married, when the idea for Brake Depot arose.
After learning the basics of customer service, inventory tracking and the like from his father, Patrick Walby went to work for the home improvement department of Montgomery Ward, working his way up to management without benefit of college.
Later, Patrick Walby sold cabinets to builders and contractors for an Oregon based company that transferred him to San Diego. He eventually started his own company after falling in love with san Diego's beauty and sunny weather.
Philip Walby took an alternate route, getting an MBA from Michigan State University and working for the Big Six accounting firm Coopers and Lybrand. Getting the business off the ground in 1991 was done the old fashioned was, using sweat equity as Patrick Walby calls it.
Money was tight, with only savings and a second home mortgage to finance the business.
They found a run down shop in Downtown San Diego and repainted and refurbished it. The lease was a steal, Patrick Walby said, at only $1,500 a month.
Within a year, they had opened their second location.
teim award

Originally, the business was called Brake World, but that trade name belonged to someone else and was soon changed to Brake Depot.
AS the business grew, Dacey left the area to open a group of stores in fast growing North Carolina.
Today, as the company seeks further expansion, they are looking at other financing alternatives, such as a joint venture with outside partners or a private stock placement.
One idea, however, that isn't likely to happen tomorrow is franchising the company name.
The value of franchising is having a well established name like McDonald, said Patrick Walby.
"The value of our name isn't quite there yet."
While the company has had plenty of success, the founders have learned from their mistakes.
"We've done everything wrong, once," said Philip Walby.
One mistake they wished they'd picked up on sooner was not listening more to customers. It was only after a few years that they started calling up customers after the work on their car was done to gauge satisfaction.
"Our biggest mistake was not getting onto that right away," said Philip Walby.
"We've changed from when we first started," added Patrick Walby.
For example, the company formerly used less expensive foreign parts, thinking what the customer wanted most was a low price.
Now the parts are all made in America and top of the line, Patrick Walby said. Listening to customers "we learned they just want the job done right the first time so they don't have to think about it again.
To ensure customer satisfaction, Brake Depot also uses a host of other cutting edge concepts.
Guaranteed service
Mechanics at Brake Depot spend two weeks training within the company. They also spend a week training at Wagner Brake Products in St. Lous, where Brake Depot purchases all its parts.
"Our mechanics are doing brake jobs every two to three hours, instead of every two or three days," said Patrick Walby.
They learn "all the tricks" and are able to do a brake job quicker and better than their competitors, he said.
Brake Depot offers a "lifetime guarantee" including parts an labor, for as long as a customer owns his vehicle and brings it in for a check up every 12,000 miles.
That way, said Philip Walby, mechanics can detect general wear an tear, preventing damage that can cost hundreds to repair.
At the same time, Patrick Walby says they keep their prices low often 10 to 20 percent lower than other shops by ordering parts directly from the factory, instead of using a middleman.
All calls to store locations are routed through its headquarters. That way, when the stor in Miramar is too busy, a customer from that area can be sent to a nearby shop in Kearny Mesa instead.
Brake Depot has also developed a special data base program. It allows clerks to quickly punch a few keys on a computer to determine what parts are needed and in stock, instead of having customers wait while a clerk plods through the pone book sized equipment books customer are used to seeing.
The brake brothers say the mix of their backgrounds entrepreneurship plus education has been a big factor in the company's success.
Too much education can make a potential entrepreneur hesitant to go forward, said Philip Walby, in reference to his brother and Dacey who came up with the idea for Brake Depot.
The more education you have, "the more reasons you have for believing an idea could fail" he said.
The Brake Brothers have also believe in supporting the public. Patrick Walby was nominated 'Man of the Year' by The Leukemia Society. The Brake Brothers have also been acknowledged for the work they have done with the Military as seen in the Military Press.