Every so often, our editorial staff selects one aftermarket industry professional to get to know a little better. Participants are asked to respond to a series of questions that can be answered in about the same amount of time you might spend chatting at the office coffee pot or waiting for an elevator. In this installment of “5 Minutes With,” we get to know Mike Risich, founder of Bolt On Technology, who describes himself as a technologist and entrepreneur.
What was your first job in the industry?
I was teaching some Microsoft Office classes, for a community education program, and one of the attendees was a shop owner. So, here I was teaching him Microsoft Excel, how to create charts and graphs, etc., and he said, “This is what I’m looking for to help me manage my business. Can you come to my shop and assist me?” It was kind of like meeting the right person at the right time – someone who was really interested and inquisitive about technology and how he could utilize it to be a smarter businessperson. I lovingly call him “patient zero.”
What would you say you like most about your current role?
I love talking about the future of the automotive space and how technology is influencing a number of key elements. I’m looking at it from completely different angles. I look at really big companies that were influenced by Amazon, Netflix and Spotify, looking through the lens of how they collect data. And then asking, how do they use data science to present new opportunities to us? For example, when Amazon says, “With this item that you bought frequently, these two other items are also purchased.” Do we feel like we’re being pushed into that? Or, do we feel like Amazon is suggesting something to us because we may not have thought that thoroughly through the purchase? Why is it that if we are selling new brake pads, and we are suggesting rotors to go with that, why does that seem negative to the buyer, yet they accept multiple suggestions from Amazon? Those are the things that sometimes I say “make my propeller start to spin,” because I am a technologist by trade and by heart. I love to look at what other industries are doing and how can we leverage that same concept or that same opportunity to drive what we are doing for shop owners.
What do you find has kept you interested in this space?
I fell in love with the community of people. The shop owners I’ve been fortunate to know are really passionate about having safe automobiles in their community. When they are in a situation where they feel they could have prevented somebody from an accident or something even worse, they consider themselves part of the fabric of the community. It’s always humbling to meet these people and to figure out ways I can leverage my talents and my capabilities to help them show their customers – the vehicle owners – how talented they really are and how talented their team is. I put them in line with a surgeon. You know, when somebody is in an unfortunate medical situation and needs that type of response, we think of medical doctors as saving lives. Well, when your car won’t start, it’s kind of the same thing. There’s a lot of trust and there’s a tremendous amount of value in that relationship. When it’s offered the right way, when it’s communicated the right way – which is what we try to do to help them – it really shows the vehicle owner that they’re having their vehicle serviced at the right place.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Oh boy. I’m an entrepreneur, so it’s like 25/8 – that’s how many days a week and hours a day I work. It’s one of my personal flaws. [But] I don’t look at it as work. I’m really fueled by the energy I get from the work I do. Outside of that, I enjoy being with my family. I have three children. We enjoy going to the beach, to Phillies games and just sharing time together. This role I have played over the past decade put me on the road a lot. Prior to the pandemic, I spent nearly a hundred thousand miles a year in the air. There are a lot of nights away. So, the nights I’m here, I want to be fully engaged with them.
What kind of car do you drive today?
Today, I drive a 2017 Cadillac Escalade. A family of five needs a big bus to go places. We like to go to the beach, and it allows us to all pile in, as well as our two furry animals [two English Bulldogs] and gives us enough space to take us all wherever it is we’re going to go. But that vehicle is not a truck. It drives like a dream. It’s one of the nicest vehicles I’ve ever owned, and over the past couple of years, I’ve been able to drive a few really nice vehicles.
What are you currently reading?
I’m actually re-reading a book by John Miller called “QBQ.” QBQ stands for question behind the question. It’s really about self-accountability. We see this a lot in all areas of life, including politics and sports. It’s always somebody else who caused the problem. I actually re-read it every year. When you join Bolt On Technology, it’s a requirement you read it. The way I look at it, we may hire somebody right out of college, or we may have some tenured team members join us who have had a career in other places. This kind of levels the playing field. Everybody had to read the exact same book, so we’re all on the same page when it comes to accountability.
Who was your childhood hero?
Growing up, I was a huge baseball guy. I still am. There’s a ballplayer who used to play for the Phillies named Chase Utley. I was flabbergasted at how passionate he was about being the best second baseman ever, and the commitment he made to do that. Chase had a hitting coach, a fielding coach, a manager, a general manager, a nutritionist, a stretching coach, a conditioning coach, an agent. Here’s like 7, 8, 9 people all focused on one guy so that during a two-hour or three-hour stretch, he could play at peak performance. It really has less to do about the two to three hours and a lot more to do about all the preparation for those two to three hours. I encourage our team to do that as well – to really think about the moments when they’re not on stage, not in front of a customer. What are they doing behind the scenes so that when that moment comes, they are as prepared as possible? It’s a different way of looking at a job. Bolt On is not interested in hiring people for jobs. Bolt On is interested in hiring people for careers and for joining our vision of being able to change how automotive service is performed.