‘Dialing in’ a perfect balance
Duncan overcomes fear, creates new life for himself
by Clay Neely
Trust your gut.
For most business owners, the adage of “timing is everything” can certainly hold weight – but even in the face of adversity, going with your instinct can be the ultimate deciding factor.
When Mike Duncan decided it was time to open up his own garage in 2009, he was not only facing one of the worst recessions in recent history, but also a growing family with his first son on the way.
In spite of these circumstances, Duncan knew in his heart that it was his moment to set out on his own and build a business for himself and for his family.
“I really can’t explain other than it just felt right,” Duncan said. “I just put everything in the Lord’s hands and went from there.”
Prior to opening his own garage, Duncan had spent his entire career at Parker’s service station in Newnan – sharpening his skill set and acquiring the necessary knowledge. However, as the years progressed, he also gained the trust and loyalty of those he serviced.
“I’ve always treated my customers as my friends,” Duncan said, stating that a good friend doesn’t always tell you what you want to hear, but they’ll always tell you the truth.”
So after a 15-year stretch at Parker’s, Duncan found a 1,500-square-foot garage on Belt Road, just off Hwy 16 West. With only himself and a part-time employee, he started from the ground up, and, according to Duncan, the first six months were an anxious period.
“We were just scraping by over here,” Duncan said. “I was constantly worried about business – trying to get traffic in the garage. It was pretty rough at first, but I eventually grew to understand that there are some things I just can’t control.
Believing that the success of his business was crucial to the happiness and well-being of his family, he devoted himself entirely into making sure everything was taken care of.
“It has always been a learning process – both here and at home,” Duncan said. “When I first started, I couldn’t get my mind to leave work when I was at home. I was constantly wondering about business and it began to interfere with the duties I had as a father.”
But domestic life was similar to the garage – those first six months were some of the toughest. “That’s just human nature – you want to ensure your family is taken care of,” Duncan said.
Duncan eventually learned to balance his home and work life. As a result, it’s been to everyone’s benefit. By setting strict hours between the garage and home, he’s been able to relax and enjoy the benefits of both.
“There will always be slow days here at the garage,” Duncan said. “But I’ve learned that these things are cyclical. We don’t panic – we simply wait for it to pick up again because it always does.”
Before long, Duncan grew out of his initial 1,500-square-foot facility and into a conveniently located 3,600-square-foot garage next door and now employs five mechanics including himself.
But that doesn’t include his son, who likes coming to the garage after hours to help.
“He’s at that age where he wants to know exactly what daddy does, so he’s all over the place,” Duncan said. “He even likes to answer the phones.”
Ever since Duncan began working on cars, his love of drag racing has never left. Now, because of the balance Duncan has set between family life and work life, he’s been able to continue his hobby of drag racing on weekends – often taking his young son with him as he races his 1979 Chevrolet Malibu.
“We go all over the southeast – Phenix City, Jackson, Valdosta,” Duncan said. “Drag racing is the reason I got into this business as a teenager and it has allowed me to pursue a lifelong career that I enjoy.”
As a small business owner, Duncan’s future goals for the garage may seem modest, but that seems to fall in line with his personality.
“I figure we’ll just grow as it happens. I’m not that concerned with reaching particular milestone or following any kind of strict timeline,” Duncan said. “I’m just blessed to do what I love every day with my friends – not many people can say that.”