Liberal Arts Keeps Auto Shop Running Smoothly

by Chris Dunker (’08)
NWU Alumni George Witt, Auto Mechanic/EntrepreneurPeople say that a liberal arts education prepares you for anything. You could be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a teacher.

They never say “auto mechanic.”

But they’ve never met George Witt (’70).

Admittedly, Witt didn’t learn how to disassemble a transmission in Olin Hall. Nonetheless, he credits his NWU education for the success of George Witt Service, Inc., on North 35th Street in Lincoln. Witt values the liberal arts because, as an entrepreneur, he does a lot more than change oil.

He’s a scientist and environmentalist developing clean air systems and recycling everything; he’s a computer technician using an electronic system for scheduling and researching techniques; he’s an award-winning writer about car repair for women and an underwriter for NPR’s “Car Talk”; he’s a humanitarian who conducts an annual winter coat drive; and he’s an inventor looking for new ways to make motor oil last longer.

George Witt is the liberal arts, filling so many vital roles for the small shop where he and a staff of eight service Hondas and Toyotas.

“The two biggest things I learned at Nebraska Wesleyan were how to write and think critically,” Witt said. The writing skills Witt learned from Leon Satterfield and Bill Kloefkorn help him create a monthly customer newsletter.

His professors are now retired, but that newsletter still reaches the NWU English Department. Associate Professor of English Sarah Kelen is a customer and a fan of the newsletter. “It’s informative and also quite funny. George is quick to praise NWU for teaching him not just business skills but writing and interpersonal communication skills as well.”

“That’s the Wesleyan education right there,” Witt said. “That’s writing a stinkin’ paper in every class and asking, ‘Why do I have to do that?’

“But that’s what it produces.”

Critical thinking is another thing Witt values dearly. Walking through his shop, he explained how frustrated he gets when other mechanics simply don’t do things efficiently.

“Take my money but not my time,” he said.

To battle wasted time, Witt has installed a computer terminal in each bay of his shop and wired them to a server, linking each mechanic to a universal schedule and to information on how to fix the car right the first time.

Witt has taken his business model to national and international workshops. There, he instructs thousands of shop owners on how to create an environment that keeps customers coming back.

“George is the kind of mechanic who is just as happy to tell you that you don’t need a costly repair as he is to tell you that you do,” said Kelen.

“If I have a customer forever, then I have their money forever,” Witt admitted. “I never have to worry about what I sell them because in the end, I’ll get it eventually.”

Kelen said, “I like having a mechanic whose integrity includes customer service, community service and environmental responsibility.” That scope keeps Kelen coming back. And it keeps George Witt Service, Inc. running smoothly.