Hilron Mauricette was once just a young boy who was passionate about cars. He had no way of knowing then that his hobby would later help shape his entire livelihood. A lifetime of challenges and (mostly) successes later, including the establishment of a company boasting 18 full-time staff and four contract workers, he’s found himself as the Managing Director of Mauricette’s Auto Repairs alongside his wife, Diane. What he describes as a life-changing decision to commit himself fully to his business has paid off in leaps, and there’s simply no turning back for this inspirational duo.
Tell us about your educational and professional beginnings.
Hilron: I attended the Morne Technical College which is now known as the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC). When I graduated from there I started working in the auto mechanics field. I worked for three years as an apprentice auto body repair mechanic at a government-run business, and that’s where it all started. The place closed down, then reopened and rehired me. By then I didn’t see much potential there, so I moved on and started working for myself.
Describe the process of building your business from the ground up.
Hilron: It started with a passion I had for working with cars. I didn’t really intend to start a business. It grew year by year and eventually got very popular. There wasn’t a garage in Saint Lucia that I found was fit enough for me to learn, and to move up to the level that I wanted to be, so I had to take it into my own hands.
How did you secure start-up financing?
Hilron: It was difficult. I realize now that sometimes you have to create a reputation as a sole proprietor for the banks to be able to lend you money, especially when you start to look at the quantity of cash you might want to borrow. When you start off as a self-employed person, it’s much harder to get financing from the bank. I remember the first property I purchased; I put together everything the bank asked me for: deposit, contract letters, project proposal . . . everything. They still turned me down. I tried other banks and got the same thing. I was forced to wait a few more years until I had built more collateral, and then it was approved. I was quite determined, so it paid off.
What challenges do you face as a business owner?
Hilron: Labour. Getting skilled people is quite a big challenge. When I look at myself 20 years ago, if I could get some people who were like me, it would have been better. I had to end up training a lot of my workers myself and, when they get well trained, it’s a difficult thing to keep them. You always find yourself starting the training process all over again, which prevents the business from growing in some ways. Some of them are still here with me; most of them have moved on. Some of them have become competitors. My wife joined me just after I expanded. She’s helped a lot. I wish I had other help that would give me some good consultation to do better still. I’d like to see this business operate without me being there. It’s about getting the right people to play the part they should play.
Why do you think there is a lack of passionate and hard-working job applicants?
Hilron: The way I see it, the generation now is nothing like it used to be when I was growing up. The determination we had, the technical drive . . . I’m not seeing it in the generation now. It may have something to do with the technological age that we live in. I advertise for young school leavers who are at a dead end and don’t know what to do next. When they come here they don’t even last. You have them here, trying to get them to learn, and the discipline in them, punctuality – they don’t even start with that. You do not need to be highly skilled to be at work early or to come to work every day. If the skill is not there, or you are a slow learner . . . we can understand the slow learner but coming to work, and coming on-time, that’s what we really look for and don’t often get.
What has kept you moving forward, despite the hurdles?
Hilron: It took ten years from the moment I decided to get serious with my business to really get the wheels in motion. As much as I am not a church-going person, I still believe in God. When I look at all the years, I think God has been good to me. As much as there have been obstacles, I now tell myself there is always a silver lining.
Describe the service options offered by Mauricette’s Auto Repairs.
Hilron: We specialize mostly in auto body repairs, whether it’s an accident or you have a vehicle with wear and tear: the paint has gotten dull and you want to restore it, through buffering, or repainting; we offer those services. We also offer can rental services which is quite a plus for the customers. If their vehicle is being repaired, they can get a replacement vehicle for a small price. We also offer wrecking services, which helps us move damaged vehicles around.
How do you stay on top of technological advances?
Hilron: When I expanded the shop, I brought a lot of the new technology. I had gone to a few places like Holland and Brazil where I visited garages with the most modernized technology for that kind of work. I’m always looking for tools that will make the workshop even better. I recently ordered some later model analysers, which can help us analyse the electrical parts of the cars, because that is something that has changed over the years. When I started we didn’t really have that many electronics in the vehicles. Now, when we do bodywork, we sometimes have to interfere with these electrical parts and we need the analysers to help us.
How does the husband and wife dynamic come together in the workplace?
Hilron: So far it’s been going well. She does the administrative part and I do the technical stuff. I’ve learned that when you have a business, you can’t necessarily be a manager and a technician at the same time. Sometimes you have to get someone to manage. I prefer the technical part. All in all we make a good team. The only thing now is getting someone to continue the legacy. I have two boys. I’m waiting for the last boy, to see if he will go in that direction.
How would you describe the ease of doing business in Saint Lucia?
Hilron: I think it’s easy. When it came to registering and starting off it wasn’t a problem. I started off as a sole proprietor and then I formed a company because there were people who were interested in investing in the company but that never really happened. In terms of the day to day, I think it’s good; I don’t have any problems. We’re used to the process already. The only time we have problems is when it comes to clearing parts through customs when Christmas comes around and barrels take over. I don’t know for other types of businesses but, for us it’s okay.