F rom tires to tune-ups, Lynn Beckwith has probably forgotten more about car care than you’ll ever know.
She owns Humble’s 30-year-old Beckwith’s Car Care, is a host for the radio and online talk show AutoMojo, and has a blog called—you guessed it—That Car Lady. During her three decades in a male-dominated business, she’s won multiple awards for service and has been a charity fundraising powerhouse in both Humble and Houston.
Marene Gustin: Even today, there are few female auto-repair owners. It must have been unheard of 30 years ago. How did you get into this business?
Lynn Beckwith: I’ve always been interested in cars. When I was young, my dad pulled a 1947 International Harvester pickup truck out of a Virginia swamp (it had critters crawling out of it!) and he brought it home to repair it. He worked for Borden’s Dairy and we moved a lot, but we always took that truck with us. Then in college at Sam Houston State University, I worked on my own cars—I had to if I wanted to drive, since my budget didn’t include new cars or professional repairs. I spent a lot of time in auto-parts stores asking questions. Of course, back then you could just pop the hood and look around. Now you need computers and special training just to diagnose the problem.
Anyway, I had a marketing degree and went to work at an advertising agency in Humble, where my family had stayed. One day, my younger brother Phil called me at work and asked if I still wanted to open my own business, because the auto-repair shop next to his body shop had gone out of business. At the time I was married to a mechanic, so I thought it sounded perfect. As a woman, it was very hard to get funding. I went to 15 banks and finally wound up just maxing out all of my credit cards to buy it.
That must have been hard at first, but you’ve done well.
[Laughs] That first garage was a real mud hole. Seriously, a man dropped his car off once and said he left his wife at the corner because she didn’t want to walk through the mud! But we did okay, and by 1991 we had built the new building where we are now. My husband and I wound up getting divorced. It took a few years, but I bought him out of the business so I am now the sole owner.
Why do you think you’re successful?
My father always taught me to surround myself with people who are the best at what they do. At Beckwith’s Car Care, it’s always about integrity and ethics. We want to know our customers personally and treat them like friends. I also insist on training and keeping up with the latest automobile trends. But first and foremost, it is hiring the best people. You can teach someone auto repair; you can’t teach ethics and honor.
Why is it important for you to give back to your community?
I was fortunate to be raised in a family where community service was so important. So, my company has always been involved with different charities and events. Humble is like a small town, and we do parades and festivals. We always have a float in a parade. One year for the Christmas parade we had a float with a 15-foot snowman made from chicken wire and tissues! What’s really great is to see a lot of my young hires give up their day off to volunteer. You know they aren’t happy about that, but they know when I hire them that they are expected to join in. But by the time the event is over, they are all smiles and can’t wait for the next event. And we have one charity that we donate auto repairs for all of their vehicles.
But the charity closest to my heart is CureFest. My brother Phil, the one who started me in this career, died from glioblastoma multiforme, a devastating brain cancer. Instead of 14 months, he lived almost six years because of an experimental trial at M.D. Anderson. Unfortunately, the funding for the trial had run out and Phil was the last person to receive the treatment. Phil and his wife, Misty Baumann, and I decided to start CureFest to raise money to keep the brain-cancer research going. Phil passed away, but Misty continues to raise funds through music festivals and fishing tournaments for CureFest.
This article appears in the March 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.