ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.—For Neil and Joan Koebernick there is only one way to do business: the right way. And others have taken notice of their style. The Koebernicks' Dakota-K Auto Repair and Tire Centers in Arlington Heights won the 1998 BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics presented by the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. Dakota-K won the award in the ``small business'' (fewer than 99 employees) category and will be nominated for the BBB's National Torch Award, to be presented in March.
``We're really excited to win the award,'' said Mrs. Koebernick. Winning was especially gratifying because Dakota-K was a runner-up in 1997 for the award which, said James E. Baumhart, president and CEO of the Chicago BBB, ``recognizes businesses that have consistently demonstrated a high ethical level of business in their day-to-day operations.''
Dakota-K's two locations in this Chicago suburb sell Cooper tires and perform a complete range of auto service.
Dakota-K and winners in two other categories for larger-size companies were picked by a panel of executives and academics specializing in business issues.
The Koebernicks founded the company in 1974 and added a second location in June.
Dakota-K's 1998 sales were about $1.6 million, mostly from auto service, with tire sales about 7 percent of that. Through November, sales rose 17 percent over 1997.
The Koebernicks, who have about 20 employees, question prospective employees about ethical issues in the repair shop. ``In hiring them, we talk with them about how important this is,'' Mrs. Koebernick said.
She said Dakota-K stresses to employees several ethics policies which include: never selling something that isn't needed; telling customers which repairs can wait; willingly admitting an error and working to correct it; and treating customers as you would want to be treated.
Opening a second location raised a lot of accounting issues, she said, as well as the need to market both locations more effectively.
Mrs. Koebernick, her husband and sons Rick and Steve completed a five-month certification program in business administration offered by the University of Illinois-Chicago. She said this program helped the family deal with planning and succession issues and set the stage for Dakota-K's applying for the award.