*Photos by John Mangan
Charlie McEnery is known in one circle as a rally co-driver however locally, it’s his ability to navigate his way to success in business that has made him a household name. There’s no doubt about it, Charlie has been at the wheel in driving on Charlie McEnery Motor Services Ltd over the last decade. Earlier this month, Charlie and company celebrated 10 years in business, having first opened the gates to his shop on November 9, 2009. Some would say it was a stormy time to open up a business with recession setting in – but it was storms of a different kind that would make Charlie’s first month in business a memorable one, as severe flooding swept the country. Eight homes were evacuated in Clonlara, Iarnród Eireann rail services were suspended between Ennis and Limerick, and the Irish Army was deployed to deal with rising floodwaters in the county town. “When we started, I couldn’t have been luckier with help from family and friends and support from my pre-existing customers. Then we had bad weather at the time, it was the flooding. The week I started I was out until one or two in the morning towing cars in. We had a busy start and it just took off, and thanks be to God every year it has improved.”
Charlie had steadily grown a loyal customer base through his previous 10 years working in the motor industry as a parts manager with Oliver Walsh Motors before working with Banner Quickfit. Arriving at the age of 30 in 2009, Charlie admits, “It was time for me to carve my own path. I had experience in dealing with customers, the day to day running, dealing with suppliers, banking … so I thought this is ideal. “I was very, very fortunate that from day one, I hit the ground running. I was lucky, I wasn’t a complete stranger starting out trying to build a business. The biggest challenge was the newer technologies, diesel technologies, emissions, the constant investment whether it be diagnostics, tooling, training both your self and staff.” Having started out with just one technician employed at his new premises at the Old Mill Road, Charlie has since grown the business to the point where up to 100 cars are passing through the gates every week. To deal with the level of demand, Charlie now employs four qualified mechanics, one apprentice, alongside Charlie and his sister Gráinne who came on board in 2014 having also previously worked as service manager at a dealership. Their dad Joe, a retired postman, is also on hand to help out. While Charlie admits with a smile that working with family can be fraught at times, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “She knows the job better, if anything I’m a hindrance to her!” While Charlie is quick to admit that Gráinne is better at her job than he is, he’s at more pains to admit that she has had more success than him as a rally co-driver – both developed the hobby as youngsters when their dad took them as spectators on the circuit. “It has been a passion of mine, I competed in England, France, Belgium and places like that. I still love it but don’t do an awful lot of it. Gráinne my sister was a national champion co-driver as well, we’re steeped in it. But your priorities change when you have children; I don’t have that gung-ho recklessness anymore.” Charlie McEnery provides for all servicing and repairs needs, including annual maintenance, suspension and break work, emissions-related problems, diagnostics, air conditioning, electrical repairs and more. The Ennis native is well-known for his thorough approach in dealing with customers and going into detail to explain the mechanics of what exactly it is they are paying for.
As Charlie says, “If I can, I explain things in layman terms… you can’t just say ‘we’ve serviced it, there’s your bill’, you can’t do that. You have to explain why you did what you did. Customer service is the first thing. “Quality should come over price, and that’s what we try to emphasise to customers, that we won’t be the cheapest but we’ll deliver a good service and use top quality parts.” Going forward, Charlie is looking to embrace new technologies such as Electric and Hybrid vehicles as the motor industry goes through a transformative period. Currently, two of Charlie’s senior technicians are trained to work on Hybrid and EV and he’s always looking to upskill his workforce. However, there is also time to reflect on his 10 successful years which have brought him to this point. “I’ve been very fortunate with the support of local people and local businesses. There’s been great support, I wouldn’t swap it for anything. Like any business it’s been hard work but like any business, there’s nothing easy but I’ve enjoyed it and hope we’ll get many more years like it to come.”