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Getting to Know You: William Kivit, Automotive Technician

William Kivit is a certified General Motors Service Technician and an entrepreneur who owns a small business that repairs, customizes, and restores all manner of cars and trucks.

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, William took a strong interest in all things mechanical as a small boy, even assembling a collection of model cars, trucks, and trains–a collection he proudly continues to display.

In primary school, William involved himself in many constructive group activities, including scouting, fundraising, and various team sports. Upon entering high school, he pursued his burgeoning interest in sports even further, playing for the varsity football and basketball teams. In his freshman year on the school football team, they won the state championship. However, William’s focus was not exclusively on sports during his formative years, as he concentrated on delivering a solid academic performance, all the while laying plans to pursue a career in the automotive industry.

When it came time to go to college, William Kivit chose to attend Triton College in River Grove, Illinois, where he studied Automotive Technology. Outside of school, he was hired as an apprentice at Niko Automotive Company, and learned all he could about the trade. After graduating, William relocated to Wisconsin where he gained employment as a General Motors Service Technician at a Chevrolet and Buick dealership. On the side, he also launched Kivit Restoration and Repair, his own automotive business, developing it slowly but surely, one valued customer at a time.

What do you currently do at your company?

At the present time, I have two professional roles. First, I’m a General Motors Service Technician, which means I know just about everything there is to know about repairing and maintaining GM vehicles. I work at a Chevy and Buick dealership, so I deal mainly with those particular brands. Second, I own and operate a small business that restores vintage and classic vehicles and performs small repairs to all manner of cars and trucks. I do a little bit of everything: interiors, engines, floors, panels–you name it. The business is gradually getting bigger with each passing day.

What was the inspiration behind your career path?

It started when I was a little kid. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with vehicles and mechanical things. I don’t recall precisely what ignited my interest–in fact, in my memory, that fascination has always been there. I have a collection of model cars, trucks, and trains that’s been a part of my life since grade school. I remember going to the library when I was young and looking up all the information I could find about those vehicles. I always wanted to learn more about engines, transmissions, vehicle schematics, and car companies. As I grew older, that inclination only grew stronger. It just made sense to study that stuff in college and make it into my career.

What defines your way of doing business?

If I had to pick one word, it would be ‘integrity.’ There is nothing I believe in more than dealing with people honestly and directly, whether it’s a customer, a co-worker, or a supplier. When you have a reputation for operating with integrity, people know that your word is good. People trust you. That makes doing business a whole lot easier.

What keys to being productive can you share?

A big key to productivity for me is responding to people immediately, especially clients. First of all, they appreciate not being left hanging. Many of them have told me so. Second, if I respond right away, it means I won’t accidentally forget to do so later. Third, and probably most importantly, it puts the wheels in motion to accomplish whatever I need to accomplish. Good communication leads to results.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career.

There are a few rare, classic cars that I would love to restore, but my major goal for the long-term is to grow Kivit Restoration and Repair into a thriving business. Don’t get me wrong–I love working at the Chevrolet and Buick dealership. But having a successful business of my own and making my income solely from that is a lifelong dream of mine.

What would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to savor youth. You only get one chance at it.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

Don’t underestimate the value of a solid mentor. I have had two or three amazing people mentor me at various points in my life, and the wisdom I have gained from them is priceless.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

It’s definitely a time of transition in the automotive sector. For anyone who wants to break into the industry right now, I would say that it’s immensely important to look at the technological developments that are just beginning to be implemented on a wide scale. I’m mainly talking about electric and autonomous/semi-autonomous vehicles in that respect. Without question, that is the future. For better or for worse, the old paradigm of vehicle design is being phased out, so anyone who would like to seriously pursue automotive repair as a career will have to familiarize themselves with all these new systems. As for those who would like to restore classic and collector cars, the story is a little different. Unless you’re planning to retrofit an old Studebaker to run on electricity rather than gas or update a muscle car from the 1970s to have driverless capability, up-to-the-minute knowledge of the latest automotive technology probably won’t be necessary.

What are some of your favourite things to do outside of work?

I love the outdoors, nature, and country life in general. I love taking my boat out on the Wisconsin River in the spring, summer, and early autumn. When I have some spare time in the winter, I tend to break out my snowmobile. I still have a great affinity for sports leftover from my time in school, too. I avidly follow football and basketball both at a college and professional level.

What are a few influential books you’ve read and/or websites you keep up with that you’d recommend?

I would recommend Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. Although it’s a bit dense and complex, it contains many poignant observations and lessons that can be applied throughout many situations in life. As for a website, I frequently find myself visiting the car section of consumerreports.org and browsing everything from pricing to reviews. Their yearly ‘top picks’ list is usually pretty good, too, and they also highlight some useful articles and podcasts.

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Getting to Know You: William Kivit, Automotive Technician

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