Brent Willsey: Owner
For Brent Willsey, the origins of his business, Powertech Diesel, go far back to his teenage youth in high school when counselors wanted the graduates to think about their futures. “Back in high school we had people coming to our classes and talking to us about how to pick a career,” said Brent, “and initially I was like well I want to make a bunch of money… I want to be a doctor or a lawyer and just rake in the dough. But then someone told me something that really stuck, they said it’s not about the money, it’s about doing something that you enjoy doing.” He took the advice to heart and ended up doing a mental inventory of what he liked, and shop class was at the top of his list.
He and a buddy decided that after graduation, they’d go to Wyotech to get their associate’s degree. He figured that if he didn’t like it that he was only out the nine months. He studied chassis fabrication and general automotive, but around that time, the Duramax had just come out… and he was obsessed with it. “I loved the way it sounded and what you could do with it. So I signed up to major in diesel, and we learned all kinds of cool stuff there. Nine months later, I get done and start working for a GM dealership, and I was in heaven working on those trucks.”
He bought himself an ’01 and made it into one of the fastest trucks around. He was so used to chipping things but thought there had to be a better way to get more performance. “That’s when I stumbled on EFI Live and jumped on it. I thought spewing smoke was cool for the first two weeks, but then I wanted to refine it and make it cleaner and get better mileage.”
That turned into a small business on the side, working his day job and then going to a little place that he had rented where he’d put in injectors, pumps, and tune till two or three in the morning. In 2006 he put in his notice without much of a plan and dove in headfirst, opening up under the name Power Labs Diesel and teaming up with his high school shop teacher. They split the shop to where his shop teacher would do gas tuning and performance parts, and He would do everything diesel. Today he’s in a building where his first shop would fit into the current showroom, and they work on everything, even side-by-sides. He even buys trucks, fixing them up to sell off his “lot.” Brent is also looking towards the future with plans to build a new 12,000 sq ft facility. Running a business has had its growing pains. “I tried to model things after the dealership a bit. Back at Wyotech they offered a class in business management, but I didn’t go for it because at the time, I had no other aspirations but to be a tech somewhere. And here I ended up with a business and a full-blown shop. Funny how things turn out!”
For Brent, what started as a plan to make money with his life turned into finding his future with something that he liked to do. His genuine love for it carries over to his sense of customer service. “In the end, I get a real sense of accomplishment being here and taking care of customers, setting them up, and doing the right parts for the right job. It just feels good when a person comes in after from another shop where they were trying to sell them a bill of goods and telling them ‘no, that’s not right,’ and then setting them up with the right solution for their vehicle. I enjoy taking care of people, making them happy, and fixing their problems. I’ve learned how to create a culture in my shop where everyone is on the same page, and it’s made some fantastic customer satisfaction with folks bringing their vehicles to us from out of state even! We earn their trust, and they’re fun to work with.”
Another influence that helped fuel his enthusiasm for diesel just happened to be a particular guest speaker at his Wyotech graduation. “Something I’ll always remember was that Gale Banks spoke at my Wyotech graduation. It was so damn cool. At the graduation, he said to turbocharge and supercharge anything and everything. I took that literally, going so far as to turbo a snowblower! From that moment I’ve always stocked a fair amount of Banks goodies, and we’ve always had great luck with the products… very good luck.”