Dave Gilles, 59, was the jokester of the family when he was growing up as the second oldest of four siblings in his family’s east Flint home.
One sister, Barb (Gilles) Bishop, 55, who is four years younger, remembers when she was just 4, he stuck her in the clothes dryer and turned it on. “He’d never let me get hurt, but he was always up to something,” said Bishop.
Today, this brother/sister duo are business partners at Auto-Lab of Fenton, living out their lives with a unique sibling connection that carries them through each and every business day and even their days off. “We’re family,” said Gilles. “That’s number one. That always comes first — before anything else.”
When it comes to factors that shape your personality — your genes, your parents, your peers, your siblings — siblings rate at the top, according to a recent story about “The Science of Siblings” in Parade magazine. The relationships with your brothers and sisters will likely last longer than any others in your lifetime. After your parents are gone, it’s just you and your brothers and sisters, and those are the ties that bind.
“People always think that we’re husband and wife,” said Gilles. “Most people say they could never work with their brother or sister. For us, it works.”
They’ve owned Auto-Lab of Fenton for eight years and while they wouldn’t say they’ve never had a disagreement, they’re both adamant that they put it to rest after each voices an opinion. “At the end of the day, we put it away,” said Gilles. “Confidence and trust are two key words for us, and that’s 24/7.”
Gilles and Bishop are not only close at work their personal lives are deeply entwined. “We’re very good at leaving work at work,” said Gilles. “Our families spend Sundays, our only day off, together and we actually have cottages next to each other up north.”
The Gilles family grew up in a strict Catholic family where Sundays were family days with no work. “Our upbringing gave us structure,” said Gilles. “Sunday was a big family day, and to this day, we still live our lives like that. Family is always number one.”
They also admit they’re both very competitive — just like they were as kids. “Dave’s always been focused on sports,” said Bishop. “He was always a jock who excelled in just about every sport at Flint St. Mary’s, where we went to school. I was the social one, but always competitive, too.”
Today, their competitive spirit shows up mostly when they’re playing cards or games, which they do often as a family.
Both Gilles and Bishop find there are many advantages to siblings working together. “We know each other so well,” said Bishop. “I know what he will do in most situations.
Gilles agrees. “We can read each other very well.”
While they both work together on the administrative side of Auto-Lab, they each have their own areas of specialty. She handles insurance, pay roll and accounting while he handles the supply side and parts. They let their crew of ASC certified mechanics do the actual repair work on vehicles, while both Gilles and Bishop handle customers. “We can tell when each customer walks through the door who they will be most comfortable working with,” said Bishop. “We let that person take over.”
Bishop said she always idolized her brother when she was growing up and he was always there to protect her. “He really is a good person with a work ethic that is unbelievable.” For Gilles, he was always taking care of his little sister, and his biggest surprise in running this business with her as an adult is just how sharp her business skills and ethics are.
They both agree that the most important aspect of running a business together is to separate the personal from the professional. “You have to be able to do this, or it will destroy your relationship,” said Bishop. “Ours has only grown stronger.”
If you aren’t close to your brother or sister as an adult, have no fear, you may find yourself reconnecting as you get older. When siblings move away, start their own careers and have families, they often have little contact except through their parents. But in middle age and beyond, as other loved ones pass away, surviving siblings find that they become important sources of support. In fact, research shows that the healthiest, happiest and least lonely people have warm sibling relationships.
This certainly is true in the Gilles family. Gilles lives in Brighton, Bishop in Fenton, another sister, Noreen Navarre, lives in Linden and a brother Dwayne in Grand Blanc. “I’d guess that 90 percent of all our extended families get together to celebrate birthdays,” said Gilles. “We’re all very close.”