As a business owner, you face all sorts of challenges on a daily basis. Are you making enough money? How can you attract more customers? And what can you do to better manage cash flow, cover payroll, and avoid tax issues?! The list goes on and on. But despite these challenges, the small business community continues to thrive due to the creativity, passion, and dedication of its members.
With that in mind, for this month’s SDP Client Spotlight, we met with Ken and Paula Fay, owners of Schneider’s Auto Repair in Simi Valley, to learn how they have responded to their own unique set of business challenges to become a renowned and deeply loved auto repair shop in the Simi Valley.
The Schneider’s Auto Repair Story
Schneider’s Auto Repair has been at its current location since 1978. (Over 40 years!) For most of that time, the shop’s founder Mitch Schneider owned and operated Schneider’s Auto Repair, building a reputation of providing quality work for his customers and investing in the Simi Valley community.
In March 2017, Mitch decided it was finally time to retire, and after months of discussion and planning, found the perfect couple to take over the business: Ken and Paula. At the time, Ken had owned another auto repair shop, Star Auto Haus, for 20 years, and had accumulated over 35 years of experience in the automotive service and repair industry. But more importantly, Ken and Paula shared Mitch’s same values and service commitment.
After purchasing the shop, Ken closed Star Auto Haus and Paula left her corporate job so the duo could put all their energy into their family business. They brought over their Star Auto Haus employees to join forces with the Schneider’s Auto Repair team, and the rest was history!
Growing After Acquisition
Acquiring an existing business can be tricky. Even established businesses of 30+ years can be at risk of losing clientele when a change in ownership occurs. Paula shares that one thing that really helped her and Ken was having Mitch on their side.
Months before we became the new owners, Mitch let all of his customers know about the transition, and that he had full faith in us. It really set us up for success!
With clear support from Mitch, Ken and Paula’s commitment to the core Schneider’s Auto values was able to truly shine–and their customers could see it. Since then, Ken and Paula have been able to not only maintain, but grow their customer base, double their number of employees, and continue to build on the shop’s legacy in the community.
Building Company Culture
Apart from building a reputation for themselves with clients, Ken and Paula were also faced with the task of building a successful company culture as they created a new team from the Star Auto Haus and Schneider’s Auto Repair employees. Paula shares,
There are always challenges when bringing together different personalities, especially as a small business. It just meant we needed to be creative in how we brought the team together.
To achieve this, Ken and Paula began hosting weekly Monday morning meetings to encourage team engagement and begin building their company culture. Additionally, they planned team bonding activities, weekly lunches, and barbeques to strengthen the “family” feeling in their business.
As a result, the team has grown together to work harmoniously as a unit and leverage each others’ strengths and expertise to better serve their customers.
Overcoming Industry Stigma
Most businesses have some sort of industry stigma associated with them. As an auto repair shop, Ken and Paula realized that their future customers’ number one concern was trust.
Anyone looking for auto repairs is wondering, ‘Is that repair shop honest? Can I trust them?‘
And it’s a valid concern! Unfortunately, some shops do have bad reputations. And while it may be easy to wallow in “industry struggles” and write them off as irreversible, Ken and Paula have taken a different approach by proactively addressing these concerns head-on.
We’ve found it’s better to have a very honest business approach. Before we start any job, we complete a complimentary inspection where we take pictures of anything questionable and provide the customer a complete report of our findings.
In addition to their free inspections, Schneider’s Auto Repair also offers a shuttle service for customers and has partnered with Enterprise to offer discounted rates for customers who require a rental car. All of this contributes to an elevated client experience where the customer truly is the priority.
And Then… A Pandemic
Like many businesses, Schneider’s Auto Repair was greatly impacted by the pandemic. With everyone staying home, people were driving much less than usual, and significantly decreased their spending on car maintenance.
As a small, family-owned business, Ken and Paula made the decision to keep their shop open and keep everyone employed throughout the entire pandemic.
Many of our employees are one-income families who are dependent on the wages they earn here. We had to take care of our people.
Again, adversity was the catalyst for creativity. They began offering to pick up or drop off vehicles so customers wouldn’t even have to leave their homes. Additionally, they offered to drop off groceries and even pick up prescriptions.
Paying close attention to CDC guidelines and safety protocols, Schneider’s Auto also purchased an antibacterial spray to sanitize cars for the safety of both their technicians and their customers. Ultimately, they wanted to give back to their Simi Valley community however possible.
The response was overwhelmingly positive. Many of their older customers were very impacted by COVID-19, and they received countless calls and emails from their customers expressing appreciation and thanking them for the support.
Looking To The Future
As the world opens back up, Ken and Paula are optimistic that their industry will bounce back. Already, they have seen an uptick in business, and they are looking forward to rebuilding and getting back on their feet right alongside their community.
Looking forward, the two feel ready to take on whatever comes their way. Ken has invested in over a quarter of a million dollars worth of factory computer systems, so Schneider’s Auto Repair is well-equipped to diagnose almost all makes and models of foreign and domestic vehicles. Additionally, they have a vintage car specialist on staff, perform a large volume of restoration work, and have a dedicated alignment bay.
Although their service offerings are already diverse, Ken and Paula are excited to expand even further as business picks up again–particularly in growing in the vintage aspect of their business!
When Ken and Paula purchased Schneider’s Auto Repair in 2017, Mitch had already been using Southland Data Processing for payroll. He highly recommended SDP, so Ken and Paula decided to stay with the service.
After previously doing payroll in-house at Star Auto Haus, they were amazed at how much easier it was working with SDP. Paula shares,
Customer service is outstanding. I have absolutely no background in payroll, but with SDP there’s always someone there to help when I call. We couldn’t be happier.
This is especially true of their experience throughout the pandemic. Paula and Ken are grateful for the information and support SDP has provided around FFCRA payroll tax credits, reports for PPP Loan Forgiveness, as well as general payroll help.
I like to say we’ve never struggled with payroll because we have always worked with SDP. The team walks us through everything from beginning to end and is so patient the entire time. I can’t imagine having to do this on our own!
If you’re in the Simi Valley area, stop by Schneider’s Auto Repair! Ken, Paula, and their team are committed to delivering the highest level of quality repairs and customer service. As part of their mission, they pledge to do the right thing the first time, every time. Come in for a free inspection for any auto repair or restoration needs you may have! Learn more
SDP Client Spotlights: Celebrating Our Clients
Every month, we highlight one of our amazing clients with the SDP Client Spotlight. Here at Southland Data Processing, we’re in the people business and strive to always put our clients first. So if you or your organization is interested in becoming our next Client Spotlight, please contact us at [email protected] and we’d love to hear your story!
Photo by Schneider’s Auto