For many small business owners, providing top-notch customer service is what keeps them coming in to work every day. For C and C Automotive of Bullhead City, AZ, taking good care of customers is what got them into the business in the first place.
“Flexible financing helped keep our business doors open” – Lori Cosenza of C and C Automotive
Frank and Lori Cosenza, the husband and wife team who run C and C Automotive, believe that providing their customers with honest and reasonable service is their top priority. Read on to learn how they built their business from the ground up and manage some of the common challenges facing auto repair shops.
What led you to start C and C Automotive?
Like many other small business owners, Frank used to work for another auto repair shop. His experience there directly led him to going out on his own. As Lori says, “What got Frank into opening our first business together in Veneta, Oregon, was that he was working for a shop that in his eyes was not ethical. They were telling people they needed parts that they actually didn’t need and that really bothered him. He just didn’t like the way they did business, so he quit, and we decided to open our own shop.”
Frank adds: “I like being a business owner in the auto repair shop industry because I can make sure my customers aren’t getting ripped off or taken for their money for services they don’t need. When I worked at previous shops, I would see customers get charged $1,000 for things they didn’t need, and I just can’t do that. If somebody needs something, that’s one thing. Like my dad used to say, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”
What are some of the challenges you face running an auto repair shop?
Not unlike many other auto repair shops, one of the biggest hurdles C and C Automotive faced was getting the business off the ground. They nearly didn’t make it through their first year of business: “Getting the business going here in Bullhead was kind of tough at first. Our first year, we thought we were going to have to close the business down and go back to Oregon where we came from because it was just really tough to get going. Where we started our business was a bad location, so that was a major pain point here.”
Fortunately, they were able to move locations: “Luckily, after learning more about the area and developing a keen sense of where an auto repair shop would be needed, we moved to a new location and definitely got it right the second time.”
A recurring challenge for their business is finding the right skilled employees, which is an issue that many other auto repair shops face. Lori is optimistic that they’ll figure it out: “finding good employees can be tough, but we know someone’s out there, someday will just pop through that door and be the perfect person for us.”
Another ongoing pain point they’ve faced is sourcing parts quickly to ensure their customers get their cars back as soon as possible. As Lori says, “Getting parts for cars is difficult here, since it’s a smaller town. Sometimes you have to search to find certain things. Some parts stores carry a lot, some parts stores don’t, so that’s a difficulty for us. We’re not used to waiting on parts, as back in Oregon we could typically get parts the same day. This makes it more difficult for us because we don’t like our customers’ cars to sit. We want to get them back up and going for them as quick as we can. And we were used to doing one day turnarounds, so when it takes us three and four days to get a car done, it’s kind of a pain.”
How did financing help address these challenges?
Beyond the time it takes to source the parts they need for customer repairs, paying for the parts can be a drag on their cash flow, especially during their slow season. They have to cover the cost upfront before they’ve been paid by the customer. That’s where a small business loan from OnDeck came in handy: “We took out the loan around the end of November, which is a tough month for us. We used the funds to get all of our parts bills paid up and just to get everything back on track. But mainly parts bills got caught up, all our bills that are with the shop were caught up with that money.”
“OnDeck gave me what I needed and what I wanted for our business.”
How did you find your business financing?
Lori and Frank made the decision to look for business financing during their slower season. Most of the lenders they initially spoke with would only offer a merchant cash advance, which is a loan the borrower pays back via a percentage of future credit card sales, or loans for limited amounts and term lengths.
That’s what led Lori and Frank to OnDeck: “I chose OnDeck because they had the terms that I wanted, and they were friendly and helpful. They explained everything very clearly to me on how it was going to work.
The application process was very simple. I spoke many times with my rep with concerns and questions because this was new to us. It was something that we had never really done, and he was so helpful and explained everything. He would call me back immediately if I called him. They’re just really simple people, down to earth people to work with. They didn’t pressure me.
I explained what I needed and that’s what they did for me. They worked it out to where it was comfortable for me, knowing that our business would be able to pay this loan back in a timely manner. They didn’t say you need to do it this way. They did it the way that I wanted. They understood what I needed.”
What are your goals for C and C Automotive?
Like a lot of other small business owners, Lori and Frank look forward to the day when they can buy their business location, rather than just leasing it. Lori says, “What I’d like to do is get into a point in this business where we could buy our own shop and just make it ours. Not just lease a shop. I’d like to be able to get into buying a shop. That’s what I’m excited about. It would be a lot nicer, more exciting for me, and then I can do 100% of my own thing.”