Small town Illinois shop is big time hit
Aviston, Ill.—In any conversation with Ken and Ann Faust, it’s hard not to conclude that a key to the success of their business, Faust Automotive & Tires, is the trust and confidence they place in one another and their employees.
Founded in 2001 with Ken, Ann, and a single employee, the business has grown to include Ken’s brother, Mark Faust, who is the shop’s service manager; a service writer and receptionist; three ASE-certified techs in addition to Ken; two general-service staff; and a cleanup person. Ann, a CPA, looks after the financial health of the company, while he focuses on the shop and the work that flows through the shop, Ken Faust said.
Having the luxury of Ann and Mark in the front office means that “I get to spend about 95 percent of my time in the shop,” Faust said. “There’s no way I could run an office and work on cars. It just does not work.”
A graduate of Lincoln College of Technology in Indianapolis, Faust began his career as a dealership technician before moving into store and facility management. Eventually, he decided to open his own business, he said.
In the beginning, some people thought they were “crazy” for opening what was envisioned as a big repair business in a small town, Faust said, though today, that has changed, and Faust Automotive and Tires draws its customers from a 25- to 30-mile radius of Aviston.
Ann Faust said the shop’s customers include Clinton County farmers as well as white-collar commuters who make the daily drive from Aviston to downtown St. Louis, a one-way distance of some 35 or 40 miles. The vehicles serviced by the shop generally fall into the late-model category (e.g., three to seven years old), and where commuter vehicles are concerned, may show 200,000 miles or more on their odometers.
“It’s a hardworking, German-based community. So if you’re fair with them, they’re fair with you. And, yes, it’s a good community to be in,” Ken Faust said.
“When we first started, we had a lot of family help, because our kids were young, and we spent a lot of hours here,” Ann Faust said, adding that having grandparents nearby was a blessing.
The NAPA AutoCare Center is also a full-service AAA-approved repair facility, covering everything from mechanical work and diagnostics to alignments and undercar service, Faust added. It is housed in a modern 55-foot by 155-foot building on old U.S. Route 50. The building includes seven bays, each with its own Rotary lift, plus space for tire-changing and alignment equipment (Hunter) and generous storage, which Ken Faust admits with a laugh, he needs, because he is a “tool geek.”
“If you have a new tool, that’s what I’m interested in,” Faust said. “I want to have the tool before it’s needed.”
Those tools include scanners from Snap-on and TPMS tools from NAPA and Autel.
His affiliation with NAPA has grown over the years, Faust said. Early on, he was the kind of guy who beat everyone up over price, but, he said, “I finally got to the point where I realized that price is not everything. A lot of times it’s the relationship, and it’s the supplier making sure they’re going to take care of you no matter what.”
Now, Faust said, “That is my biggest thing. I would rather have that commitment from my supplier than price any day. Because my customer’s willing to pay the price. They want the quality, and quality comes with a price.”
In addition to NAPA – his local distributor is McKay Auto Parts – Faust’s suppliers include local dealerships for OE parts, Huels Oil for petroleum products, and Ben Tire, Statewide Tire, and Raben Tire for tires.
Continuing education: an important investment
To stay abreast of rapid changes in the industry, Faust said he schedules about 40 hours of continuing education and training annually for himself and his employees. The training comes, not only from NAPA – “they have very good training,” he said, “we go to all of it” – but also from CARQUEST, through its CTI program, from ASA-Midwest’s Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo in Kansas City and, when it fits the shop’s schedule, AASP Missouri’s Excel Trade Show & Training Conference in St. Charles.
“We spend a lot on training,” Faust said. “In this day and age, it’s essential.”
Also, in the area of training and education, Faust said he, as a shop owner, is a member of (and as of this month the president of) his local NAPA AutoCare Business Development Group, an organization that offers members a variety of training and networking opportunities as well as peer-to-peer counseling and opportunities to meet NAPA and other industry executives.
“Sometimes it’s good to be able to talk with someone who’s experiencing the same issues you’re having,” Faust said. “It’s valuable.”