The intention was obvious: to create a space that would make people feel welcome and recognized. In many ways, those first thirty seconds told the whole story. The feeling of welcome I experienced as soon as I walked into Adam & Son was an introduction. And the story continued to unfold. Dan Adam explained what it means to be a social impact auto repair shop. “The shop is the engine for our non-profit,” he said. It’s a company that works with machines in order to benefit humans.
Shortly after leaving the Navy, Dan found a job changing oil at a local repair shop. From the beginning, he noticed the transactional culture of the industry. In both company culture and customer service, across the industry, everything was about dollars. The message he consistently received was, “Every single one of you is replaceable.”
Dan decided something had to change. With a loan, he was able to start Adam & Son Auto Repair. His intention was to build an alternative auto repair environment. One that was concerned with people first.
It started with Adam wanting his repair shop to offer his employees more than just a paycheck. “I wanted to create a work environment where everyone wanted to come to work. Where they could have a good time, as well as being professional and getting work done.” Over time, Adam and his team developed twenty-eight fundamentals for the shop. The goal was to build and maintain a culture of excellence and continued growth. These fundamentals are discussed in every morning meeting.
The fundamentals are principles such as: “make quality personal,” “listen to understand,” and “pitch in wherever necessary.” They encourage both personal development and team dynamics. A pro-wrestling-style belt is awarded to the employee who has especially exemplified the fundamental-of-the-week. All of this is to give the employees and Adam & Son a purpose in their work and collective ownership in their shop.
The workplace culture that Adam & Son has worked to develop has had a direct impact on their customers. They receive consistent quality service that goes beyond industry standards. Adam & Son strives to see every individual customer as a person first.
Service consultants are trained to work with the customer’s budget and needs. If it’s a complete overhaul or a new car, they let the customer’s needs determine the best route forward. They aren’t concerned with getting as much money as possible out of every job. The goal is to help each person that comes through their doors. To give them the best and most precise information and help them make an informed decision.
Also, Adam & Son’s technicians do “virtual inspections.” This is to offer clarity of mind and develop trust. They record pictures and videos of every issue they find in a car and send them directly to the customer. This allows customers to see problems for themselves. Cars are becoming more complex and fewer people are doing at-home repairs. Lots of times people don’t even know what their mechanic is talking about. This transparency method offers peace of mind. Customers know Adam & Son mechanics are working for their best interests. They even offer free loaner cars for customers to use while their car is being worked on.
As the business grew, Adam began to look around at his community. There were clear opportunities for benefits to reach beyond his employees and customers. It began when one of his children was fundraising by selling baked goods. Adam thought “There has to be a better way.” And so he developed the Trifecta Program. The Trifecta Program is a fundraising tool open to local charities. Buy a three or five-pack oil change and 80% of the purchase price goes to your charity of choice. 20% goes to the Stranded Motorist Fund. Adam & Son will also donate 5 percent of any additional services to your charity of choice in perpetuity.
After the success of the Trifecta Program, Adam saw another gap that his shop would be able to fill. Sometimes people simply can’t afford repairs on their car. Adam’s team did some research and discovered that there were no services to provide support in these cases. So, he created the Stranded Motorist Fund. This is a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose purpose is to provide free or reduced-cost repair to personal vehicles. For many people living in Colorado Springs, their car is their lifeline. It’s how they get to work, and how their kids get to school. An unexpected repair can put everything at risk.
The Stranded Motorist Fund offers affordable repair to vulnerable populations in Colorado Springs. It solves an immediate issue and makes a generational impact on at-risk families. Kids can continue to go to school, and their parents can still provide for them by keeping a steady job.
Adam & Son is a “purpose-driven business solving community needs.” And their business model has sent them on an upward spiral. In an understaffed industry, Adam & Son is having no problem retaining quality mechanics. Their employees don’t want to leave the workplace culture they have worked so hard to develop. Customers continue to come back to their shops because they know that they will receive quality service. Customers love that their money is fueling community projects such as the Stranded Motorist Fund. The more business they do, the more they can do for the community. This gets the word out about what their shop is doing. And then more people are excited to take their business to Adam & Son.
Adam wants to continue to encourage others to adopt the social impact business model. He has hopes of eventually developing an “Automotive impact network” across the country. There are sacrifices inherent to running this kind of business. “I don’t have the same toys other business owners have,” Dan says. “But I would gladly give up those toys to help somebody.”
In a world that seems increasingly transactional and impersonal, it is encouraging to see a business put profits back into the community, instead of into the pockets of a select few.