Joanna Smith is the Owner and CEO of one of the largest PDR and Detailing shops in Colorado Springs: Pro Auto Spa. How did this stay-at-home mom become the CEO and owner of a full-service auto detailing and recon shop? We featured Joanna on our Prescribing Growth interview series. This is her story…
From Hail Chasing to Opening the 45,000-Square-Foot Pro Auto Spa Shop
After 17 years of hail chasing, Joanna Smith and her husband Ryan were ready to settle down a bit. In 2013, the couple decided to open up their first PDR Hail shop – Dent Magic. Ryan was the PDR technician, so Joanna assumed the role as shop manager.
“I didn’t think I had any marketable skills. I was a stay-at-home mom. How could I run a company?” Joanna asked herself. Fast forward, and Joanna realized that she not only excels at store management but is capable of running catastrophe management during busy hail season.
They soon realized that they didn’t want to depend on the weather, so within the first year, Ryan got training in Paint Protection Film. His skill and experience in PPF would allow them to service more cars throughout the year without depending on hail storms.
Their growth didn’t stop there. Four years later in 2017, they opened up Pro Auto Spa. They now have a building with over 45,000 square feet and employ almost 20 people. And they don’t just do PDR and PPF. Their services now also include detailing, ceramic coating, window tinting, powder coating, hydro dipping, and more.
Their business grew to include more services and space, but they also formed partnerships, created social media and marketing content, and learned how to service their customers in unique ways (Check out their unique storage solutions). After years of trial and error, Joanna has a few tips on how mobile technicians can run a successful shop.
Joanna Smith’s 7 Tips on Opening A Shop for Mobile Technicians
1. Find a need in your community and meet it.
Joanna and her family moved to Colorado in 2012 because the hail season was longer and provided a more stable workflow. They soon found there was only one other PDR shop in town. They decided to open a shop because they knew it would meet their customers’ and potential customers’ needs.
2. Surround yourself with people smarter than you.
When Joanna first started, she didn’t know much about the industry, so she called up a friend at an auto body shop to get coffee. The advice from her friend ended up being a catalyst for her business. (Watch her video to learn more!)
3. Do Your Research
One of the first things Joanna did was research her competitors. During her competitive research, she also learned about different certifications (like the PDR Nation certification) and conferences (like Mobile Tech Expo) that helped her build connections and grow her business. Researching is a rabbit hole that can lead you to unexpected potential.
4. Network, Network, Network.
When Joanna and her husband first began their business in 2013, they thought networking wasn’t necessary. They didn’t want to give any of their secrets away and lose to the competition. However, they attended the Mobile Tech Expo conference and quickly changed their minds. They learned that networking was helpful to their business, and they started joining Facebook community groups, handing out business cards, and learning from people in the industry.
5. Be ok to say “I don’t know.”
When starting a business, the reality is that you won’t know everything about management. It’s important to ask questions and be willing to let people with more experience help your business flourish. Pro Auto Spa ramps up and down on employees based on the season and she quickly learned how to manage anywhere from 5 to 20 employees – without an official management degree.
6. Make sure your finances are in order.
This was not just a business, but her family’s well-being. If you aren’t re-investing in your business, growth is not possible. Also make sure there’s always money in the bank.
7. Have faith.
Things will get hard. You have to believe everything is going to be ok to move your company forward. A lot of people give up when things get hard when it doesn’t hail one season or employees damage a vehicle. Joanna learned she can do hard things and has found a passion and a joy through it.
How Joanna Smith’s Outside Perspective is Crucial to Success
Joanna graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Family Sciences and was a stay-at-home mom for many years. While she was worried at first that she might not have the experience to be successful, what she did have was a tenacity to succeed. Joanna believes that her outside perspective helps set her apart from people who have been in the industry for years. She was capable of approaching problems differently and was always willing to ask, “Why do we do it this way?”
“I didn’t choose this for myself, it chose me. But it turns out I’m pretty good at it.”
For example, Joanna realized that her company didn’t have to price a one-inch dent for $75 just because they had always done it that way. She had to convince her husband, who had been in the business for 20 years, that they could charge more with estimating technology. Thanks to decisions like these, she’s been able to grow her business from one technician (her husband) to over 20 employees in a 45,000 square feet shop.
“Anyone can open a shop, but not everyone can bring a critical eye and an outside perspective,” said Joanna Smith.
Whether you have been a technician for 25 years or this is your first year in the industry, it is important to take a step back and ask “Why do we do it this way,” and think of creative ways to set yourself apart.
Leaving a Legacy in Auto Recon
People don’t expect many women to be successful in the automotive industry. Joanna Smith is defying expectations and paving the way for women to follow in her footsteps. She has shown many – including her husband, kids, and employees – that she has what it takes to run a very successful auto recon business. Joanna is leaving a legacy for the industry that she didn’t necessarily choose, but one that chose her.
This is just one episode of our Prescribing Growth series – a series of interviews with industry leaders to talk about the tips and tricks of running a successful business. Watch the other Prescribing Growth interviews.