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Tough Lessons Learned: One MSO Collision Operator’s Story

Steve Schaefer has achieved a lot of success as a collision shop operator, but it didn’t come without some lessons that knocked him flat on his face.

Jason Stahl has 27 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 15 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

A longtime reader of BodyShop Business emailed me recently, expressing his desire to share some advice to other collision shop operators out there.

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Steve Schaefer has achieved enormous success over the past 36 years, growing Schaefer Autobody Centers to 12 shops plus two dealership satellite locations. But he emphasized it hasn’t been without trials, tribulations and tough lessons that nearly killed him.

We’ve all experienced tough lessons both personally and professionally, right? And they were good for us. We always say, “If I only knew then what I know now,” but what would be the fun in that? For the golfers out there, you know it’s much more satisfying to make a par from a fairway bunker or the woods than the middle of the fairway. Adversity is a good thing. And Schaefer has found this to be true throughout his career.

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Three years ago, Schaefer completed the sale of his business to his son, Scott. He continues to serve as vice president. Their plan is to continue to carefully add locations both inside and outside of the St. Louis area.

“I wanted to share some business lessons for those interested and also make ourselves known to independent shops who might be considering retirement but aren’t thrilled with speaking with one of the large consolidators,” Schaefer told me in his email.

Check out our October SEMA Show issue for some of the lessons Schaefer has learned over the years as a multi-shop operator. Perhaps you can relate to them or share some of your own with me via email. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Anyone interested in speaking with Steve can reach him at [email protected].

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