Honesty. Integrity. Faith.
These are all key values that Shawn Fischer lives his life by. So, when he met Bret Tredway during a church trip to build houses, it seemed like fate. Tredway, who has the same value system, was looking for a partner for his shop, Bret’s Autoworks in Olathe, Kan., and Fischer, with a degree in accounting and business management and experience in the automotive industry, was the perfect candidate. In 2001, the two joined as co-owners of Bret’s Autoworks. In 2008, Tredway stepped away from the business while Fischer continued to operate under the same values. Fast forward to today and Fischer has new business partners and a new location.
Comfortable with the co-ownership relationship he was used to with Tredway, Fischer took on a new business partner, Dave Culver, who served and continues to serve as a service advisor in the shop, after Tredway stepped away. In 2008, a technician at the shop, Leo Murry, approached Fischer about opening a shop in his neighborhood of Gardner, Kan., which is roughly 10 miles from the Olathe shop. Fischer agreed and the two opened a new location of Bret’s Autoworks. The name stayed the same because of the positive reputation that the original location has, and as a bonus, it saves money on marketing material, Fischer says.
Finding the right partner is key and it’s very important to find someone that you’re compatible with, something that Fischer has managed at both locations. Both Culver and Murry have the same values that Tredway started the business on and that Fischer has continued with to this day.
Fischer enjoys having a co-owner because all of the responsibility isn’t on him, he explains, and it all pushes him to be better.
“I want my partner to be successful and my goal is to be successful and if they are, that will help me be successful,” Fischer says.
With a degree in business management and accounting, Fischer is comfortable with the behind-the-scenes aspect of running a business, such as picking out a new management software or doing the monthly P&L statements, but his two business partners have more hands-on shop experience, which comes in handy when it comes to making decisions for the business because there are two different—but equally important—points of view that come into play.
When Fischer and Murry started their business, the division of responsibilities happened naturally, with each using his skillset to find the task best suited for them. Fischer says they’ve learned a number of lessons from one another. Fischer says he’s always been “tight with the purse strings,” and that he sometimes has to talk Murry out of a new, exciting tool because it’s not necessary and not the best move for the business at the time. One investment that Fischer did make that benefitted Murry was an A/C system on the shop floor.
“He works out in the shop. I’m not there and I’m in the office,” Fischer says of the decision. “He’s hot and they’re hot, we need to do this.”
Working together has taught each of them a little bit about the other’s perspective and in turn, made the business run better. Fischer, who says he’s never been one to take risks, says that having a partner has helped push him out of his comfort zone.
Safety has taken on a new meaning to Fischer. When he started working in the industry, he considered a safe car to be one that hadn’t been totaled in an accident. Now, he understands the importance of a reliable vehicle that can transport families back and forth without fear of stalling on the side of the road. He believes that shouldn’t be a luxury and it should be available to those deserving of it—even if they can’t necessarily pay for it. So, he decided to help out where he could.
“We have the skills, we have people that can do that kind of work,” Fischer says of launching Wheels2Hope.
Wheels2Hope is an initiative through Bret’s Autoworks that gives back to families and individuals within the community that may not have safe transportation. The team at Bret’s Autoworks gets broken down vehicles donated or buys vehicles from customers that are going to cost more to repair than the customer is willing to spend, fixes these vehicles up, and donates to a deserving individual.
Giving back is very important to Fischer, and, whenever his team is able to work on these vehicles, they do. The shop takes recommendations for people to donate the vehicles to and NAPA helps supply the needed parts. To date, they’ve given six vehicles away and are looking to get the word out even more.
This project reflects the values that are so important to Fischer and his partners and the ongoing legacy of Bret’s Autoworks. Together, the owners of Bret’s have created a business that can be passed down while keeping the same sense of honesty, integrity, and faith.