Ian of I.S. Motorsports (formally I.S. Garage) has steadily grown his auto customizing service from a one-man-shop to a full-service team. A team he credits for his stellar word-of-mouth reputation.
I.S. Motorsports started back in 2009, right after the economic crash. Ian had his own mortgage company up till that point and when the crash happened, he followed a passion. He was always into cars and he found himself part of the street race culture that emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Ian made a name for himself in the car show circuit as an “import guy.” He specialized in outfitting imported cars to make them bigger, cooler, and of course, faster. Today the scene has changed and Ian admits it’s been a while since he met up with some friends to watch a street race.
The business has outgrown its location twice and Ian would welcome any future growth. Although, he admits that each time he has moved his shop, it gets harder to move such a big operation. A problem that any business owner would love to have. There is another hiccup that the move has caused, long-term clients find it difficult to get to Ian’s shop now that he’s moved so far from them. He is trying to win those customers back and adjust to the new challenges this new location gives him. Ian’s shop is in a major business area, he’s not the only shop there that does what he does, but his customers come to hang out at his place on Fridays. That’s a testament to I.S. Motorsports’ good customer/business relations.
It’s really impressive that Ian’s business has grown as much as it has just by word-of-mouth promotion. However, Ian admits that his oldest friend and team member Roy has brought the shop into the 21st century with Instagram and other social media platforms. It has put Ian and his talent in a new spotlight for a new and younger audience. Instagram is a huge meeting place for car enthusiasts, the digital answer to a car show.
One of the cool developments he has noticed at his new location is that he gets walk-ins now! That’s something he and his team have had to adjust to after all walk-ins are a different type of clientele. In a culture where a guy can walk into a major automotive store and have his car checked for free, Ian’s team deals with the attitude that diagnosing the problem should be free. Time is money though and diagnosing a problem takes time and expertise. It is a problem Ian addresses head-on, and it has led him to focus more on customization and performance upgrading services. Having such a loyal customer base has allowed the shop to be selective about their projects.
As with all businesses, Ian does have a regret, he wishes he hired the right people from the beginning. He says the right team is super important in his business and if you don’t have the right team, it isn’t going to work well. Especially now since he is shifting I.S. Motorsports in another direction. The direction Ian has in mind is vinyl wrapping, car detailing, ceramic coating, and other services that send car enthusiasts clamoring to his door.
Ian loves car shows and remembers his early days driving the circuit and making a name for himself with his team called Team Menace. He became known for souping up imports, but his specialty is BMWs. Ian is a graduate of the BMW STEP (Service Technician Education Program) program. He made a huge impression on the Bimmer community after he did some work for the moderator of Bimmerpost. He unknowingly found a brand-new avenue for customers. Even with all this good word of mouth and publicity, Ian still makes time to attend the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show every year. He says the hardest part of doing business in 2019 is keeping up with trends and forums. Following the trends and community buzz is important to stay in touch with Ian’s customer base.
So that leads to the question, why choose I.S. Motorsports over its competitors? In today’s market, it is nearly impossible to have a decent, let alone a great word-of-mouth reputation. Ian is customer-focused, he doesn’t push unnecessary work, and he’s part of a tight-knit community that recognizes quality when they see it.
I.S. Motorsports hasn’t had an official grand opening yet. Ian hopes to rectify that come this summer. He hopes to begin a Sunday tradition of setting up an impromptu car show for his friends and other local car fans. He says he really doesn’t have any big plans for the next six months or even in the upcoming year. He just hopes that business will stay steady and he can focus more on auto customization. He loves turning wrenches and he just wants to keep doing what he loves.
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For many businesses, especially those in the Pacific Northwest, the availability of work can ebb and flow throughout the year. If you don’t work in an industry that gets hit every year by a downturn in business because of weather, it might come as a surprise to you how much of their year is spent preparing for and trying to mitigate that loss. For the owners of K&D Quality Painting in Puyallup, WA, though, it’s a constant concern. And not just because of the loss of profit: but because of the impact it has on their employees.
The pair who own K&D Quality Painting puts every ounce of their heart and soul into their business. And that’s never more on display than when they have to contemplate how to help their employees get through the slow time of year. David is one half of the pair of owners, and for him, making sure his team is looked out for is top of mind.
The painting business slows down in the winter months, and it sometimes comes to pass that the income of David’s employees sinks low enough that rent and basic bills become a real problem. When that happens, though, he’s ready to dip into his own cash reserves to make sure they all make it through the tough months together. Says David, “Having employees changes the way you think your life is supposed to be. I have people who count on my decisions. They look up to me in a sense -- where I’m going to be able to carry them to the next step.”
Kurtis and David, the owners of K&D Quality Painting, didn’t have to open their own painting business. Previously employed by a big box store in the area, both Kurtis and David were comfortably employed and knew they could rely on a steady paycheck. But throughout their time working for the faceless corporation, they started to realize that they were unlike their employers and peers: Kurtis and David cared.
Painting someone’s house could easily be dismissed as something superficial, or something that can be glossed over. But that’s exactly the attitude that David and Kurtis rebel against, and why they started K&D Quality Painting. For them, getting the customer exactly what they’re asking for is extremely important. A person’s home is their face to the world, and the care, quality and concern that goes into making it look good should reflect the respect that the painter feels for the customer.
Working at the large box store, David quickly realized that his peers didn’t agree with him. For both his employer and his co-workers, the approach was to deliver the fastest, cheapest solution that met most of the customer’s requests and leave well-enough alone. It didn’t take long for him to get frustrated by this lack of personal touch or interest, and it was the shared appreciation for taking a job seriously that drew Kurtis and David together.
They started as friends while working together. Kurtis had been painting for over 30 years, and David was drawn to his professionalism and attention to getting the job done right. They both took pride in “giving the customer all that we are.” They noticed as they worked at this anonymous box store that the painters around them would “just show up, put color on a wall and leave,” and they both wanted to be different.
And that’s exactly what they’ve achieved. In Puyallup, you won’t find a painter with more sincere and earnest interest in getting the job done right than K&D Quality Painting. And that’s because they treat the business like an opportunity to provide comfort, beauty and happiness to their customers and a livelihood for their families. David is intensely proud that at K&D Quality Painting, they treat their customers like friends and their employees like family.
He approaches each job with a genuine interest in giving the customer what they want. If the customer makes it clear that they don’t have the budget for a hand-painted job with expensive paint, he doesn’t push them past their comfort zone or try for an up-sell. But by the same token, if the customer makes it clear they’re looking for a high-quality job, he and his team don’t cut any corners. No matter the customer, K&D Quality Painting always makes sure that they understand fully the customer’s needs and requests, and set out to get it all right, the first time.
The heart and soul that sets K&D Quality Painting apart among painters isn’t completely unique – but it sure is rare. It speaks to an honesty, decency and faith in a job well done that’s fundamentally American. And to hear David explain it, it’s not even a choice: he simply can’t see it any other way except that customers deserve what they ask for, and his employees deserve a good life. And the only way to provide that is to be the best painter he can be, and run his painting company according to his values.
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