CARBONDALE — Throughout his career, Todd Darnstaedt has developed a loyal clientele in the automotive repair and maintenance business.
After realizing that customers were following him to whichever business he worked at, Darnstaedt began considering starting his own business. With guidance from the Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIU, Today’s Technology Auto Repair opened its doors in 2006 in Carbondale,
Darnstaedt said his goal was to provide affordable auto and maintenance repair, giving customers the best service possible including after the work is complete.
“Fixing a car is just part of automotive repair,” he said. “Customer perceptions and how they feel about the service they received is very important.”
The SBDC provided valuable information about the various aspects involved in running a business, helped Darnstaedt create a business plan that enabled him to obtain essential financing and gave him the confidence to move forward. That is not all. When the business outgrew its existing facility in 2009, Darnstaedt again turned to the SBDC for assistance. The center helped Darnstaedt revise his business plan to secure financing for a new facility, and was again instrumental in providing guidance in 2012 when Darnstaedt needed expertise and a loan to complete a partnership buyout.
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“I’m batting a thousand with the Small Business Development Center as far as being able to secure the advice and loans I need to grow my business,” Darnstaedt said.
He said establishing and expanding a business has not been easy, but it’s rewarding. He said he encourages customers to ask questions about prices and repairs, and offers pick-up and drop-off service.
“That is what sets us apart. We don’t just want to fix the car, we want to create a relationship with the customer and provide that atmosphere where they’re comfortable dropping off their vehicle and they’re confident picking it up,” Darnstaedt said. “There have been a lot of stumbling blocks along the way, but when people come up to you and say, ‘I’ve been to your business and your people are wonderful,’ then that makes it all worth it.”
The business is also reaching out to the community in another way. Darnstaedt wants to visit local high schools and colleges to talk with students about different career options in the automotive industry. Darnstaedt said his technicians are trained professionals with Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification and they participate in continuing education training programs.
Darnstaedt said that he plans to continue to grow his business and if he needs advice or information, he will return once again to the SBDC. He is quick to encourage other business owners to get involved with the center early to move forward with ideas and eliminate potential mistakes.
“You need to talk to somebody who can help you put together some type of business plan, even if you’re not going to use it to secure a loan. It will help you find bench marks that you need to reach to make your businesses successful,” he said.
“Somebody who has been there, somebody who knows how to do it -- those are the people you need to make contact with to be successful,” Darnstaedt said.
The Illinois Small Business Development Center/International Trade Center, is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and hosted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
For more information about the SBDC or the numerous services it provides to new and growing businesses, contact Robyn Laur Russell at email@example.com or 618-536-2424.