Social Impact Auto Repair with Dan Adam and Stacey Burns - Ep 35

This episode of the Social Enterprise Alliance Podcast aired on Tuesday, January 8th. This episode can be found on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

0:00:00.3 Lauren: Hi everyone, and thanks for listening to the Social Enterprise Alliance Podcast. Today, we welcome Dan and Stacey.

0:00:09.2 Lauren: Dan Adam is the founder and owner of the Adam and Son Auto Repair and Service Shop, a social impact business with two locations. He's also the founder of the Stranded Motorist Fund, a 501 [c] [3] non-profit, and co-founder of the Automotive Impact Network. Dan is a pioneer in the social impact arena for the automotive industry. He is the recipient of the National Institute for Social Impact's 2022 Social Impact Business of the Year, Synchrony Pillars Project Grant 2022 winner, and 2023 Vistage Impact Award for the state of Colorado.

0:00:48.4 Lauren: Stacey Burns has been a strong advocate for social impact businesses, veterans transition programs, as well as healing through the arts. Stacey was one of the creators of the Military Creative Expressions Program in conjunction with the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. She does ongoing work to increase the understanding and measurement of Social Return On Investment, SROI, a process she has been developing since 2009. Stacey is currently the chief operating officer for Adam and Son Auto Repair and Service.

0:01:20.3 Lauren: Prior to that, she spent over 20 years in leadership and consulting to help people realize opportunity through social impact business models. Stacey has a Bachelor's degree in psychology and English, as well as a Master's degree in counseling psychology and counselor education. Welcome, Dan and Stacey, to our podcast.

0:01:55.0 Lauren: Hi, Dan and Stacey, welcome to the Social Enterprise Alliance Podcast. We're so happy to have you here with us today.

0:02:00.5 Dan: Well, thanks for having us.

0:02:03.3 Lauren: Awesome. Yeah, we're so excited to have you both on our podcast today. So just as a good kind of starting point to give our listeners some context, what is your story? And what is the story of Adam and Son Auto Repair and Service? And furthermore, how did this auto repair shop concept turn into a social enterprise with social impact?

0:02:27.6 Dan: Yeah, I can answer that. So I started working in the automotive industry when I got out of the Navy. I started changing oil at a local auto repair shop and eventually worked my way up to becoming an ASE certified master technician. And it was this shop that I was at that ultimately drove me to find my own business.

0:02:54.0 Dan: And it was due to the fact that their customer service was not very great. And then their company culture also was horrendous. So that pushed me to start looking for other options. And with the mindset that what I wanted to create was a work environment that everyone enjoyed coming to work. They enjoyed each other while maintaining professionalism and then translating that into customer service.

0:03:26.8 Dan: So that was the concept of when I first acquired my location, my first location. And what ended up happening over the period of roughly 10 years plus is I started to get that dialed in where I thought I've done an exceptional job with the customer service and the company culture. And so a couple of things happened at the same time in 2020.

0:04:00.1 Dan: And one was I was revamping our website and trying to think about our why and communicating that on our website. And I started to think about what more can we do as an auto repair shop because we've nailed it internally. But what can we do with our community? How can we bring this out there? And at the same time, we were training a new service advisor on the processes. And she asked the question, "What do we do if somebody can't afford to fix their car?"

0:04:34.5 Dan: And so we went through the usual steps, which is offer financing, check with family members. Maybe they're attached to a church that can provide assistance. But we realized we needed something more formal. So we tasked her with going out and researching these resources available for people who can't afford to fix their cars. And she came back with, there's nothing. She just could not find any resources. And I thought, that can't be right. That seems a little odd to me. So I took it upon myself to do the same thing. And turns out that there just isn't any viable resources that we could find for transportation needs.

0:05:15.1 Dan: If you're hungry, you can go to a food bank. But there's just not a food bank for transportation, which is kind of crazy if you think about you need transportation to go to the food bank. So that was probably, I think, the point where we said we need to formalize our social impact. Prior to that, we have had several other programs that we had in place but didn't realize they were social impact.

0:05:44.8 Dan: And when I started this process of launching our nonprofit, the Stranded Motorist Fund, to help people who can't afford to fix their cars, I stumbled across the concept of social enterprise, social impact, and started researching it and was fascinated. I just soaked up everything I possibly could on the concept and dove into it and realized what we were doing was social impact and just didn't have the language for it.

0:06:17.7 David: Right, right.

0:06:18.2 Dan: So once I realized that, I was all in. And then we started putting language around it and then communicating it to our customers, to our staff members, and it's been a great process.

0:06:35.4 David: Yeah.

0:06:35.9 Lauren: Yeah, that's really incredible. I love that because I feel like I hear that story so often amongst our membership, just that people are setting out to do good work through a business that they're already running and they're just thinking about, how can I make this better for everyone and better for the world? And then they kind of stumble across this concept of social enterprise and it really does kind of light that fire of realizing, "Oh, there's a term for this. There's a community around this. There's networks that can support this. I'm not alone in doing what I do." So I just think it's a somewhat common and really powerful story of wanting to do good in the world and then discovering just this concept of social enterprise. I love that.

0:07:21.1 David: Definitely. What I love about the story is you've identified kind of that one stakeholder, which is a very common stakeholder to identify. It's like, "Hey, what if auto repair could really be good at customer service?" And so this customer as the stakeholder and then, "Oh, and if we're really good at customer service or the way to be good at customer service is to really create that amazing team culture and they both go hand in hand." From there and I think that this is what I love so much about your story is every small business owner or medium business has those two things in common. And I think as a small business owner, you can then control and build on very easily. So whoa, we're really good at team culture and meeting the customer's needs. As we learn more about our why, we're seeing kind of more opportunities unfold.

0:08:14.9 David: And, again, kind of, I think where my story aligns with your story is, all of a sudden then I stumbled into this language of social enterprise and I had no idea that there was this whole other world to then now accelerate all these other ideas and thinking. So what I'm really curious to hear about next is you have four specific impact programs. So I'd love to hear more about those. You mentioned the Stranded Motorist Fund. So tell me about these four programs and kind of the birthplace of each one of them.

0:08:49.5 Dan: Well, sure. The first program started when my own kids were in the Colorado Springs Children's Chorale. And we were tasked to fundraise for trips, events, tuition, that kind of stuff. And the way they asked us to do this was to go out and sell butter braid pastries for $10 a piece. And the organization was going to get $4 of that. And my son at the time was scheduled to go on a trip with the group to Australia. That was going to be a $5000 trip.

0:09:28.0 Dan: That is an insane amount of butter braids we had to sell. So as a business owner, I'm looking at this and thinking there's got to be a better way of doing this. And so I ended up creating three and five pack oil changes that we donated to the Children's Chorale. And the students, the kids, went out and sold those packages. And they got to keep, at the time, they got to keep 100% of what they sold. The auto repair shop didn't take anything. But the idea behind that is, now we have a group of people that we would not have been in front of before that want to support us because we are supporting them.

0:10:10.2 Dan: And so we have this concept of growth, market share growth, because of this. But what we ended up doing is taking it to another level. And any time one of those customers comes in for their oil change, we would donate an additional 5%, up to $100 per visit, back to their organization. So it's a recurring thing. Once that student is part of our program, and they've moved on, it doesn't matter. Their family is still coming in or whoever they sold it to is still coming in. And that organization still gets to keep that money. And we are gaining customers. So it benefits everybody involved.

0:10:48.5 Dan: We get these customers that are getting high-quality services at a discounted price because we're actually discounting those services. And then we're getting the organization the money they need, they have hard-time fundraising selling butter braids. Now they have something where the purchase price is maybe a couple hundred dollars. So from a $10 purchase to a $200 purchase is significant and they have to do a heck of a lot less work. And it's all automated through our website.

0:11:15.8 Dan: And then clearly we benefit as well as the shop because we have new business coming in. And what we've done since then is we've changed that from giving 100% of that purchase price to the organization to 80%. So now they get to keep 80%, but the other 20% goes to the Stranded Motorist Fund. So we've created a mechanism for funding our own nonprofit using this model.

0:11:43.8 David: Hmm. That's super cool.

0:11:45.5 Dan: So we've had a couple other programs as well. And one of them is what we call our Pay It Forward. And it was originally designed for our military members. Colorado Springs is a big military community, and it's very common for businesses to offer military discounts. So what we've created is a system where if a military member comes in and we offer them their discount, we ask them if they are willing to pay it forward to different organizations. It could be the Stranded Motorist Fund, or currently we're supporting Angels of America's Fallen, which supports the children of the fallen, military members, police, that kind of stuff.

0:12:33.4 Dan: And if they are willing to donate their discount, we will match that discount up to $100. And then the same concept is it's residual, as we will continue to donate to the organization. So it's a huge benefit to military members. And we've done similar things for other organizations, first responders, things like that.

0:13:02.1 Dan: And then another program we have and we call Follow the Heart. And this is targeted specifically for organizations that aren't able to sell Trifecta oil changes for their fundraising. It doesn't work for that, that model. So things like we're big supporters of our local Inside Out Youth Services, and it's for the LGBTQ plus youth in our community. And the way it works is they have a link that they can share in their community at any time via email, print, it doesn't really matter, and it takes them to a hidden page on our website. And once they get to that website, that hidden page, they can collect a $25 off coupon.

0:13:53.0 Dan: And the exact same concept. If they come in with that $25 off coupon, and they're willing to pay it forward to Inside Out Youth Services, we're going to match that donation. And, again, the same concept of that 5% continues to be donated to that group.

0:14:09.9 Dan: So it's a great way of supporting an organization that doesn't have the traditional fundraising tools that they can use. And we do the same thing for police foundations, fire foundations, things like that. So I think that's the gist of all of our social impact programs.

0:14:29.0 David: Yeah, yeah. Well, I love how they've all built on each other, that you've learned one thing and then been able to mirror it somewhere else. So, Stacey, for you, it looks like you have experiences in other work or past work experiences measuring the social return on your investment. So I'm curious to hear about how the programs that we've just talked about, like how are you then measuring that? Like do you have data? How have you collected that? How do you see this really having these impacts in the community?

0:15:02.3 Stacey: Sure. So I used to go to the SEA conferences when they first started, so I've been aware of you all for a little bit longer. But I used to follow REDF around and listen to them talk about Social Return On Investment and how they were working on this number that equated dollars and cents to things that are traditionally not measured in a financial way, even a quantitative way in some cases, things like resiliency and hope. And so REDF, I think, took a different direction, and I stayed geeking out about it and so I have developed my own process and a team around being able to measure Social Return On Investments uniquely for organizations.

0:15:44.2 Stacey: And so when I joined Adam and Son, one of the first things that Dan asked for was I really want to make sure that what we're doing is working. And so I created surveys for each of our distinct populations to make sure that for the Trifecta fundraising, not only are we getting feedback from the organizations that are using it, but even the end user of, is this effective for you? Is this your grandkid sold you a package of oil changes? Is it working? Are you going to use it? Are you enjoying our services? Is this why you come back?

0:16:20.9 Stacey: And then our Stranded Motorist Fund clients, we want to make sure that those folks are getting what we think we're providing. Transportation is a safety net. And to Dan's point earlier, of being able to discuss getting from point A to point B, whether that's a job or school or the food bank, not having transportation, we believe, is a preventative factor to higher levels of service and ultimately taxpayer dollars in a lot of cases.

0:16:48.0 Stacey: And so if we can help someone fix a car, then we've helped our community at large as well. And so we check in with them on that and we gauge how much did this keep you from not being able to work? Or did it keep your kids out of truancy court? Did it keep you attending your medical appointments that are crucial to you being able to continue to work or not have to go to the ER on Saturday night because you couldn't get to your appointment on Tuesday?

0:17:17.7 Stacey: And so we check in on that. But then we actually survey just our general guests as well, folks that we have no idea if they came to us, knowing about our social impact or not. And of the folks that are aware of our social impact, 60% of them stay with us because of that social impact. You've always got your ratio of customers that they like the service or they have that one service consultant, service advisor that they love and trust. Hopefully we've all found that in our communities.

0:17:47.2 Stacey: But I think the really biggest piece, and I've been with the company about a year and a half, and that's where we've really started to market and talk more about our social impact. And so I actually expect that number to go up pretty substantially because we spent a lot more time with our guests who just valued what Dan built in the culture and in the quality services, that now that they know we're doing even more in the community, that they'll be even more excited about using us.

0:18:17.1 David: Yeah. So my working world is in coffee, which means I have kind of an international perspective on some things. And one stat that I remember reading once is that if you own a car, then you're only in the 11th percentile globally. And if you own two cars in a family, you're in the top 8% globally. And what I love about so many of the things that you just said is I would never equate a car with wealth, even a really bad car with wealth, because in my life a car is so integrated into my day-to-day.

0:18:56.9 David: I'm in Ohio, and last year they made for the voting, if you want to do early voting, you could only do it at this one spot in the city. And I'm like for me, I can do that. But for someone that doesn't have a car, that's figuring out how to take a bus, that's trying to figure out how to get to a bus lane, like all these things that are not things I would have to think about. So I love that perspective that you bring together, because I don't think for many of us we think about how integrated a car is into our own lives. But if you don't have one, there's an awful lot of barriers that are created, and so I just love this work so much.

0:19:37.0 Stacey: We met with an agency just up the road in Denver, looking to try to bring some similar programming down to Colorado Springs. And they help folks that have a vehicle and they're without shelter. They're, you know, experiencing homelessness, but they have a vehicle. And so they've partnered with church parking lots to be able to hook up to electricity and get fresh water.

0:20:02.5 David: Oh wow.

0:20:03.4 Stacey: And just have a safe space for the night that provides security. And so the program is called Safe Parking. But one thing, just to your point, that their executive director mentioned in that conversation that has stood out to me and I think makes what Dan and Adam and son what we are doing even more important is she stated, this vehicle is the last asset that these families have. And I am guessing most of us know the statistic of, if you don't own something, your likelihood of getting out of poverty diminishes greatly. And so if you're experiencing financial distress and you lose that last asset, or it becomes non-functional, then you truly become destitute very, very quickly. And so we feel that transportation and you know, that access to be able to get yourself where you need to go. And I love that you're bringing up voting, just being a civil participant, but there's so many things that not having a vehicle, can affect.

0:21:06.3 Lauren: Yeah, that's really interesting. I think something that we've kind of learned as we've been interviewing social enterprises on this podcast is just sometimes the needs that come up as you start to do this work are just things that you take for granted. Things that you're surprised by. Yeah. That's like just how much having a car impacts your life and how that is like a lot of people's last asset. You know, that can kind of come as maybe a shock if it's not something that you've thought of before. So for y'all, what have been other surprises in your work as you've continued on into this impact? What else have you been surprised by?

0:21:44.6 Dan: I was just gonna say that what took me by surprise when we launched the Stranded Motorist Fund is the pace at which it grew. When we originally focused on our customers that were coming in our doors, and the need that we saw immediately right in front of us. But what ended up happening is we got discovered and now we have many different agencies reaching out for help, Department of Human Services to, local homeless shelters. And it's just incredible how much need is out there. And I did not know that when we started this. It was just something that we saw for our own base, and now we're receiving 10 applications a week. When we launched it, it was probably maybe one or two a month. And it's just, it's growing like crazy. And, it's fascinating to see our community, kind of getting behind us and supporting what we're doing. And it's, we're becoming known in this city because of what we're doing. So that part was surprising to me.

0:23:10.3 Lauren: That's so awesome. I think this is something that, like the model that you've created here is something that I think a lot of communities could obviously benefit from. Is that something that you all are interested in doing? And I guess it's kind of like a two-part question, right? Like, this seems like a model that could be replicated in other places. Is that something that you all are working on and planning on doing? Or for people who are listening who might be inspired and wanting to do something similar, where would you point them to begin creating something like what you've created?

0:23:46.9 Dan: That is a great question. And something that I think we're very excited about is expanding this beyond ourselves. Stacey and I have created a company called the Automotive Impact Network, and the concept is that there is auto repair shops in communities across the nation that are doing good things, but it's not formalized and they're not sure how to do it effectively. And we're gonna put together this community and educate them on what we've done, and they can certainly use our tools that we've already built, our social impact programs, and they can become a certified, Stranded Motorist Fund shop. So we'll handle the back end of that. We'll support them in their community, handle all the logistics on that. But the neat part is getting these shops together, there is quite a few shops that really wanna do good things in their community. They just don't know how. And so if you can put together this group, build a platform on a national level, it's really exciting to see the power behind what this group can do for their communities. And yeah, I'm, I can't wait.

0:25:04.7 David: Man I love that so much. I literally was in a meeting thinking about how industries can better share best practices. So again, like I'm in coffee, the conversation I was having about like, I know this florist here and this florist here, and this florist here. Here's three things that they're kind of all doing, like organic growing practices, but this one's doing something really cool here. This one's doing something in second chance employment. This one's doing something, you know, know with a give back model. And how cool would it be to get those florists who, I mean, I guess they're not in competition based on geography, but are in the same industry. Can you imagine maximizing the impact that they're all having just by sharing that best practices? So creating that network is just like, man, I think that that you guys are really onto something there too.

0:26:00.7 Dan: Well, it's not only the impact of getting those shops together, what they're doing for their communities, but when you build a platform of that size, then you get to leverage a lot more resources, including, you know, in our industry, we've got a whole bunch of suppliers that are global companies that try to do good things for their communities or across the country. And if we can leverage that and use their resources to back what we're doing, the impact is gonna be even greater. So yeah, there's lots of benefits to this.

0:26:39.9 David: Yeah, that's super cool. Stacey, kind of a similar question, like how do you see maybe your footprint extending, especially kind of from that return on investment lens, you know, maybe a surprise that you've seen or what excites you about your expanding your footprint?

0:26:57.9 Stacey: I think similar to the comment that Dan made, I was surprised by the need. I've worked in human services for 15 years in this community and really thought that I was well networked and understood the needs and if someone came to me with a question or a resource that they needed that I knew where to send them. And realizing working here, but then realizing the scale of what we need in this community. So Dan mentioned 10 applications a week, but the first time that the local news picked up a story about us giving away a car this year, we had a hundred applications in one week. And so when you start to look at how many people are hurting, and we've seen an uptick in our applications recently. You've got economic uncertainty, you've got folks that were probably solid middle class and Colorado Springs might be a little bit different in this, but I think the entire nation is probably seeing it in pockets that people that were solid middle class are now somewhere on a bubble and not being able to afford those extra things that they did before.

0:28:13.3 Stacey: And we're finding that auto repair is part of that, and so they don't have a place to go. And so if we can show other communities, and every time we present on this, Dan and I have had a lot of great opportunities to engage this industry. And every time we ask, how many of you are aware of this need in your community, everyone's nodding their head. And we've had so many really wonderful shop owners that want to be part of that solution. They just didn't know how. And that's, it's the thing I've always loved about social enterprise is, we weigh so much on our nonprofit community to solve these issues. And I truly believe that business models have such a unique advantage and the innovation that is just born in business, to create solutions to some of these issues that are popping up.

0:29:04.6 Stacey: It's just, it's a whole new mindset and I love that it's finally catching on in the US. We've got a solid foothold, right? And we've got some exciting places to go and so much potential to live out. But yeah, I do think just knowing that other communities have got to have that level of need, and I grew up in rural America, and, I know the needs there, you know, there's not, there's no such thing as public transportation and so this, this can't be unique to where we are. And I don't think it's unique to urban or rural or even folks that thought that they were well established and had plenty of expendable income, I think a lot of things are surprising people right now in terms of the situation that they're in.

0:29:51.7 David: Well, and you kind of said it earlier too, about a car could be potentially your last asset, to me, what you just said about like the bubble, like if you're on that bubble and all of a sudden that car goes away, that could be the trigger to really make things accelerate in the wrong direction. So.

0:30:06.7 Stacey: It does.

0:30:08.0 David: Just how critical a car is and having reliable transportation is, it's in a, it's a healthy reminder of how important it is and the importance of the work that you're doing.

0:30:21.4 Dan: You know, when we talk about the Automotive Impact Network and helping shops, the automotive industry right now is hurting very badly when it comes to talent. And I'm sure many industries are like this is, we cannot find automotive technicians. There's a huge shortage. And what social enterprise, social impact brings to the table is, looking at our own shops is our people are very proud of where they work. They have a sense of purpose and it's so much bigger than just fixing cars. And for them to be part of being able to help their community is huge. And so it creates this retention and it also helps with attracting new talent as well. So it's kind of an exciting concept to be able to bring to the automotive industry that's really struggling right now.

0:31:15.9 David: Yeah, no, that's a super powerful point. And I can share a similar experience, again, in food and beverage, it is an industry that is short on the employee pool that's available or the talent pool. But I haven't had an issue with attracting good talent. And especially I think as we get into the next generation of the workforce, there's a demand not only for this is how they wanna spend their dollar, but this is where I wanna work. So that's a great point.

0:31:45.8 Stacey: And I think my parting thought would just be, Lauren, you asked a two part question earlier of if we weren't going to put a platform together or get people together on this, you where would we send them? But, I would love to just clearly state, if there are shops out there or even other industries that are looking to build something similar, we would love to share our experience and we definitely would love to have more shops and conversation with us about what their ideas are or why they wanna get more involved in their community. So please, please list us as a resource for that.

0:32:23.5 Lauren: Yeah, that's so awesome. So for people who are interested in learning more about your work, supporting your work, or just trying to kind of create some version of what y'all are doing in their own hometown, where would you point them? Where's the best place for them to go to get in touch with y'all?

0:32:40.7 Dan: I think the easiest is just going to the automotive impact network, automotiveimpact.com, And that's probably gonna be the easiest way to find us. You're welcome to Google Stranded Motorist Fund. We'll pop up right away. You can Google Adam and Son, and we'll pop up. Any of those will lead you to us.

0:33:05.0 David: That's super cool. Yeah, this has been really great. And again, I think that just how practical it can be. You're just looking for practical solutions, but having deep, deep impact with your community and really, you know, again, like the Pay It Forward model, not only are you having deep impact, but you're empowering your customer base to deepen their impact too. So it's a really generous way to look at all the stakeholders that you might touch, and you've created a circle and that's just a beautiful story. So thank you.

0:33:37.7 Dan: Yes. Thank you.

0:33:37.8 David: Well, thanks again for being on and, yeah, I've learned so much and just am truly inspired and can't wait to just continue to hear what next year's projects looks like. So thank you so much for being a part of the Social Enterprise Network and for being a guest on the podcast today.

0:33:54.4 Lauren: Yeah. Thank you Dan and Stacey, this has been really cool. It's awesome to hear more about the work that y'all are doing.

0:33:58.7 Dan: Awesome. Thank you so much.

0:34:00.6 Stacey: Thank you both. Please stay in touch.