How I Work: Donielle Lopez
SHOP STATS: Xtreme Auto Works AZ Location: CHANDLER, ARIZ. Operator: Donielle Lopez, Chris Donno Average Monthly Car Count: 48 Staff Size: 5 Shop Size: 2,800 sq ft Annual Revenue: $500,000
Donielle Lopez left her corporate job and joined the automotive industry when her life partner, Chris Donno, owner of Xtreme Auto Works, approached her about using her marketing skills to grow the business. At the time, the collision repair shop was not growing and Donno felt as though the business was at a standstill.
“We had a conversation and he asked me to come on board with him to be able to grow the shop,” Lopez says. “It was really a leap of faith to take on the responsibility to help grow and have this be something for our future and for our kids.”
At the time, Lopez was working a corporate job, and decided to walk away from everything because of the couple’s shared vision of what the opportunity could bring together.
“Our alignment purpose of what we want to be able to create in the future, what we want to leave our children—we’re both single parents coming together in this—it really kind of came within a shared vision that we can do this,” she says.
One of the first decisions with Lopez’s move was to turn the business into an LLC; today, Lopez owns 51 percent of the 10-year-old collision repair company and Donno owns the remaining 49 percent. As the boss, Lopez focuses on ways to bring the business in front of others and “keep the lights on,” while Donno maintains the shop floor as a technician.
Since she’s taken over early last year, the business has doubled, which Lopez credits to getting out in front of the community.
“We are a mom-and-pop shop—we’re just more mom than pop,” Lopez says with a laugh. “What that also did was drag me to have more of a purpose into creating and growing something that I had an investment in.”
I’ll say good morning to everyone right when I walk through the door and make sure they’re in a good place. I’m someone who believes in the importance of communication and maintaining relationships, so I try and focus a majority of my day-to-day business around that. I’ll start my day by calling customers who left voicemails or responding to emails from the night before.
After I get in contact with our customers, I’ll work alongside my operations manager and we’ll go through a checklist. We’ll cover what is all on the agenda for the day: what customers are coming into the shop, who called the night before, and what is going on for the day. It’s just day-to-day stuff, but it’s important for me to know what’s going on during the morning. I just want to make sure everything is OK before I head out.
I focus on being a resource for customers. Although I didn’t come into this industry with automotive knowledge, there is a lot that I’ve learned along the way. Since starting this role, I’ve realized that I have a lot of determination in this business to continue growing the shop. As a woman, I’m working in a heavily male-dominated industry, so there’s comments sometimes, but it’s amazing what you can do when you really believe in yourself.
My goal is to break misconceptions that are in this industry. As a woman, often there’s this misconception that when we take our vehicles into shops, that we’re getting one played over us, and there are shops that have done that to people. There are just certain things that customers aren’t aware of in this industry and I want to be there to help ease concerns about collision repair.
Integrity is really important to me and I want our customers to have an excellent experience when they come into our shop. We want to be a place that’s both comfortable and reliable to those who chose to bring their vehicles into our business. Since I started working in the shop, I had the idea to bring in educational opportunities for anyone, and we’re working toward that dream.
Usually around 9 a.m., I’m out of the office and off to what I call a blitz. For me, a blitz is the opportunity to get out and connect with others in the community. I’m part of a number of organizations, so for me, it’s all about building relationships and ensuring trust with potential customers. Although we work in Chandler, our business is involved in the chamber of commerce for both Chandler and Gilbert. I knew it would be beneficial to get our business in front of others and really become a known fixture in more communities than just one. I’ll go to different areas around the city and connect; I’ll attend leadership meetings, I’ll set up appointments with clients, and also find ways in which our business can partner with others.
We proudly work alongside other shops in the area that might not be able to handle the amount of workload brought to their shop. If a shop needs assistance, we’ll get the car, bring it to our shop to work on it and then bring it back to their facility. We are a body shop that likes to help out others and that’s something that I think is unique because we’re all in this together, after all.
At the end of the day, you’ll find me back in the front answering phones or writing thank-yous to our customers. My end-of-the-day activities vary most times. I’ll come back and do the books, payroll, and I like to dedicate time to writing handwritten thank-yous. We really want to bring back those old-school values and so for me, I think it’s important to dedicate time to writing thank-you letters. If I’m not in the office, I’m usually out attending marketing events at night. There’s days where I’ll work 16-hour days, and others where it’s a normal shift; it just depends on what my calendar looks like.