Fix Auto owner offers employee ‘unbelievable’ opportunity
By Karen Brainard
When Steve Lamb received a phone call from his employer with an unbelievable offer, his first thought was that it was a prank call.
“I just — I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe the opportunity he was giving me,” said Lamb, a Ramona resident.
His employer, Greg Carter, was offering to give him the Fix Auto franchise in Ramona.
Carter owns two Fix Auto franchises in National City, one in Mission Valley and one in Santee, where Lamb worked. Three to four years ago, Carter purchased the Fix Auto franchise in Ramona but found the geographic location was taking efforts away from his other shops.
“I found at some point that it was a bit of a struggle for me to manage it from down the hill,” explained Carter.
“And then one of those 2:30 in the morning, all of a sudden your eyes wake up and you go, ‘Hey, I’ve got a great idea!’ And I got to thinking — maybe Steve would like to take this business over, and he lives up here, (it would) be a short drive to work,” said Carter. “He can immerse himself into the community, which I think is what it takes up here. You really got to be part of the fabric of the community to be a success. And so Steve, obviously, was a perfect fit.”
The employer told Lamb he could think about it overnight, but Lamb immediately accepted the offer.
“We just worked out a deal where he took over the business,” said Carter, who will maintain a minority ownership for a transitional period. “This is an awesome story for me. Made me feel really good.”
Both men hold mutual respect for each other.
“I can’t say enough about this guy and all that he’s done for me,” Lamb said of Carter. “He always goes the extra mile for his employees.
“I just could not believe that he gave me the opportunity to own a place. I’ve always wanted to but I just didn’t have the capital, didn’t have the means or didn’t have the know-how. But since he’s my mentor and he’s been mentoring me, it’s a drop in the bucket now.”
Carter said he hated to lose Lamb as an employee but knows that he will continue to build the Fix Auto brand. Carter described the auto body shop as a high performance-driven brand that prides itself on customer satisfaction and strives to be the best in the country. He noted that the Ramona shop has a VQ medallion by VeriFacts, a third party that gives the business the highest rating.
“I think people up here will really appreciate Steve. He’s a great operator,” said Carter. “He’s well-respected in the insurance community. The customers love him. He ran really high customer satisfaction numbers in our other store.”
About 90 percent of Fix Auto’s business is collision repair, said Lamb, adding that they also repair motorcycles, horse trailers and recreational vehicles.
Among the insurance companies the Ramona shop receives direct referrals from are State Farm, AAA of Northern California, USAA, Allstate and Esurance.
“We work hand in hand with all insurance companies,” said Lamb who has been in the collision repair business for 25 years.
One perk he offers is the availability of rental cars for customers to use while their vehicle is being repaired. Lamb is a Hertz agent and has the ability to bring a rental car to the customer, at home or at a business, fill out a contract, and take the damaged vehicle back to the shop for repairs.
Lamb, who moved to Ramona from Santee two years ago, said he is passionate about the business and instilling a good work ethic among employees. He is also very civic-minded, believes in helping other businesses and organizations, and will put flyers in his shop that promote events in the community.
“When I came up here, I just fell in love with Ramona,” he said. “Living and working here is just unbelievable.”
Lamb, a member of the Ramona Chamber of Commerce and the San Vicente Saddle Club, sponsors a recreational softball team.
Working with him is his 23-year-old son, Alex. Lamb, 52, plans to grow the business and, when he retires one day, pass it on to this son.
Fix Auto Ramona is at 453 Main St.
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