Alumnus Scott Schaefer survives and thrives after taking on the popular family business


Courtesy of Scott Schaefer

Scott Schaefer opens another Schaefer AutoBody location in O’Fallon, IL in 2014. The building was previously a Subaru dealership that had been vacant for several years and was a perfect fit for Schaefer and his business. “The biggest challenge with this location was the city’s zoning restrictions. Since the building was previously a dealership, the zoning was classified as commercial and body shops are only allowed in light industrial zoned areas,” Schaefer said. “The process wasn’t easy and there were some people who did not want us to be there. However, through our consistent presence at city council meetings and willingness to compromise with the requests of the city, we were able to reach an agreement.”

After graduating in 1998, alumnus Scott Schaefer expressed interest in managing Schaefer AutoBody, founded by his father Steve Schaefer in 1985, and began the process of taking over the business in 2010.

Since grade school, I was always around the body shop. My brother and I worked in the shop as kids to earn money for the things we wanted, like a new bike or Nintendo games. We mostly just did busy work, but often times we were given the task of sandblasting something or helping the technicians when they needed a second set of hands,” Schaefer said. “I always knew I wanted to own my own company. Entrepreneurship runs in the Schaefer family.”

Before becoming involved in Schaefer AutoBody, Schaefer owned a used car business that specialized in Jeep Wranglers.

“The business was doing well and I was happy but [I] also felt limited in the opportunities it was providing me. In 2006, my parents approached me about opening a new body shop in Crestwood and having me run it. I was hesitant at first but also realized that it was a great opportunity, and I could decide if I wanted to eventually take over the business when my parents were ready to retire,” Schaefer said.

After evaluating his options, Schaefer came to the conclusion that he was ready to take on Schaefer AutoBody and move on from his used car business.

“I sold my inventory of Jeeps at an auction and closed the used car business. After three years, the Crestwood location was operating very profitably, and I felt that it was time to take the next steps towards my goal of owning the business. In 2009, I hired a successor to manage the shop and I became the Director of Business Development where I focused on recruiting talent and marketing the business. A year later, in 2010, my parents moved out of state and I took on the role of Vice President and owner.”

Schaefer says the best part about owning his own business is seeing how his employees and customers benefit from the company.

“I take a lot of pride knowing that there are 225 employees who are passionate about what they do and that our company is able to support them and their families. I feel the same way about the customers we serve,” Schaefer said.

One of Schaefer’s biggest accomplishments since taking over the family business is the success he has had growing the business.

“Since 2010, we have tripled the size of our company and now operate 11 body shops in Missouri and Illinois. It’s fun to look back at where we were back then and compare it to what our company has become today,” Schaefer said.

Among other challenges, one of the hardest things for Schaefer is balancing his personal life while still being able to manage the business.

I take a lot of pride knowing that there are 225 employees who are passionate about what they do and that our company is able to support them and their families. I feel the same way about the customers we serve.”

— Scott Schaefer

“When you own a business, you are always working. [I do] not [want to] neglect [my] friends and family when things get busy. [Another big] struggle was getting past the stigma of being the owner’s son,” Schaefer said. “When you are the son of the owner, you have to work twice as hard to get the same level of recognition. In my earlier years with the company, this was a huge challenge and was often very frustrating.”

Schaefer’s goal for the future is to double the size of Schaefer AutoBody every five years.

“We’ve grown our business through a combination of opening new locations in markets that are underserved and acquiring existing body shops. Typically we find a building that suits our needs in the market and renovate it to become a body shop,” Schaefer said. “The second way we add locations is through purchasing existing body shops. In these instances, the previous owner is looking to retire from their company but doesn’t want to close the business. We are able to keep the shop running while retaining the employees and customers. For us and the previous owners, this is a win-win situation.”

Throughout his years, Schaefer has learned to always stay focused on his goals and to continue to persevere even when it gets tough.

“As long as your business provides real value to the consumer and its employees, you can adapt to changes in the market when they happen. Do not let anything get in your way because life will throw you curveballs everyday. When things seem unfair, [do not] let your emotions get the best of you because that will be your downfall. Never let anything get in your way,” Schaefer said.