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Meet Chris Soehren of Elite Automotive Finishes in Mesa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Soehren.

Chris, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in South Dakota and was around cars thanks to my dad and his projects. We were always fixing up some type of vehicle. I think that is where I became intrigued with cars in general. Fast forward to my high school days where I took an Autobody class. I enjoyed the work and found a great deal of satisfaction in seeing a vehicle go from its worst to a show piece. Following High School I went to an engineering school for 1 year. I quickly realized I did not want to be doing that for a living. I wasn’t sure what to do for a career at that point so I worked for a few years at a couple  local businesses. I finally decided to go to Wyotech to get a degree in Autobody repair and custom paint. I moved to Laramie Wyoming for the next year with a friend of mine to obtain that degree. I then moved to the Phoenix area 2 months after graduating(14 years ago). I worked for a couple shops and started doing autobody related work as a side gig out of my garage. It slowly became too busy to handle on nights and weekends so I opened a small, 1000 sq/ft shop in Mesa. We were at that location for approximately 3 years and slowly grew it into the 11,000 sq/ft facility we operate out of today.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We have been very fortunate to have awesome friends and clientele to always keep us pretty busy by directing a ton of referral work to us but it has not been easy. I had no business training whatsoever. I simply knew what NOT to do from working for other shops in the past. There were countless times where I didn’t know if the shop would survive. We have went from a 1 man crew in the beginning to a 8 man crew and back down to a now 4 man crew. The biggest challenges have been many challenges. My biggest hurdle has been building a reputable shop with no significant  financial backing. I did not want to take out a large loan to make this work so have been forced to grow the business slowly. I did not want that debt hanging over my head each month. We literally opened the shop with $3,000 and a very small loan from my parents to purchase old, used up tools and a paintbooth from a previous shop owner. I am forever grateful for my awesome crew and the undying support from my wife and kids. Without their support we would not be where we are today!

As with most industries the other big challenges have been finding quality, talented technicians, managing cashflow & upholding high level of quality & customer satisfaction at ALL costs.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Elite Automotive Finishes – what should we know?
We are a full service Autobody shop. From Insurance repairs(Collision repair) & Frame repair to custom paint work, race car builds and vehicle restorations. We try to cover it all. I am very proud of our roots, where we came from and the quality we uphold. I truly feel we offer a great value in this industry. Trust worthy, warrantied repairs at a very fair price. There are WAY too many automotive shops out there with terrible business practices. So many body shops and mechanic shops take advantage of people and we really are the exception. We simply want to help people out with their repair needs by being completely transparent with the process & costs while constantly communicating with the client as well as being extremely fair with pricing. Unlike a lot of shops myself and my crew do this because we enjoy it. We all share the same passion for this work. It is not just a job for us! I am forever

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Being honest & fair while providing top quality work.

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