We all know that life doesn’t always go according to the original plan. Yet sometimes, we find ourselves thriving in those unexpected places we end up in.
In this episode of The Banowetz Podcast, Sarah talks with Amy Hautt of Warehouse Auto about growing up with an entrepreneurial family and the expectations and realities that don’t always shape up how one might think.
Listen to the episode to find out how strong core values and a willingness to help and hustle led these two sisters to unexpected, but great, places.
Sarah: Welcome back to the Banowetz Marketing podcast. I’m Sarah, and today I have Amy Hautt from Warehouse Auto. How are you?
Amy: Good. How are you ?
So just to let everyone know, warehouse auto is a family business, so we’re kind of related right.
Amy: A little bit.
Sarah: So we are actually sisters. And, so our dad and mom started Warehouse Auto when we were seven and nine.
Sarah: And our brother was one. So, before that we lived in Marion. Do you, you remember that time? Like moving to Solon.
Sarah: So Warehouse Auto is in Swisher. And one of the awesome things about warehouse auto is that it’s on a park-like setting.
Amy: Yeah. Dad likes to call it the Autopark.
Sarah: So tell us a little bit about your story and how, because you’re full time at warehouse auto now.
Sarah: So tell us a little bit about your story.
Amy: Well, I have a degree in architecture, so, you know, might as well used cars right?
Growing up. I never thought that I would be really involved in the business.
But just, I guess that’s just sort of what happened. I, like I said, I, I actually have a degree in architecture. I had four years at Judson College in Elgin, Illinois, and came back, my husband and I got married right after my freshman year of college, actually. So we were kind of young marrieds and ended up having kids right after college.
And so I stayed home with my kids, as you know, for years. We have four kids and I stayed home for probably, I’m thinking, it was like seven or eight years.
So my husband and my dad had kind of like gotten together and said, hey, what if I take two months off, and Amy comes in and works for you for two months and just helps you out for a couple of months.
Sarah: And keep in mind, you’d been doing the accounting.
Sarah: From home, or just like coming in like once a week or something to do some bookwork.
Amy: Yeah, there wasn’t a huge need for a ton of hours. So it was just a very part time job that I was able to do with still having kids at home. It was my mommy time away and I would come in, you know, once or twice a week. I can just do some of the accounting stuff.
Sarah: Yeah. So you were already doing that at warehouse auto, so it wasn’t completely off the wall that you would help out for a couple of months while Danny was out.
Amy: Yeah. And I was familiar with that end of the business, like the accounting and the numbers and everything else, but never really thought that I would be that great at like, you know, doing the sales part or learning about all the vehicles and things like that. It just seemed overwhelming to me.
So it was never anything that I pursued. Kind of just accidentally got into it, just due to circumstances.
So, I came in and helped Dad out for a couple of months. Actually ended up falling in love with it.
Sarah: What did you fall in love with?
Amy: Well, really, it’s just a lot of different things. You know, it’s kind of fun.
There’s a lot of plates that spin, and in a small business, you do a lot of tasks. It’s not like you’re stuck on one certain thing every day. So there’s a lot of variety. I’m also, I really actually love helping customers, which I never really thought that I would, but, I don’t know why. I just, I do really enjoy it though. E specially for me as a mom, you know, I have certain perspective and certain needs for a vehicle with kids. Like, you know, you have a van or you need a van or whatever, but there’s different configurations and there’s different positives and negatives to certain makes and models. And I was kind of in the market for a van, actually around the same time that I had started. And so I just learned a lot about the different vehicles and I love helping other families find a vehicle that really fits their needs the best. Whether that’s a van or an SUV, car, really anything, just listening to the customer and assessing their needs and then helping them to find, you know.
Sarah: Warehouse Auto sort of started selling a lot more Odysseys like right after you started.
Amy: Yeah. Cause my dad is very value conscious, right? So he always was like, well, why would I buy an Odyssey if I can spend less money on a Dodge Grand Caravan? And I’m like, well, some people just really like certain brands and there’s different features about certain brands that people really appreciate.
Sarah: It’s funny because you drive an Odyssey now and I drive a Sienna and I love, I mean, as much as I love the Dodge Grand Caravans before, I really like how my Sienna drives. And you really like your Odysseys.
So my favorite thing is just listening to people assessing kind of where they’re at with things, and then, you know, getting them a match. Whether that’s on our lot, or sometimes we’ll go out and find it, and then it’s just, it’s an easy and enjoyable thing. I just enjoy matching a person up with a vehicle.
Sarah: Well, and let’s touch on that.
You said sometimes you go out and find vehicles for people, but really you can do that pretty easily because you’re sourcing vehicles from around the country every single week from multiple locations.
And so you have an extensive pool of vehicles that you can pull from to get people exactly what they want.
Amy: Right. That’s the cool thing about a lot of the auctions that people get vehicles from, they have gone online now. Most all of them are online. I would say all the big ones are.
So we have just as much access to vehicles, as a little mom and pop car dealership, that the big names would have in Cedar Rapids.
We shop coast to coast and border to border. Today’s Friday, there’s an auction in Chicago. There’s an auction in Manheim, Pennsylvania, which is the biggest auction in the whole country. So we can shop in the Midwest, on the East coast and the West coast, all in the same day, just on the computer.
Sarah: So explain about the process a little bit, because car auctions have gotten really good with, well, number one, I remember detailing when they weren’t good about keeping the vehicles clean. So they’re already going through a cleaning process before they ever even get to Warehouse Auto, which is amazing for the detailers now.
Amy: And not all of them, but a lot of them. Yeah.
Sarah: But then they’re checking over and looking at the vehicles on site, and then all of that stuff is in the computer before, so that you have an idea of what you’re purchasing when you get it.
If it doesn’t live up to the condition reporting, and then we can do, what’s called arbitration. We can talk to them and say, hey, this isn’t as you represented it and kind of go from there.
Sarah: Cause you can, yeah, you can send it back if you need to. And then once it does get to Warehouse Auto, then explain the process a little bit, because I know this is so different than almost any other car dealer.
Amy: Right, right. Like you’re saying, you know, the first step is we just source the cleanest vehicles.
If it’s got a recorded accident on it, we pass it by, things like that. We keep an eye out for those really nice units. And then once it gets to us, the first thing it does before anybody’s allowed to drive it , we send that to, our mechanic, Albert auto.
Sarah: Which is an independent mechanic.
Amy: They go through and do a full inspection on the vehicle and make sure it’s safe. Make sure it’s, you know, in tip top shape. So they go through and do that, and then once it’s done there, then it comes back to our shop and it goes through our detailing process, which is pretty extensive as well. We also check it over inside, outside, if there’s anything missing that was supposed to be in it, like a spare tire or, you know, owner’s manual. We try to make sure everything’s in tip top shape.
Sarah: It’s really very much reconditioned.
Sarah: And there’s vendors that come on site to do minor dent repair and paint work.
Amy: PDR, touch ups, all interiors, yep.
Sarah: Then finally it gets put on the lot. And another process that is unique to Warehouse Auto is the pricing, too.
Amy: Right, yeah. What we do is we price everything fair from the get go. So we look at a number of different, we look at KBB, we look at NAVA, we look at the market, and we just try to price everything fair just from day one.
And again, we don’t have any backend fees of any kind. You’re not gonna find any like dealer fees, dock fees, anything like that. Reconditioning fees, it’s all included in the price. You can really get into some sticky situations in other bigger dealerships where, you know, they say this is sort of the price online or whatever, but then when you get there there are all those games, right? Where, oh, that was the internet price. Or you have to be a veteran to qualify for that, or who knows what they’ll come up with.
Ours is just very clear and transparent. This is the price. There’s no extra fees other than, you know, the pass through fees, which would be like the tax, title and license that you have to pay to the County when you purchase a vehicle. But, other than that, it’s all very upfront, transparent, and clear.
We have a lot of customers who come and drive one day and then they say, oh, we would like to sleep on it. Which, we understand, it’s a huge purchase. You’ve got to make sure that you’re like, this is the one, this is the right budget for my family and everything else.
So a lot of times people will sleep on it. They’ll either turn in a credit app or if they’re paying cash or whatever, then we let them know kind of what the end fees are, what everything costs out the door. Then a lot of times they’ll come back the next day to actually sign paperwork, pick it up.
And yeah, if we get it done, if we have all the information, we’re able to get all the paperwork done beforehand, I mean the actual delivery process takes maybe 15 minutes. I mean, it doesn’t take very long at all, so it doesn’t have to be, you know, long and drawn out and it can be pretty quick and easy.
Sarah: Part of that is because you’re not trying to upsell anything.
Amy: Right, right. Yeah. I mean, we have an extended warranty, but it’s a company that we’ve had a really great reputation with and we’re some of the lowest rates in Iowa, so very affordable extended warranty. But we don’t push it. We say, hey, here it is. If you want it, you want it.
Sarah: Well, and let’s touch on that a little bit, because the reason we have some of the best rates in Iowa is because of, why?
Amy: The check in process. Everything leaves with a clean bill of health at our dealership. So the warranty company, obviously, they appreciate that.
Sarah: Statistically, Warehouse Auto’s vehicles have less warranty claims on them.
As a result, the cost of the warranty for Warehouse Auto customers is one of the lowest in the state.
Amy: And that’s another thing to consider. Cause like, you know, it’s easy to shop online and just look at the price of different companies and everything else, but there’s so much more to the story than just the list price of the vehicle.
There’s all these other things to consider. One of those is, you know, the extended warranty, back end fees, knowledgeable staff, there’s just a lot more things to think about.
Sarah: So why are you still there full time? It’s been a little bit more than two months here.
Amy: Well, so yeah, I’ve fallen in love with it. So I enjoy, you know, helping customers. I do a lot of the buying. Our dad has wanted to do more ministry stuff and kind of step away more. And so, he has really enjoyed being able to do that with me in there. So we just had a big family meeting after the couple of months and we said, okay, what are we going to do now?
So, yeah, I just enjoyed it so much. My husband has always wanted to start his own business, so it really gave us the opportunity to do that. So he actually quit his job at that glass company and started his own handyman business.
Sarah: Handyman Hautt.
Amy: Yeah. Maybe you’ll have to have him in here for a podcast.
He didn’t start that right away, but it just gave him kind of that open door. So again, we have four kids. Our littlest guy is three now. At the time he was just a year old. So we still needed someone at home. So he stayed home with the kids full time. And I went to work full time. So we did a swaparoo. It’s been a really neat experience for him get to spend more time with the kids than he had in the past. And he’s the fun parent. He does all like the fun stuff. He’ll take them like fishing and take them to the park. Not that I didn’t do that, but you know what I mean? He’s the fun parent, he’ll get down and wrestle with them and everything. So it’s been a really neat experience for him too.
And then, like I said, a little bit later then that’s when he started his handyman business and he just does it part time, makes his own hours. So it works out really, really well for our family. Yeah.
Sarah: So let’s talk a little bit about Warehouse Auto’s marketing.
Banowetz Marketing actually got started via warehouse auto. Because I had a photography company and then after the recession, so Warehouse Auto was started when you were seven and I was nine, and our dad had a marketing agency and he had this idea for a car dealership that he was trying to sell to car dealers, which was what we just explained the whole process of Warehouse Auto, and ended up turning into Warehouse Auto. Car dealers didn’t want to purchase this idea from him, this marketing idea. It was also a lot of business leadership and it was a whole new plan for a car dealership. And he couldn’t find a car dealer who wanted to do it. So he quit his marketing agency and started Warehouse Auto Company.
So because of his marketing background, he was able to start Warehouse Auto. By the time 2009, 2010 hit, we were still going on the old branding.
Do you remember that?
Amy: Yeah, I’m trying to think back. Yeah, it was pretty archaic.
Sarah: Let’s touch back to the point where Amy was like, I didn’t think I was going to be involved in Warehouse Auto. So Amy is the middle child and what’s interesting is, Sean and I, the youngest and the oldest, have been the ones that started working there when we were in high school and just worked up the ranks and you were like, I’m going to go be an architect.
Amy: I never detailed.
Sarah: You did want to be at head honcho though, right?
Sarah: Have you even spent one day detailing? Okay, we gotta get her detailing. Cause dad always said, you gotta work your way up.
Amy: Katie would grind me into the ground. I would probably get fired by Katie. She’s our detailing, she’s like our OCD mom. And she is, she is fantastic, but I don’t think anybody can live up to her expectations.
Sarah: She’s got a lot of energy too. That’d be good though.
Anyway, so 2009, 2010 after the recession, Sean and I were talking about freshening up the brand.
He worked on the logo and then he and I together worked on the website Mock 20 autos. And then I did the, the new tagline, “Enjoy Car Shopping”. Which, Dad did remind me that it was “You’ll Enjoy Car Shopping”, and he got it down to just “Enjoy Car Shopping”.
A lot of the coloring, the branding, the verbiage, I remember we would have this fight, because he wanted to do a lot of old media and I was very much like we need to do Facebook and Instagram, and now I’m going to start pushing Tik Tok on you guys. We’ll see if we get there.
But that led me into opening Banowetz Marketing. Because I always thought I would be the one running Warehouse Auto, but I’m not, Amy is. And I run my own company now.O
Amy: Which you enjoy a lot more.
Sarah: I do. I was thinking about that the other day too, after I was driving home from Warehouse Auto. Cause I had to do the videography this week. I usually don’t do it, but I had to do it this week. And I was driving home from Warehouse Auto and I was like, you know, I really don’t think I would enjoy selling cars. That was just what I thought I would do. You know, we were nine and seven when Dad opened Warehouse Auto. I just thought that’s what my life was gonna be like, you know, until I moved to Ethiopia.
Amy: Well, and I always “tease you” very seriously that you don’t want my job as general manager.
Sarah: I don’t. I would hire you.
I’ve actually enjoyed doing things from scratch. Although I will say I do envy you, like had a team already built and processes and stuff already built that you’ve just tweaked and stuff. Not just tweaked, it’s been a lot of hard work. She’s done a lot of hard work.
Warehouse Auto fits you really well, and I think Banowetz Marketing fits me really well.
It does help me empathize with my target audience who have started their own businesses and are running in their own businesses. I’m not just a marketing person, I come from family business and I understand that dynamic. Family business is hard and it helps with human flourishing. Our communities, our staff, the customers that we serve, all of that is super important.
And so I don’t see marketing as just like, it is communication, but I see the bigger picture because of our upbringing and because of our backgrounds.
Amy: Right. And entrepreneurship is hard too.
Sarah: Just in general.
And then what’s really cool that I can say for both of us is that we have a strong support system.
Sarah: One thing that has been really cool is that our mom, Terry,ed purchase into Banowetz Marketing. As of six months ago, she actually owns 25% of Banowetz Marketing. And I think that was actually the hardest part, was you and Sean and Dad were all working together and I felt kind of left out. But, having our mom buy into 25% of Banowetz Marketing, and then also having you guys as a client, we still have that relationship and everything.
Terry, our mom, said recently, she goes, you know, our family runs one ministry and two companies. And I was like, wow. Yeah.
Amy: Kind of crazy.
Sarah: Yeah, it’s kind of crazy. So it makes sense, some of the weight that you feel as a business owner, leader and stuff, it makes sense when you put it into perspective.
It’s hard, but it’s good to have a support system and everything like that.
Amy: Right. I mean, we don’t even know any different, right.
Sarah: I think it did really well. My husband and I had this discussion at our fifth wedding anniversary, we went out to Biaggi’s for dinner, and I remember we had this discussion that we wanted to raise our children in an entrepreneuring family. I was really thankful for that growing up. It’s a lot like how people say sports, like they want to raise their children with sports because it teaches them self discipline and all of these good skills and everything.
And I’ve always said it’s like sports or business. They both teach, I think, similar things. I’m really not into sports, so…
Amy: So we’re in Swisher, the country area of Swisher. If you’re on I380 between Cedar Rapids and Iowa city, exit 10 is the Swisher/Shueyville exit. And we’re, we’re pretty close right off the exit there. So, 965 runs parallel to the interstate and we’re just right off there. We have a pond, there used to be more ponds, we filled in some, but there’s a pond and rolling hills. I mean, it’s just a beautiful area to be.
Sarah: Well, thank you for watching the Banowetz Marketing podcast, we hope you enjoyed it.
A strong ROI on your marketing efforts makes us happy, so if you would like to talk to us about marketing, anything marketing related, give us a shout out and we will talk to you later.