3zero3 Motorsports put its first car up on a lift on July 2nd, 2005, with one guy up front, Trever Stergar, and one guy back in the garage, Scott Simpson and 2,600 square feet of space. Celebrating their 3rd anniversary this July, these Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen specialists now have 12 employees, including themselves, and they’re located in a building with approximately 9,800 square feet.
How have they come so far so fast? This is the story 3zero3 Motorsports.
A Little Background Info
The partnership between Simpson and Stergar began while they were both working at a Denver area Audi and Volkswagen dealership. But, before we dig into how Stergar and Simpson formed their partnership and then 3zero3 Motorsports, let’s talk a little about each of their personal histories.
Though Stergar had always had a passion for cars, he wasn’t always on a career path for the auto industry. He was actually four years into an education to become a psychologist when he said to himself, “This just isn’t what I want to do. I want to do something with cars, and they need to be Porsche and Audi cars.”
That desire prompted Stergar to leave his home state of Indiana and move to the Mile High State, Colorado, where he knew the weather and mountains would make Quattros a popular pick of the driving population.
“To have any future in this business, I needed to move out of the environment I was in and into an area where not only was it understood what these cars could do, but where they were also used as the tools they can be. That’s the climate, the altitude and all of the elements we have in Colorado. Moving out here was a big step for me,” says Stergar.
It would be eight years before he met Simpson. However, he’s not the only former dealership co-worker who Stergar eventually brought over to 3zero3 Motorsports.
“All the guys that are here are guys that I have worked with in the past,” says Stergar. “Every single one of our employees has passion for these cars over and above what a normal human being would exhibit. That’s what drew them here.”
Simpson handles most of the technical business work at 3zero3 Motorsports. He has a Magna level of recognition from Audi for the skill level he achieved while still employed for an Audi dealership-work he built upon after going through the Audi Specialized Training Program at UTI and graduating first in his class. Despite his obvious aptitude, Simpson says that he never thought, initially getting into the industry, that he would ever want his own shop.
“I always thought it would be a bunch of headaches,” says Simpson. And, there definitely are some headaches associated with a small business, but after working in a dealership and being in an environment where he couldn’t take care of customers the way he wanted to or do things to make the cars faster the way he knew he could, the idea of his own shop became more appealing.
“I grew up around racing. From the time I was a little kid, my dad had some open wheel cars, and I went to tracks all over the country. It wasn’t until Trever approached me and we started thinking about it that I realized there was no way I could do this on my own. I may have the technical side, but 95% of it is how the customer feels about the way they’ve been taken care of,” says Simpson.
And he knew Stergar knew how to take care of customers. He says that at the dealership, customers would wait in line to speak to Stergar, rather than deal with the four advisers that didn’t have anyone sitting in front of them.
“That is a huge part of why we are where we are at today, why we’re still in business three years later and why the business continues to grow on a daily basis. The customer side, the running of the shop and just the managing of the shop itself are things he excels at. I would hyper focus on one or two cars, and they would be great, but the other 10 cars here wouldn’t get touched,” says Simpson.
Stergar, says Simpson, does an amazing job of making sure the shop takes care of each car and customer the way they should be taken care of.
“We’re two totally different types of people, two totally different approaches to certain things, but we have the same common goal in the end. I think that’s one of the reasons why we have been successful. I think either one of us on our own would be successful, but it would not be on this scale,” says Simpson.
Formation Of A Partnership
As mentioned before, Simpson and Stergar met while both were working for a Denver dealership. As a lifelong auto enthusiast, Stergar, who is 35, had always dreamed of owning his own performance shop, and during his 13 years of working in the industry, he developed a business plan he knew would work-if he had the right partner.
“Scott ended up being one of the technicians on my team, and it’d been a vision that I had to do something like this. I never really found the chemistry in anyone I’d met, anywhere I’d worked, who I thought could make it work and who would have the confidence to take the next step. When I met Scott, I knew right away. It took a little bit of time of us sitting down and talking, getting some things worked out to be able to do it,” remembers Stergar.
That “little bit of time” Stergar referred to was actually about a year. Simpson, who is 25, remembers, “Trever first approached me long before we actually did anything. He said, ‘Hey, I’ve always wanted to open a shop, and I think you’re the right guy. Let’s do this.’ And I said, ‘No.’ It was too early for me. I had just turned 21, and I just thought I was too young to do it then. I felt like I needed to go out and party some more before I took on that much responsibility,” Simpson recalls.
And so they waited. Stergar was still highly motivated to open his own shop, but knew he didn’t want to do it on his own. He had to be patient and wait for the right guy, or at least for the right guy to come around.
Then one night, after Simpson had spent some time enjoying himself outside of work and simultaneously come to see the shortcomings of working for someone else, they were hanging out at the Quattro Cafe in Denver, and Stergar again brought up the idea to start their own shop. This time, Simpson’s response was different.
“I said, ‘We’ve got to take a chance some time.'”
They began looking for locations, a task they took their time with, spending six months looking for just the right shop. They searched the entire Denver-metro area.
“We definitely had high hopes and aspirations for what we both thought we were capable of and what we thought we wanted it to be. We were both new to starting a business from the ground up,” says Simpson.
They looked at several shops that didn’t fit their needs. Their search turned into a sort of Goldilocks and the Three Bears story. The shops they looked at were either too expensive, too big or too small. Finally, they found a place that was just right.
“We found this place pretty much on accident. We were looking at a place five minutes away from here, and our commercial real estate broker said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this place, but you guys really won’t like it.’ And Trever said, ‘Well, if we’re here, let’s go look at it,'” Simpson remembers.
They met with the owner of the space that day and soon started out with 2,600 square feet located immediately next to where they are now, and as business grew, they moved into their current space and its 9,800 square feet.
It’s no accident that 3zero3 Motorsports caters to a specific group of performance vehicles.
“We work on Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen,” says Stergar, “because we believe those manufacturers are far and away the best in the industry.”
“We know our customers because we are our customers. What I want to do to my car is the same as what 90% of our customers want to do to theirs,” says Simpson.
He adds that the reason he went to work for Audi was because he owned an A4 in high school. “I talked my parents into splitting payments with me, and the Quattro saved me multiple times when I driving as a teenager in the mountains not really knowing what I was doing.”
However, the engineering and performance of the cars themselves is what really sold Simpson. “Quattro, bi-turbo V6 is what I thought the future was going to be, and the S4s, the all-roads and the A6s are the reason I went into the Audi program when I went to tech school. I just have a passion for the cars themselves. There’s nothing like them as far as being at 80 or 100 mph and everything’s smooth, nothing rattles and you feel safe. They also have a very dominating racing history. To me they’re the car that everyone wants to own.”
For Simpson, it wasn’t about the snobbish stereotype. He says that Audi guys are, for the most part, normal guys. They simply appreciate a well-made vehicle.
“One thing that I’ve found is that if you see an Audi on the highway and you get behind it, you typically kind of go together. It’s a driver’s car,” say Simpson.
Stergar’s story is a little different. He was one of those little kids who always had their pockets stuffed full of Hot Wheels cars. His parents, recognizing his obsession with cars, provided him with car magazines of all kinds. At first, he was a Chevy fan like everyone else around him, but as he read more, he found his tastes began to differ.
“I started to get exposed to a whole different world of cars. From that moment on, it’s been a struggle to share that passion. There was no one where I was at that understood. My friends at school were into small block and big block cars,” says Stergar.
Boys will be boys, and car guys will be car guys. By the time Stergar was in high school, his discussions with classmates on which car was the best were a frequent disruption. His passion hasn’t diminished at all in the years since. When Stergar came to Colorado and found people who could share his passion, he was in heaven.
Stergar and Simpson take their school, manufacturer and dealership training to the next level. Here are just a few of the things Stergar looks at to make sure a customer is sure to be happy with the vehicle leaving his shop.
“We seek perfection on many different levels. It’s for the customer, their perception, the condition of the car, the product that was on the car, how the product was installed. Did we pay attention to detail on some other things that maybe they didn’t mention, but it still bothers them, like a squeaky door. Things like that,” says Stergar.
It certainly doesn’t end there; 3zero3 Motorsports is open until eight o’clock at night, and every car that leaves the shop is essentially detailed. While they sell and install parts, in the view of this company, the real product they sell is service.
Stergar goes on to say, “I sat out there for 10 minutes this morning critiquing someone’s car. Our service is an ever-evolving product.”
He says the key is that the customer’s perception is first, the job that the shop does is secondary. People come in here assuming that they’re going to get top quality work, so they leave assuming there’s not going to be any odors, any fluid leaking, etc.
“They would never expect that to happen,” says Stergar. However, he points out, “I’ve always said, and I always do believe that even a mistake is actually an opportunity to earn business. How you deal with it changes everything for someone. People understand, and if you just do business with them on a human level, they respect it. We know what we would expect if it was us, and we provide that to our customers.”
The company is often asked why they wash their customers’ cars. For Stergar, it’s simply another way to improve the company’s most important product: service.
“My insistence on washing cars is nothing more than following through on our goal to provide the ultimate product for our customer. It’s just one little piece,” says Stergar.
The Little Things Count
It may be one little piece, but Stergar makes sure that the customers of 3zero3 Motorsports don’t leave the shop unaware of all the works that’s been done on their vehicle.
“When a customer leaves, it is something that I go over with them verbally. We do a lot, and we want to make sure they know that. We road test these cars, we quality control check them, we wash them. We do all of these things and more to try to make sure the service they receive from 3zero3 Motorsports is a perfect product. That’s what we strive for. I also let them know that if something doesn’t feel right, smell right, whatever it may be, don’t hesitate to bring it back,” says Stergar.
Simpson adds that no matter what industry you’re in, every customer wants to be taken care of, and everything we do is geared toward service-true customer service.
“It’s important to take time to make personal relationships and let the customer know that you care about them, their car and you want to have them both back,” says Simpson.
An initial assessment at 3zero3 Motorsports takes an hour. For example, they’ll pressurize the intake if it’s a turbo car and don’t charge for it. In their opinion, it’s just the right way to maintain these cars. That opinion fits well with this crowd.
“I feel that in an independent shop, you have an advantage because you can choose your business model and you can choose how you take care of your customers, and we can choose to take care of these cars correctly,” says Stergar.
3zero3 Motorsports teaches their customers to expect that type of service as owners of Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen vehicles. They essentially become too spoiled to go anywhere else, a good recipe for repeat business.
Superior service keeps the customers coming back, but what keeps Stergar and Simpson coming back, day after day? For anyone aware of the long hours and intense pressure inherent in operating a small business, it’s a fair question to ask.
Stergar says, “It’s passion not only for an Audi, Volkswagen or Porsche, but it’s passion for how and what those cars can do. That’s what keeps us here. It’s what keeps us here when it’s tough. It’s what keeps here late at night and on Sundays. It really just boils down to passion for this product and how much we believe in it. And, they’re (the employees) stoked because they’ve got an environment that they can share that passion in.”
That environment came into play with coming up with their name, remembers Simpson. “One of the things we talked about for our name was that we wanted to take care of the local community, the Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen community, here in Colorado. We want to take care of the people here who love these cars and drive them every single day,” says Simpson.
And that’s just what they do, every single day.