Tony Schottenbauer: How a Service-Oriented Veteran Found a Like-Minded Partner in Christian Brothers Automotive
Tony Schottenbauer: How a Service-Oriented Veteran Found a Like-Minded Partner in Christian Brothers Automotive

Christian Brothers Automotive's first Phoenix franchisee remains dedicated to service years after leaving military

Tony Schottenbauer does not consider himself a mechanic. Though the Christian Brothers Automotive franchisee’s location has repaired thousands of cars in the Phoenix area, Schottenbauer told 1851 that he sees his role in the industry as that of an educator.  

“It’s my job to educate, not just to fix things, and certainly not to sell things,” said Schottenbauer. “If you give people the right information, the business will come. We tell people what’s going on with their cars, let them know what their options and the potential costs are, and let them make their own decisions.”

Schottenbauer is well-suited for the role of automotive educator. Before opening his Christian Brothers store in Ocotillo, Arizona, Schottenbauer received a graduate degree in Technology Management from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a goal of bridging the communication gap between technicians and customers. He also has a BBA and an Associate's degree in Automotive Technology from Gateway Community College.

“I didn’t even set out to work on cars,” said Schottenbauer. “I wanted to let people know how their cars worked. I saw this divide where mechanics have all the information, and customers don’t even speak the same language. I saw an opportunity to help customers get on that same level so they could make their own decisions about their cars.”

That commitment to service is nothing new for Schottenbauer, who grew up in a military family.

“I was an army brat,” Schottenbauer said. “My father was in the military, and so we were always traveling. I’ve been all around the world, and I’ve met people from every background.”

Schottenbauer joined the military himself after high-school but did not seek out a career there.

“I was excited to serve, but I knew it wouldn’t be my career,” Schottenbauer explained. “I had a knack for mechanics, so after I left the military, I got into manufacturing.”

Schottenbauer worked for some of the biggest names in manufacturing, including Caterpillar and Tennant, starting in HR training and development before moving into operations and eventually becoming a process engineer. By the end of what Schottenbauer considers his “first career,” he was fluent in Six Sigma and lean manufacturing, two of the most critical high-level process philosophies in modern manufacturing.

Despite his success in manufacturing, Schottenbauer felt weighed down by what he saw as a split between his personal values and those of the industry.

“I was forced sometimes to make certain decisions I didn’t agree with,” Schottenbauer said. “There was a lot of gray decision making. I don’t believe in gray areas. I believe in black and white. When you play around in gray areas, you start justifying things that aren’t right.”

Still, Schottenbauer was not ready to end his career, so he set his sights on franchise ownership as a way to escape the uncertainty of working for someone else.

“I started searching for Christian franchises, something that had God at the center of it,” said Schottenbauer. “Christian Brothers quickly popped up, and I was intrigued right away.”

In addition to Christian Brothers’ faith-based foundation, the franchise had been recommended by USAA, the veterans financial-services organization of which Schottenbauer was a member.

“That impressed me,” Schottenbauer said. “It started to seem like a perfect fit. It was mechanics, it was Christian, and it was recommended by USAA.”

Schottenbauer filled out an application and began discussing the opportunity with Christian Brothers’ development team, who he pegged as the real deal.

“They walked the walk,” Schottenbauer said. “They didn’t just have Christian in the name. It was clear that their operations were all based on Christian values.”

So in 2015, Schottenbauer opened his Christian Brothers Automotive store in Ocotillo, where he quickly found a high demand for good automotive services.

“People drive a lot around here,” said Schottenbauer. “We’ve got Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Gilbert, and Chandler all within 25 square miles. People work in one city and live in another. There’s not a lot of public transportation, so it’s very difficult to get by without a car. And the heat can be rough on cars. You can live in other cities without air conditioning in your car, but it’s essential here, and that can take a toll on cars.”

That high demand for repair services coupled with Schottenbauer’s and Christian Brothers’ uniquely transparent approach to servicing customers has earned the store a growing base of loyal customers.

“I don’t do much advertising,” Schottenbauer explained. “I rely on customers to tell people about us. I’m in the relationship business as much as I’m in the car business. I want to build strong relationships with all my customers. People are looking for what we have to offer, and I love serving people, so when we get a new customer, I really try to exceed their expectations.”

After two years, Schottenbauer still sees Christian Brothers as the perfect partner for his career.

“My only goal is to treat customers with respect,” Schottenbauer said, “and the Christian Brothers mission statement is to love your neighbor as yourself. So it’s easy. It’s like following the law. I work hard, but it comes naturally. It’s just a matter of treating people right.”