Local Stories

A Latino Business: Over Three Decades of Success

A Latino Business: Over Three Decades of Success

By Christina Solis Morales
La Voz de Austin

Austin

What does it take for a small business to survive when new research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 44% of all start-up businesses will fold within the first four years? La Voz wants to know.

Over the next several months, this newspaper will feature Hispanic-owned businesses. La Voz will highlight both new start-ups and the tried and true, hoping to close the gap and connect the dots. We will introduce you to the owners of successful businesses and reveal the secrets of their longevity and survival through the worst economy in the last half century.

Also, we will introduce new businesses and explain the bold moves and proper connections they had to take to start in today’s market economy.

Chris and Phil’s Body Shop will be celebrating their 33rd year soon. So, what did the owners do that 44 percent of businesses don’t do?

They were Bold: Thirty-three years ago the Montealegres decided that the only way to be sure they agreed with management about their wages was to be management. So, they took their small paychecks and procured a two-stall shack in Freeport.

After their regular work hours, they would come in and do body work on cars. Their very first completed job was never even picked up, it was a loss. But, in spite of hurdles, Susy, Chris and his brother Phil were willing to let go of their daytime positions and work without a safety net.

Good Teams make Successful Businesses: Management and employees form a team focused on moving the business forward. There were other ventures during the almost 33 years that they have been in business. For a time, Susy and Chris Montealegre were running an airplane refurbishing business in New Braunfels, a business that folded after only three years.

A speed bump, but Susy and Chris knew that they made a good team. They came back and bought full ownership of Chris and Phil’s, so that Phil could focus on other ventures. The business now belongs to a husband-wife team, Susy and Chris Montealegre. It is currently managed by Susy and one of their sons, Johnathan. They surround themselves with what Susy calls the best in the business.

The team had 48 members at one point; however, with the downturn in the economy, the team was forced to shrink to about 19 members strong. However, as the economy strengthens, the business is rebounding. Everybody pitches in to secure their jobs, to the point of being frugal about every single roll of paper towels. Good teams work toward the same goal.

Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse: The business moved from the small shack after only a year. They established a site on Plantation, in which they stayed at for about eight years. They outgrew the building and they expanded to the current Richwood location. They have been audited, inspected and everything in between. After a particularly hefty fine for not having proper equipment, a Brazoria County Judge told Susy, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Susy has taken this to heart and has not only actively educated herself on all things related to her own business, but is proactive with other local business owners, making sure that they know and are armed with the knowledge they need to stay afloat.

You Have to Let Them Sweat: Interestingly enough, this piece of advice was not given as such, but as a story. When her sons were old enough to start helping at the body shop, they were brought in to help. One day, after she left her son washing cars to prep them for painting, Susy noticed an employee bringing him in and sitting him down in an air-conditioned room. She needed to know what went wrong. The employee told her it was too hot for the young boy to be working that hard. Her response to him was, “When is he gonna become a man? You have to let him sweat.”

In short, she needed her sons to learn a strong work ethic and the value of their own sweat. If these lessons were important enough to teach her own children, they are important to the new business owner. If your business is to withstand storms, your sweat must form the building blocks.

Bold moves, strong teams, informed owners, and sweat equity made Chris and Phil’s a business to weather even the toughest economic times. The owners weren’t successful in all their business efforts, but they were faithful throughout them.

Click to add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Local Stories

More in Local Stories

luisgonzalez_luchalibre

El Paso’s lucha libre fighter keeps famed Guerrero tradition alive

Latina ListaJuly 1, 2015
pres-and-old-black-and-white-photo

In CT, Borinqueneers honored with major thoroughfare but input left out of design for Congressional Gold Medal

Latina ListaJune 30, 2015
20141222_0092-1-copy-e1435254669268

Mission District’s Bolivian dance group celebrates 15 years

Latina ListaJune 29, 2015
544b55bccf868.image

U.S.-Mexico Border Wells Drying Up

Latina ListaJune 26, 2015
1743525_851156791635964_1258547508640946199_n

San Antonio artist establishes “M.A.S for the Masses

Latina ListaJune 25, 2015
Critics say one disadvantage of Structured English Immersion is that the only English speaker, the teacher, may have 20 students, which makes it hard for students to practice their English.

Federal court upholds Arizona’s process for teaching non-English speakers

Latina ListaJune 23, 2015
33688848_19ee6ca849_o

Latin American flags coming to streetlights in Chicago’s Humboldt Park

Latina ListaJune 22, 2015
Chicano Legacy 40 Anos

Campaign for ethnic studies in San Diego schools is getting results

Latina ListaJune 19, 2015
heirloom-bassinette

Texas’ denial of birth certificates being challenged in court

Latina ListaJune 17, 2015