2023 Best Workplaces: SimplyTRUE

March 13, 2023
SimplyTRUE Auto Group, with locations in Georgia, Texas and Colorado, is the 2023 Ratchet+Wrench large-shop best workplace.

Shop Name: SimplyTRUE Auto Group
Owner(s): Ashleigh Civitello, Ryan Blair, Dave Markert and Rob Eskew
Location (city, state): Colorado, Texas and Georgia
Staff Size: 110
Shop Size (in square feet): 3,000 - 20,000
Number of Bays: 3-16 lifts
Average Monthly Car Count: 2,527
Annual Revenue ($): $24 million 

There’s a saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that’s an accurate representation of Simply TRUE Automotive. Founded by four shop owners who recognized their like minds and shared goals fit together like pieces to a puzzle, SimplyTRUE has auto repair shops in three states and employs 110 team members. 

Meet the Owners 

Co-owner Ashleigh Civitello is a second-generation shop owner, who cut her teeth at her father’s European garage in Houston, Texas. 

"I started managing for him back in 2009, simply from a desperate plea of him asking if I could come on board, knowing nothing about cars,” Civitello says. 

She met the other three owners—Ryan Blair, Dave Markert and Rob Eskew—while they were members of Shop Fix Academy. 

"We became really fast friends and began collaborating on all parts of our business. After working together and collaborating for three to four years in early 2021, Dave Markert actually cornered us at an event and brought up the idea that since we had such a similar vision, we should combine our efforts,” Civitello says. 

The group put their heads together as to what this collaboration would look like not just for the business itself, but for the people in their charge. The idea of coming together would not only make their enterprise larger but create new opportunities for those loyal employees to advance. 

“We all had key people on our team that we wanted to be able to advance with us. And when you only have one or two locations, it's really difficult to create that opportunity. So, if we had a network of shops, we would be able to provide some true leadership opportunities for those teammates and overall, impact the industry in a positive way on a much larger scale,” Civitello says.  

Each owner brings their own strengths to the table.  

“Dave and Rob were (car) enthusiasts. Ryan was a technician and me a second generation," says Civitello. “But we all have this commonality that we wanted to be able to create something different than what was currently in the marketplace. We want it to be able to treat teammates as individuals instead of a number. We want to care about our clients and how vehicles are repaired.” 

Why They’re a Best Workplace 

Besides the quality and level of service that could make any shop worthy of a Best Workplaces nod, SimplyTRUE’s commitment to the advancement and well-being of its team members is why it’s a top shop. Company retreats domestically and internationally that focus on camaraderie, family and professional development are spared no expense.  

“Our company retreats begin from the shared core value of wanting to help teammates develop. We believe that time spent together outside of work, interacting with each other's families and having this time allows us all to connect on a deeper and more personal level, which is really what it's all about,” says Civitello. 

SimplyTRUE’s 2022 retreat had the Georgia shop team on the Florida coast, while the Colorado and Texas teammates partook on ranch getaways. Each retreat also includes the immediate family members of the staff. 

“The structure of the events is a mix of family, fun and relaxation, along with some really intentional personal development. We found that these retreats reinforce that our teammates are really a part of something big. And teammate bonding also saw a big uptick. No surprise there,” says Civitello, adding that relationship-building and memory-making trump the cost of footing the bill. 

Larry Hicks, one of the company’s lead technicians and an ASE master technician for nearly four decades, says the investments made by the leaders of SimpyTrue make it a place technicians want to stay. 

“I've had people call with bigger buckets of money, but nowhere that I would want to go work,” says Hicks. “I told one of my best friends, who I get with every Sunday morning to catch up on life and talk over coffee, what's going on. I told him about the stuff SimplyTRUE does for us—the company retreats, the get-togethers, individual things that they've done just for me—and he's just blown away. He says, 'Larry, there's nobody out there that does that. Nobody.’ And I say, ‘You're right. They don't. And, it's phenomenal.’” 

General manager and corporate trainer Samantha Andrews says the catalyst to SimplyTrue being team-focused stemmed from past growing pains the company had to overcome. Focusing on the books and being too selective in whom they employed was a detriment to early success. 

“Early on, we really focused on performance and on numbers … we created this environment where we were all miserable. We were making money, but everyone hated it. And we also learned that sometimes it's not having the best people on your team, but it's having the right people on your team,” says Andrews. “And when we made that shift and started providing coaching and holding people accountable for what they do, that shift actually was so much better. But I definitely would give a lot of the credit to our growth to training because that's how we make sure everything is consistent and efficient.” 

Required Reading 

Andrews recommends “The Third Door” by Alex Banayan.  

“He goes around and interviews a bunch of really wealthy and successful people and finds out what's their secret sauce. The premise of the book is if you get a no, don't take that no, find another way in. It’s something that I've taken as part of my leadership. I just don't take no for an answer.” 

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