Steve Schoolcraft while giving a presentation. Many remember him as an animinated presenter.
Steve Schoolcraft, often referred to as a visionary by many in the collision repair industry, died unexpectedly on May 19, peacefully in his sleep. He is survived by his wife Alexis, his two sons, Nicholas and Michael, and granddaughter Noelle.
“His passion, drive and dedication to the collision repair industry was unparraled,” said Tina Biancalana, vice president of client development for Phoenix Solutions Group, based outside of Chicago, Illinois. “Steve touched many lives and left a lasting memory on everyone he met.”
Steve graduated from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, and was educated in behavioral psychology. He spent many years of his career at Illinois Tool Works and Sun Chemical in executive sales and marketing roles.
In 1989, Steve established Phoenix Solutions Group as a marketing firm for the dealership community. It eventually evolved to become a marketing consulting company focused on enhancing the customer experience for collision repair facilities through strategic marketing and CRM advisory services. Over the years, the company has helped approximately 700 body shops across the United States learn how to drive revenue, increase retention and improve their marketing efforts.
In addition, Phoenix Solutions Group assists collision repair businesses complete the OEM certification process and is the exclusive distributor of the Body Shop Booster technology, which helps simplify the estimating process for both consumers and body shops.
Ryan Taylor, founder and CEO of Body Shop Booster, met Steve nearly three years ago while introducing the technology to the U.S. market. Taylor found the companies that performed best with the product were also associated with Phoenix Solutions Group. He reached out to Steve and flew to Illinois from Calgary, Alberta, Canada where he is based. “In classic Steve style, he said, ‘Man, we have to work together!’” recalled Taylor. That led to a partnership between the two companies.
“I look at Steve Schoolcraft as the Steve Jobs of collision repair,” said Taylor. “He built an amazing company and platform and he was masterful at attracting like-minded individuals.” After countless hours of collaboration with the Phoenix Solutions Group team, Taylor said, “They are what really drove Steve’s vision and drive the machine on a daily basis.”
He said Phoenix Solutions Group is focused on what he refers to as “...actionable intelligence, which focuses on giving shops the intelligence to make smart decisions for their businesses to drive tangible results,” explained Taylor. “Despite our horrific loss of Steve, he built something that was designed to last and carry on.”
Biancalana said the Phoenix Solutions Group leadership team and staff remain committed to continuing Steve’s vision and legacy, which is putting customer needs at the heart of all that Phoenix Solutions Group does. Steve’s oldest son, Nicholas, has already joined Phoenix and is committed to delivering and moving Steve’s vision forward. “Like his father, Nicholas is results-driven and will be a tremendous asset to the team,” said Biancalana.
Nick has an extensive background in marketing and customer experience strategy. In his recent role as a global consultant with Accenture, Nick led many projects where he identified and assessed complex customer experience problems and developed solutions to increase customer and employee engagement.
“Steve leaves the industry with a legacy; he leaves the world and all of us who knew him with very heavy hearts,” said Biancalana. “We will ensure his passion for excellence will continue for generations to come.”
Memories of Steve Schoolcraft from some of his colleagues and friends in the collision repair industry:
With a heavy heart it saddens me deeply to be commenting about Steve instead of talking with him. Steve’s vigor and passion greatly affected everyone. His drive to make the collision industry better leaves a permanent and lasting mark that lives on through Phoenix. I thank God that he lived and will miss him greatly every day!
John P. Conlon, President/Co-owner, Elite Autobody & Paintworks
Often flying in the face of conventional wisdom, Steve Schoolcraft fought to bring the truth to the collision industry. No one has done more to teach us about marketing and buying behaviors of collision repair consumers than Steve. He will be greatly missed.
Dave Luehr, CEO of Elite Body Shop Solutions
Definitely a “tree shaker...” in the collision repair industry. Great friend and a huge, huge loss to our industry. Our families are deeply saddened.
Xavier and Rosa Murrieta, Owners, Big Sky Collision Centers
Such a great man! His love and service to our industry does not go unnoticed! Love and prayers to his family!
Judy Nelson Robarge, Vice President, Robarge Collision, Spanish Fork, Utah
Steve was very knowledgeable and intelligent, as well as an inspiration to us all within the industry. Being customers of the Phoenix Solutions Group, we enjoyed his seminars and help with our business. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and friends. He will be missed.
Chad Ogle-Riccelli, Action Auto Body
Through his unique way of understanding behavior, he single-handedly altered the way businesses viewed marketing. He truly was a visionary and affected many business owners within the industry in an incredibly positive way. He has left a legacy of relationships where his interaction with people was genuinely treasured. For me personally, he was a friend and mentor who touched my life in a very personal way. His advice and compassion will stay with me forever!
Tim Ronak, Senior Services Consultant, AkzoNobel Automotive and Aerospace Coatings
Steve was one of the most energetic people I've ever met in this industry. His zest for life and enthusiasm made him a highly sought-after speaker. His company delivered value for people all over the country. He and I regularly spoke about industry-related topics and how his company could help AkzoNobel sell more paint business. Through my relationship with Steve, I've grown to know others at Phoenix and consider them all to be great friends. Because he was filled with so much passion, he never stopped walking or moving during his presentations either. He had to be in the best cardiovascular shape! I'll miss our conversations as well as the chance to work with him and his great company.
Ryan Ross, East Region Services Manager, AkzoNobel
Steve was a marketing genius. I will miss him greatly. He was a GREAT friend as well. So sad!!!
Steve Trapp, director at Axalta Automotive Refinish
Steve was in constant pursuit to provide shops the ability to market with solely the best customer experience possible. His mission was to help shops create new market share by word of mouth. His integrity was proven daily by doing what he said he would but at the same time he would hold you to the same accountability. He was fun to talk too. He got it.
Bobby Wiese, Office Manager, BStreet Collision Center
A public memorial service was held at Holy Family Church in Palatine, Illinois on May 25. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.