Wednesday, 19 June 2013 15:02

Tom and Ed’s Autobody in Schererville, IN, Celebrates 30 Years

Back in 1983, Tom Tylka and his business partner Ed opened a body shop in Schererville, IN, and 30 years later, Tom & Ed’s Autobody is still successful, although without the “Ed.” Ed left the business after only a year, but Tom, now 63, kept the name the same, and he and his wife Debbie Tylka became the sole owners.

“Ed only lasted a year, but I left his name on the business so he could see what he would be missing,” Tom joked. “The name was on our logo and all the letterhead and paperwork and I didn’t want to change it.”

Three decades ago, Tom left a job in the welding and engineering industry to open his own business. What started out as a hobby tinkering and restoring old MGs and Jaguars grew into his dream.

“I always wanted to own my own business,” he said. “That was my goal in life. We started out with $2,500 and 2,500 square feet.”

In the early years, the shop was a small 2,500 square foot space. With big ambitions, it grew to a 15,000-square-foot facility by 1995. Tylka opened two more locations in the northwest Indiana area—a 10,000-square-foot facility opened in Crown Point in 1998, and in 1999 they opened a 8,500-square-foot facility in Merrillville in Bosak Motors facility. He also operates a 24-hour towing service.

One of the toughest business decisions Tylka has made was the decision to add locations. He saw the industry heading in the direction of consolidation. One of his biggest concerns was quality control and customer satisfaction, and so the business has standard operating procedures for everything.

Today, Tylka’s body shops bring in $4 million a year and he has 35 employees, including his wife Debbie who is vice president and takes care of the financial end of the business. Tom & Ed’s Autobody competes against the larger MSOs and they are surviving. Much of their work is for dealerships. He attributes his success to how he treats customers.

“I started out treating customers how I wanted to be treated and that’s still true today,” he said.

His top three secrets to success are:

1) paying attention to his employees and listening to their opinions.
2) Having access to numbers to constantly measure and improve the business.
3) Having strong support from his wife and family. “I put a lot of time and effort into the business and they sacrificed just as much for our success,” he said.

The best advice he has to give, he said, is to “work on your business and not in your business.”

“Growth is important for success. Prepare to be very competitive in your business, and be in touch with your customers, and your community,” he added.

How does he see the future of Tom & Ed’s Autobody? Continued growth and constant improvement. “We are not done expanding and we are looking for more locations to grow our services in a bigger market. We are also very excited for my son to eventually take over the company,” he said.

“We are all so very proud of my father and mother, as they teamed up to grow something special,” said Andy Tylka, 30, who joined the business three years ago and is the general manager. “I was lucky enough to join into this business and see firsthand how special my parents are to the staff.”

For fun, Tom’s hobbies include things that sound like more work— house rentals, commercial real estate and he recently bought a limo bus and is dabbling in limo service. “He always has his hands in something new,” Andy said.

Tom & Ed’s Autobody is planning a 30th anniversary celebration in late summer.