Dave and April Stout have been with SCA for more than two decades as appraisers and multi-franchise owners in the northwest U.S. After celebrating their 21st anniversary with the company, we caught up with them somewhere in the middle of Nebraska while enjoying a little well-deserved R&R, trekking across the country in their RV toward Florida.
For 21 years, Dave and April Stout have crisscrossed northwest Oregon and parts of Washington state, appraising damage to cars, trucks, ATVs, RVs, tractor-trailers, and all manner of automobiles and specialty vehicles and equipment. And for 21 years, they have done it under the SCA banner.
Let’s back up to the beginning, however, as the start of the Stouts’ story with SCA is in many ways the start of one of the most important chapters in SCA’s 40-plus years of operation.
Dave Stout has been working in the automotive industry for 36 years, starting right out of high school at 18 years of age. He began his career as a mechanic before becoming a service writer and then assistant manager at a dealership body shop. Eventually, he became the body shop manager, running it for five years. While Dave was in the body shop, April had a career selling windows.
Dave was happy working at the dealership, and he remains friends with many of his former coworkers, but other factors began creating an itch he and April could no longer ignore. For starters, the son of the dealership owner was its general manager, limiting Dave’s opportunities for career advancement. Also, coming from a family of entrepreneurs, the desire to build something on his own was already in Dave’s blood.
“It was a fantastic situation,” Dave admits of his time at the dealership, “but I was working for someone else.”
While at the body shop, Dave had worked with many independent appraisers, and from that, an idea was born.
“I had independent appraisers come into the shop, and I thought the job looked cool,” says Dave. “I saw an ad on Monster.com, had a conversation with (SCA Chief Operating Officer) Jon Gironda, and took the risk.”
After a great send-off from the dealership, Dave and April began their new lives as entrepreneurs and auto damage appraisers.
At the time, SCA was not yet in Oregon, so the Stouts became the first appraisers there, opening the state for the company. It would not be their only first for SCA, however!
For 10 days, Dave and April waited for their first assignment to come over the fax machine. Then the claims started coming, and they never stopped. For the next 10 years, the Stouts drove all over Oregon handling claims. In addition to claim servicing, however, they were actively recruiting too, bringing more professionals into the industry.
A decade into working for SCA, expanding their business as independent appraisers for SCA, the company approached the Stouts about a new opportunity.
In 2010, SCA decided to open the business to entrepreneurially minded people like its own founders, Tim and Paula Davis. The company wanted to launch a franchise model, but first, it needed a test case to refine the process. The Stouts, with their 10 years of history and success with the company, were the perfect people for a trial run as the company’s first franchise owners.
“Dave and April Stout are the model that our franchise network was built upon,” says SCA Founder & CEO Timothy Davis. “They bring ownership, pride, and commitment to the profession.”
“We were a franchise model before SCA went to the franchise model,” Dave jokes.
The experiment was a success. The Stouts began by purchasing the Portland, OR franchise, and over the next 12 years would add three more franchise locations covering northwest Oregon and Clark County in Washington. As tenured members of the SCA appraiser and franchisee networks, the Stouts would go on to be a test case for multiple SCA initiatives before they rolled out nationwide.
Now 21 years into their relationship with SCA, and a dozen as franchise owners, the Stouts remain incredibly happy about the decision they made to take that risk more than two decades prior. They appreciate the partnership SCA has always shown them.
“You’re not out there alone,” says April of the partnership franchise owners have with SCA. “They do all the national level marketing, they bill the insurance companies and handle the administrative work.
“Plus, you get protection when you are a franchise owner. SCA won’t give its business to anyone else,” she adds.
Dave especially appreciates how open and available SCA makes itself to its franchise owners.
“The people at SCA make themselves available to me as a sounding board to bounce ideas or challenges off. I can call (Vice President of Operations) Nick Napier and talk it out. We make a decision as a team,” says Dave. “I can pick up the phone and talk to a lot of like-minded people who do the job and can share expertise.”
“I know other people who own a franchise, but they do not get support from their franchisor!” Dave adds.
The Stouts also commend the state-of-the-heart technology SCA provides. Systems like the web-based claim submission portal and CORE, SCA’s proprietary claims management and finance platform, help make running their business faster and easier.
From top to bottom, choosing to become part of the SCA family has been a positive and rewarding experience for the Stouts. Dave sums it up like this: “If I can keep my customers and adjusters happy, my job is easier.”
The Stouts recognize one of the best parts of being an SCA franchisee is the volume SCA provides to its franchise partners. Never was that more evident than during the pandemic when they went just one day without receiving a claim. Others they know in the same business went stretches of up to 10 days without work.
But the intangibles have been the most rewarding part of their decisions to become SCA franchise owners.
“My freedom,” Dave says simply. He and April are proud of the fact that freedom has made it possible to attend every event in their two daughters’ lives.
Dave and April are enthusiastic supporters of others considering their own franchise with the company. But they also have a lot of wisdom to share with prospective franchisees.
To begin with, you have to be disciplined and willing to work hard, Dave advises.
“It’s important to build relationships with your body shops and adjusters,” says April. “If you have a good or bad reputation, it will affect your business.”
But not just your business, however. Dave feels what they do as an SCA franchise holder can influence what people think of the brand and the industry as a whole. “What you do affects the entire franchise community. Be responsive and provide good service.”
Understanding what everyone wants – the adjuster, the body shop, the customer – is critical. “If you can figure that out and do it consistently, you will have success,” says Dave, adding, “And don’t nickel and dime. Do the work and do it well, and the money will come. Look at the big picture.”
April perhaps sums it up most perfectly: “It is your business. Treat it like one and do the work.”
On behalf of the entire SCA family, we sincerely congratulate and thank Dave and April Stout for their 21 years of outstanding service, unwavering support, and valuable contributions to the organization and the industry!
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