Six years ago, Mary Lazar-Rutherford left an automotive sales job to start her dream career with her mentor and father, Meir Lazar, at Custom Complete Automotive.
“I always had been interested in shadowing my father,” Lazar-Rutherford said. She enjoyed sharing her thoughts with him and hearing about his experience in the car industry. “I am growing as a person and learning more about the industry every day,” she said.
Lazar-Rutherford is now vice president of Custom Complete Automotive, and her father is president.
He started the company in 1976 with one location in Jefferson City and now has seven locations in Missouri, four of which are in Columbia.
With locations in all four corners of Columbia, the company has an edge on its competition, Lazar-Rutherford said.
“We have also been lucky with our locations, as our Nifong location is by many student apartments, and they are a big part of our clientele,” Lazar-Rutherford said. But referrals are the biggest source of business, she said.
The biggest challenge of working in a family business, she said, is that there is no separation of work and family. “Work becomes a constant discussion no matter where you are,” she said.
A benefit of the family-owned business is that criticism is valued differently. “Criticism is easier to swallow because he’s my dad,” Lazar-Rutherford said. “He pushes me to be a harder worker because we are family.”
For Lazar-Rutherford, the business provides an opportunity for her to challenge some stereotypes about the automotive service industry.
“One reason I like working here is because I want to show I can be a leading lady in the auto world,” she said. Women often call her and ask car-repair questions because they trust her, she said.
Lazar-Rutherford brings her 3½-year-old daughter to work and has every intention of letting her grow up in the car industry, she said.
The business has seen changes during its 31 years in the automotive industry. “Technology has been the toughest change,” Lazar said.
There’s a constant learning experience as new car models come out every year, he said.
The Lazar business repairs every vehicle make and model and trains its staff continuously, he said.
A computer system helps the technicians repair the cars better and faster, Lazar-Rutherford said. Another computer system has a customer database that has the history of each customer’s car repairs.
Lazar and Lazar-Rutherford both said their 31 years of business are a result of honest workers and honest repair. “(It’s) giving good service for the buck,” Lazar said.