Story 4: I Know I Owe You Money, But I'm On A Secret Mission

Cameron Laird

Cameron Laird

Published on: 08 November, 2021

Joe Shilling Auto

Secret Missions, Fake Car Titles & Collateral Damage

It's time for a new, might we say interestingly entertaining, episode of The Chirp. If you didn't get a chance to check out our previous episode, you'll certainly want to hear the story of a young up-and-coming entrepreneur named Daisha Roberts - Story 3: You Can't Succeed Alone, Don't Let It Be A Pride Thing. This week, we spoke with JoAnn Shilling - an accomplished woman with a treasure trove of eye-witness tales from her time running her family-owned auto repair shop.

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This Episode In A Nutshell

This episode is sure to make you laugh. In this story of The Chirp, we got a chance to sit down with JoAnn Shilling. For 15 years, JoAnn helped her family run their locally-owned auto repair shop - Joe Shilling Auto. Just like at the barbershop or the hair salon, stories come aplenty when you're waiting to get your car fixed. From tales of secret missions to purchases of fake car titles, JoAnn walks us through the wildly entertaining stories that occur when people need to rely on financial favors from others in order to make ends meet when it comes to their cars. Listen to JoAnn as she reflects on her life, and tells us the story of an Army veteran who escaped the responsibilities of having to pay off a loan for his car by going on a secret confidential mission.

You'll find this episode of The Chirp on:

Or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Have a story to tell and want to be on our podcast? Let us know by sending an email to claird@pigeonloans.io.

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Audio Transcript of I Know I Owe You Money, But I'm On A Secret Mission

Opening Monologue

You’re very welcome back to The Chirp.

This is a podcast where we discuss the topics of money and loans swapping hands with friends and families, and how these relationships can be affected by such situations for better or for worse.

Now if you have been here before, you are very welcome back. Now, if you have been here before, you are very welcome back. If this is your first time here, eh feel free to bing, on all of our episodes, as we are four stories in, and we are going strong.

I had a great chat with a colleague of mine called JoAnn Shilling, who is today’s interview, and we worked together at a podcast interview marketing agency company called Interview Valet, but up until then, she worked for her family business, for 15 years. She said she ran the show, which was something I found very interesting and have no experience with.

Now obviously JoAnn is living the remote working life, as some people are these days. It was quite the catch-up and hear about some of the customer stories that she had with her family business and how it affected you know, the family business itself, and the community as a whole as well.

So without further ado, let’s dive straight into the interview with JoAnn. Please leave us a comment or review on the episode and let us know your thoughts.

Let’s go!

Interview

Cameron Laird

Okay, well, listen, JoAnn Shilling, thank you so much for joining me today. You are effectively our fourth guest on The Chirp and you're bringing your fourth story as well. So thank you so much for joining me. How are you doing?

JoAnn Shilling

Great, thanks Cameron - thanks for having me. It was a real honor for you to ask me and to be on the show.

Cameron Laird

The honor is all mine. Eh JoAnn, where are you joining us from at the moment?

JoAnn Shilling

Currently, I am in cloudy Fort Myers, Florida. But typically the weather is beautiful. It's one of the reasons I just recently relocated here.

Cameron Laird

Yeah, well, as I was just saying to you, I recently relocated to Barcelona and I'm wearing my Irish wooly jumper, which is, that's just a little bit depressing. But what's the weather usually like in Florida?

How, how come it's bad at the moment? I can't imagine, is it winter at the moment there?

JoAnn Shilling

Yes, we're going into the winter season. But it's about usually 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Sorry, I'm not familiar with what that would be Celsius. But just like the perfect temperature. It's just basically gorgeous.

You can wear a tank top and shorts and be really comfortable out. So.

Cameron Laird

That's the dream. That's the dream. So a little bit about your history JoAnn. Cause obviously I used to work with you at a podcast booking agency, but also I did a bit of a deep dive on your LinkedIn. And before Interview Valet, where you currently work, you spent a huge amount of time working. What's the name of the business is a Joe Shilling?

JoAnn Shilling

Correct. It's Joe Shilling auto right now before it was Joe Shilling, Inc. And it was actually my father's auto repair shop. So it's a small family-run business that he has been the owner of for, well, he had been previously about 45 years or so.

So I grew up with yeah, having this shop basically as another part of our family. I think anybody that owns a business understands that it's basically like having a baby. So I had a little bit of resentment maybe towards this “sibling” growing up, you know, it was taking all of my father's time.

But then as I got older, I realized that it is a great opportunity to, to work there, to be able to spend time with - him. And then also it allowed me a lot of freedom. I was a single mom at the time with a young son, so I was able to really just be involved with his education and field trips and doctor's appointments and things like that that I needed to do.

I could just basically say, you know, I got to take off and it was okay. There were, there were hidden benefits to it.

Cameron Laird

Yeah. So your dad was always very understanding and kind of alleged to work around the life that you already had. So the dream boss, it sounds like. So, when did you kind of start working there? When did it, when did it all begin? What's your earliest memory and were you kind of inducted in as a teenager and then you took it from there?

JoAnn Shilling

No, it's so funny. I never worked there for the summer or anything like that. It was just, like I said, just sort of this other, you know, sibling, this extension of our family because my mom worked there as well, so it was always there.

And then I guess I had it in my head. I'm never going to work in the shop. You know, it was something. Like I said against it. But then as you know, like I said, my life changed situations changed, I was divorced and realized that my son was going to need me and I needed to make a living and it just was sort of a timing thing.

You know, they had somebody that was there in the receptionist position and she was ready to move on. So I just kind of filled in there and then it just grew and I eventually basically just kind of took over. Running it for my dad. So I would do bookkeeping and anything with, you know, HR onboarding and dealing with employee grievances, benefits, marketing you know, the invoicing customer service.

I mean, I just wear a lot of different hats in that role. And I learned a ton and then just would kind of take things to my dad for a final approval. You know, I've you know, a new internet company, that's going to save the company a hundred bucks a month, you know, just sign off on it. And so eventually it got to where he was just like, I put a piece of paper in front of him and he would sign it.

Cameron Laird

Yeah. Well, there's the trust. Wonderful. And did you enjoy it all the way through, was it a kind of an experience that you always remember fondly?

JoAnn Shilling

Of course. Yeah. Especially spending that time being able to be with my dad, because as I mentioned the shop took so much of his time and energy growing up - it was amazing to be able to, to be a part of that part of his life and see how respected he was in the community and with customers.

That was amazing because it was a, it's a small community where I live, where I was living in Delaware. It's a small state. And you know, just being in that industry, the auto repair, he was a transmission rebuilding expert and he was kind of one of the last people to be doing that - and so to have people call and just really value his experience and opinions definitely that's what I treasure about that experience. As well as, like I said, those, all those business-minded you know, examples that, that I, that I learned.

Cameron Laird

Absolutely. I'm sure you learned a ton and what kind of prompted you to walk away? Why did you, did you pack it in and move on to other opportunities?

JoAnn Shilling

My father was ready to retire. Finally. I think he was in his seventies. So he was, it was his baby, you know, he was holding on. And then once my mother basically convinced him that it was time, he had put it up for sale and a group of wonderful guys bought it and I helped them transition their new team - their new leadership team in there.

And basically. I was ready to move on to my next chapter in my life as well.

Cameron Laird

Fantastic. And is it safe to say that they just aren't doing as good a job as you have been doing for the last few years? Are you watching from the sidelines, going hmmm?

JoAnn Shilling 

I have to tell you something. So it's hilarious because my father and the replacement office manager that took over after me, who I had trained - he actually kind of stayed on, about six months after I quit. 

And so she, and he worked together and he, they got along great, which is, which is great. And but almost a little too good. And, you know, he was really advocating for her with the new employee, the new management to - you know, give her a raise. 

She was doing so much, and, you know, he was just really trying to impress upon the new owners, how valuable she was to them. And at one point he shared with me that he told them she's doing a better job than JoAnn. And I was like, oooooo...

Cameron Laird

Ouch, haha that’s gotta hurt.

JoAnn Shilling

Hahaha he didn’t really mean that right? Haha

Cameron Laird

No, no, no, he couldn't have, he shouldn't have said it to your face.

JoAnn Shilling

Haha, he shouldn’t have told me that, like cmon.

Cameron Laird

No, no, I don't think so. I think that's weird. And during kind of your, how long were you there as 13 years? 14 years? 

JoAnn Shilling

I think close to 15. Yeah. 

Cameron Laird

15. Wow. That's a big chunk of your life. And during those times, You know, obviously, the premise of the show is to chat about, you know, tales that were, you know, money and loans have kind of affected your relationships. During your 15 year tenure, at the company, did any of these kinds of tales cross paths with you? Did you ever have any experiences like that?

JoAnn Shilling

I did definitely. And you know, it's funny before we spoke, I was thinking about what stories I would feel comfortable sharing. And as you're just saying that a story popped into my head, this isn't the one that I was thinking about.

But I think that there were definitely many experiences because in my role, I was doing that - bill collection. You know, basically, we always had it as a company policy that the vehicle would be paid for at the time of service, because basically when somebody were to take their vehicle and not pay for the services we wouldn't have any kind of collateral to follow up for collection of that, you know? 

So they would have pretty high bills at times because this transmission work, I don't know if you're familiar, but it can be expensive. And either way, whether you're doing the rebuilding of the transmission, which could be a little bit more economical for the owner of the vehicle or just taking out and replacing it - either one is, is pretty expensive. 

So we would have higher tickets probably around between could be between $1,500 and $4,500. We would do other things as well. You know, brakes, and air conditioning and electrical, and all those things, but really it was the transmission repair that was driving the revenue of the business.

Cameron Laird

Yeah.

JoAnn Shilling

So yeah, so like I said, it was, our policy was to have the owner pay at the time of service because we wouldn't want to be stuck, you know, on the hook for, you know, 15, 25, 30 $500 when they're out driving the car around and people would ask me you know, what, can I come in and give you $200 and take my car and, you know, want to make payments on it basically? 

And, you know the answer was no. And I would try to explain that, you know? Yeah. Let's try to explain that. Well, if you have your vehicle out there, then we don't have any way of recovering, you know, what you would, what you would owe us.

So, so that's kind of a typical situation of what would happen, but there was one, experience that like I said, came to mind. We had a family, a friend of the business. He was a very loyal customer and actually a veteran, in the military. So, you know, we had a healthy amount of respect for him and his sacrifices that he had made and sacrifices his family had made. 

And he needed a new transmission and we did that for him and I'm sure my father gave him a little discount on the price as well. We, we did have a military discount, so I'm sure he got that. And I knew that he had kind of issues with his credit and stuff and but we were willing to, to kind of work with him and, you know, we did allow him to take the vehicle after we, we did the repairs with I don't remember exactly what it was, but let's say $1,500, you know balance - and he had promised that he would make payments.

And as you can imagine where the story is going, he didn't make the payments. And it really soured me, you know, in, in that experience because I, like I said, had such a, a healthy respect for what he had been doing as, as a veteran, or just really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Cameron Laird

Of course, yeah.

JoAnn Shilling

And you know, I ended up I mean, of course I would try to call him regularly and, and contact him and stuff and just remind him.

And you know, at some point he had, he...I believe he wasn't deployed again, but he took a contracting job, and was overseas and, you know, that was all sort of confidential - he couldn't tell me where he was. And so it just really bred sort of mistrust, you know, cause it was like, is he really telling the truth or is he just living up the street and you know, lying to me?

So then I would, I actually sent his mom a letter and was like, you know, this is really, unfortunate that he took advantage of us in this way. You know, I mean, we're a small family-run business. We don't have the ability to carry, you know, $1,500 jobs. So that would be my, that would be my answer to that question.

Cameron Laird

I'm kind of interested in your customer base in general, I'm kind of keen to ask a bit about, you know, this whole collateral thing that you mentioned about, you know, the cars are the collateral wounds. Once you say goodbye to the car it's, it's so hard you know to track people down. 

Did you have a kind of a credit card detail system eventually put in place, or obviously you don't want to give the car away before payment has gone through, but you know, like other places, if you have the car, like, for example, a hotel room, if you wreck the hotel room - I don't do that - but if someone did, you know, your credit card is on file, you will have to pay for it in some capacity. I'm just wondering, was that kind of ever and you know, an option for you guys?

JoAnn Shilling

Yeah, it sounds like you're kind of talking about maybe a bit of a deposit situation.

Cameron Laird

Yeah, yeah.

JoAnn Shilling

So yeah, they would definitely you know, people would come in and, you know, we would give them an estimate for again, you know, $2,000 and they'd say, well, I don't have that much right now, but I have 200. 

So they would do that and come in the next week with next week's pay and put a hundred down or, you know, something like that when they eventually were able to bring the vehicle in the job was basically paid for, you know? And so there were situations like that. And I was actually thinking about one of the stories that I did want to share was about a personal situation that I just experienced before moving down Florida.

I had an older vehicle that I would use to run around town. You know, it was a small Honda, so it was good on gas.

 

Cameron Laird

Yeah, always good. 

JoAnn Shilling

Yeah, there was, but there was no way I could bring that down to Florida with me, with my other vehicle. I can't drive two cars once.

Cameron Laird

No

JoAnn Schiling

Is it really going to make sense to like ship it or anything?

So I thought, well, I'll sell it. And, that’s what happened? 

The gentleman came to me and it was out on the street with a, for-sale sign on it. And he approached me and said, you know, I don't have all the money right now. But could I give you, you know, $400? And I said, sure. And I wrote up, you know, just, I guess, as I would at the shop and maybe that experience for me just really like lent itself to you know, to that transaction. 

So I wrote, you know,  the VIN number and then a total and how much he was giving me. And, he was sort of impressed, you know, like you've done this before and it worked out well. I mean, he came back the next day and brought me a couple of hundred bucks. And then when he got paid the next week, he brought me the remainder.

I gave him the title and you know, it was, it was his car. So that was a situation where it worked out well.

Cameron Laird

Positively.

JoAnn Shilling

Yeah, but I mean, there's just so many ways in, in transactions like that, where it can go sideways. And I was asking a friend last night, you know, about, I told him I was going to be on the show.

I said, is there anything that comes to your mind about a situation where you loaned somebody money? And he was telling me where a gentleman approached him. A long time, you know, friend, family, friends, and was in a bind. And he said you know, I need, I need some money. Do you got $10,000? You can lend me.

And the guy said no. And how about $5,000? He said, well, all right, but you know, what do you have for collateral? So I think that's a really important lesson maybe for listeners to take away is just to keep that in mind of having something, that you know, you could use as a value to replace that money. They were to happen with that transaction, but yeah, in the, in his situation the guy never paid.

Oh, so the guy says - well, I'll give you the title to my van. My van is paid off and it's worth more than 5,000. So he says, okay, does that - takes the title, gives the guy a chance, you know, goes over to try to collect for, I don't know, months and the guy's not paying. So he takes the title to whatever the DMV, the tax assessor, and they say, oh no, the original owner of this vehicle came in and got a new title.

So. This title is not good anymore.

Cameron Laird

Ahhhhh, no…

Cameron Laird

You double screwed him over.

JoAnn Shilling

I had never heard of that before. And I was like, wow, that's some low-down stuff.

Cameron Laird

That's awful. Yeah, that's a that's a triple, that's a triple story sandwich where you just, you had a nice story in the middle and then just two kind of bad ones on either side, but yeah.

Yeah, no, but it is interesting. The whole aspect of, you know, what I'll give you, you know, whether your friend or foe or family, I will give you the loan but, you need to show me something in return in, you know, in the form of collateral as well. It's, it's interesting. I've never heard of that before, but I suppose, in this case, it wasn't, it wasn't enough. 

I suppose yourself personally JoAnn, you know, moving forward, you're working now at Interview Valet.

What does kind of the, the professional future hold for you? What are you looking to do? Obviously, Interview Valet, is a podcast interview marketing agency, and I know from working with you, you're very, very, very good at your job, but what are you going to look into the future in terms of your professional career?

JoAnn Shilling

Oh, well, you're so generous, thank you, Cameron Laird. 

Cameron Laird

You're welcome. 

JoAnn Shilling

I really enjoyed - this opportunity with Interview Valet, it's been so amazing. You know, as I said, I left the shop where I was for 15 years and was, I'm not going to say floundering because it was a planned exit. But I was kinda wondering, what am I going to do?

And I was able to take a trip with my son. Which was so fun. We went on a ski trip and unfortunately, I got hurt as what happens a lot of the time when you’re skiing.

Cameron Laird

I know a lot of friends of mine that have injured themselves skiing. Yes. It's quite dangerous.

JoAnn Shilling

Yeah. It's a high-risk sport. So I was literally laid up in bed and doing kind of a job search to - you know, I was like, well, I'm got some free time, you know, let me see what I can do here, and applied to Interview Valet and things worked out. 

So it was a great, I guess time filler, at that time in my life, but it has provided me with so many skills I didn't expect, especially in this remote work environment, you know, post-pandemic where so many companies are taking that route.

So I have these new software project collaboration experience zoom - you know, creating loom videos, scheduling, you know, all those things that I've been able to add to my skill set and my resume. You know, so I, I love Interview Valet. I love creating relationships and connections. So hopefully just continuing with that.

Cameron Laird

Yeah. Was there any kind of - you know, weirdness or barriers going from working in one place and your family business for 15 years, to working for a remote company doing something completely different? 

I know obviously, you're still, you know, customer-facing or customer-centric or a client-centric role, but were there any kind of hurdles you have to get over? And it was like, kind of like a seamless. You know, moving, migrating to this wonderful remote working world that we now live in.

JoAnn Shilling

Well, that's a great question because they are such different experiences. And I think for me, maybe just because they were so different, I wasn't really focused on like, you know, well I don't, I, I don't know if that's making any sense, but like, because they were so different, it wasn't, there wasn't even able to make like a comparison you know, because being in a physical location where people are walking in and I'm greeting them and you know, all of that is so different than the sending out emails and contacting people through chats and stuff. 

But the way that Interview Valet is run and, you know, with our founder he, it feels very much like a family business, you know, and I do feel very invested. Yeah. I feel very invested in it in that way. So I don't know. I've definitely brought I guess that experience from the 15 years that I was at the shop. I brought that I guess passion and, you know…

Cameron Laird

Organization, I would say. 

JoAnn Shilling

Yeah. And just being focused on, on maybe culture that's, the word I'm looking for, you know, company culture. 

Cameron Laird

Yeah - culture's a good one because I think wherever I've worked, culture has always been so important to me is what I always get.

Yeah - put forward in interviews as well. Just kind of assessing the culture. Do you think that you'll ever work in a bricks-and-mortar establishment ever again?

JoAnn Shilling

I'm definitely open to it, you know? That is kind of just one of the things with this, my job right now, I do get to ping people and send them little chats, but I have this sort of little fantasy running in my head where it's like, well, if I could just go get coffee with this person, you know, or if we could just go meet over by the water cooler, you know, it'd be so cool.

Yeah. I'm definitely open to it. You know, not to, not to get political or anything, but I've had all my shots and, you know, I don't mind wearing face masks. And so if there was ever a situation, you know, where I needed to be in an office - I do miss that social interaction in that face-to-face piece of things, yeah.

Cameron Laird

Absolutely. Fantastic. And I suppose lastly, my last question to you be, if there are listeners out there you do work in a family business, or, you know, are, might be taking over or running the show like you are, what would be your, your pearls of wisdom that you might give?

JoAnn Shilling

Well, my pearls of wisdom would, I would say, coming from having that shop as I keep mentioning it as another family member, having my dad and both my mom and my dad working there sometimes seeing how they would bring the conflicts that happened at the shop back at home or vice versa, you know? And so. I would just recommend trying to keep those boundaries pretty firm, because it's not going to do anybody any good in terms of employees and company culture to bring the drama of personal life and marriage into the company set.

And then vice-versa, it's, you know, bringing that home into your family life isn't gonna, you know, be healthy in that way. So I think I learned from that, seeing that happens sometimes with them, you know, growing up and then when I was working with my dad, trying to - trying to keep things a little bit separate.

I mean, we would bring things up, you know, over family dinners and stuff like, oh, remember when that happened today or what'd you think about that? 

Cameron Laird

Yeah, it’s so hard not to.

JoAnn Shilling

Yeah, yeah, but just trying to keep it in more of like a reflective tone and not like get into the situation again, go over it again, you know, just kind of thinking about like, “well, yeah, that happened, okay so can you pass the mashed potatoes”? 

Cameron Laird

Hahaha - that's fantastic. Listen, JoAnn, thank you so much for giving me the insight into what it's like as a family business or something got zero experience off. So it was always nice to get a little bit of insight and thank you so much for joining me today.

JoAnn Shilling

Thanks, Cameron, like I said, it was a real treat and I wish you luck, in this venture. I've enjoyed listening to the last couple of episodes and what you bring to it. 

Cameron Laird

I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

Outro Monologue

I’ve never really grasped the idea of a family business and I’ve always been very wary of the dynamic that it might create. And JoAnn spoke about not bringing your work home with you. Sometimes it can’t be avoided - but she did mention how it’s always best to talk about things other than the family business when you’re eating your mashed potatoes.

But it was great to see how invested she was in her dad’s company - you know referring it to as another sibling. And it was clear to see that she learned so much as well, and it was also nice to see how much time she was able to spend with her family during the day also.

Now when the veteran didn’t pay his bill for the car, it was very interesting to see why JoAnn was annoyed because not only was the company not getting paid for their service but her family wasn’t getting paid for the service as well.

You have to remember that it’s JoAnn’s family name on the front of the building - so if you’re not paying the business, you’re not paying the family. And JoAnn said that it was a small enough company, in a small city, and if I were in JoAnn’s shoes, I would find it very hard not to take this customer’s actions personally.

Her friend’s story about collateral was one that I found very interesting as well. She had a bit of a mental switch about loans when I heard the story because what better way to take the taboo out of loans. If someone wanted to borrow $10,000 off of me, and I didn’t necessarily trust them, I would feel a lot better about the whole situation if I had a little bit of collateral to hold on to.

Now the whole thing about the lender changing the title of the vehicle - well that’s a different story. Now it did get me thinking that if a bit of collateral is put up and both parties show a little bit of generosity and a little bit of trust, everyone can come out unscathed.

That’s it from The Chirp on this fine fortnight. Thank you so much for listening. Leave us a comment and a review and get in touch if you have any stories of your own. Our next episode will be out in another two weeks around Thanksgiving, so until then, everybody take care. Buh bye.