FAIRFIELD — Running a successful business can be like running a successful NASCAR race.
It’s more than an apt analogy for Valerie and Jim Inglebright, who run American Autobody Specialist alongside Roadrunner Towing, their other successful local business endeavor.
Jim has raced cars for decades. Since the 1990s, Valerie has served as his race spotter. From tall towers at race tracks all around the country Valerie, wearing a headset radio, has guided Jim, with speakers in his crash helmet, through potential track dangers likely beyond his vision as he cruises among a pack of speeding race cars.
Valerie and Jim Inglebright were childhood sweethearts and graduated from Armijo High School. That was awhile back.
From a large desk in a large office, adjacent to a huge garage where dozens of cars are typically being repaired and restored by teams of mechanics, Valerie has spent years helping guide their business, watching for hazards, keeping track of potential trouble and setting a course to excel over the competition.
Every workday morning, Valerie Inglebright arrives at her office, where a fresh stack of files from just-completed repair work await her. She handles all the accounting for the business, tracking the myriads car parts, insurance claims, customer repair orders, estimates and all the related vagaries of a successful high-tech auto body shop.
For several years she also took on the planning, logistics, flights, transport and accommodations for a successful touring racing team.
“For the past three or four years we haven’t been doing a racing series. Now we only do a few races every year,” Valerie said.
Their next race will be June at Sonoma Raceway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“Every year, we bring all the employees over there and do the company picnic at the track,” she said. “It’s T-shirts, food, families, the works.”
Valerie Inglebright also takes on the tasks that come with running a successful employee incentive program.
The reduced racing scheduled has enabled Valerie Inglebright to pursue her goal of lifelong learning. In a few months, she will garner her associate degree from Solano Community College. In the fall, she is expecting to move up and on to either the University of California, Davis, or the University of California, Berkeley.
Her major will be media studies – not for some lofty goal of fame or fortune. The media focus is a very pragmatic part of a plan to further grow the business with enhanced marketing, community involvement and reaching out to new and continuing customers.
Today the Inglebrights employ 43 people – both said they have great employees between the two businesses, some who have been with them for 20 to 25 years.
“We even have families working for us,” she said. “We have a husband-and-wife team and we have two tow operators who are brothers and one of their sons is now working for us, too.”
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.