Today’s top and most lucrative companies are often owned or run by leaders under age 35. Millennials start enterprises at younger ages than previous generations – an average age of 27 compared to age 35 for boomers.
They are changing how companies conduct operations while still employees as they walk through the doors. Now, as business owners, they promote a distinctly different workplace culture and expectations than their predecessors. For example, the traditional approach of strict schedules and uniformity is now being replaced by a more relaxed, flexible atmosphere, where employees feel more comfortable at the workplace. Jeremy Kamp of Sherman’s Transmission has experienced this shift from employee to a young business owner, bringing a contemporary, fresh perspective to the shop.
Sherman’s Transmission was established in 1956 in Mansfield, Ohio, where the shop location remains. Mansfield is a small community located midway between Columbus and Cleveland. Lawrence Sherman, the original owner, made a name in the automotive industry and soon became the go-to shop for transmission repair. He provided quality and honest automotive service to the community for over three decades. People would come from all over to have their vehicles serviced because they knew they could trust Sherman. When he retired in 1988, he sold the shop to an employee, Jake Radojcsis. This ensured that the new owner had the same vision in mind for the shop – to provide the best transmission repair in Mansfield. Jake and his wife, Cathy, ran the shop until their retirement in 2004. This is when Jeremy Kamp and his mom, Linda, acquired the shop.
Jeremy got his start in the automotive industry straight out of high school. He attended Ashland County- West Holmes Career Center, a technical high school that teaches trade skills. That’s where he got his initial training in automotive repair and when Jeremy realized he wanted to make it his career. After graduation, he began working at Sherman’s Transmission as an R&R technician at age 17.
Jeremy put all his effort toward learning and training both on the job and in the classroom. He has attended ATRA and ATSG annual live seminars since beginning his career. He commented, “Seminars help quite a bit. Also, the books you get there are great for refreshing your memory later on.” He has not yet had the chance to go to Powertrain Expo, but he intends to carve out time to do so in the future.
Jeremy was only 26 when he was offered the opportunity to purchase the shop and decided to take the leap into ownership. His mother assisted in obtaining the financial resources necessary for buying the business. She purchased the shop and gave Jeremy the reigns of managing it as his own. He has continued to serve the Mansfield community with the same dedication as Sherman. The shop has been continuously running for over 60 years.
I asked Jeremy how he dealt with the psychological shift from being an employee to being the owner. I was expecting to hear about challenges along the way. He described that the biggest challenge was quickly obtaining knowledge and skills for the new role. With the changeover of ownership responsibilities, he stated that much of his expertise was self-taught. He explained, “Everything came as a shock. I was in the process of buying the shop when the owner retired, and the service manager quit. I got thrown into ownership straight from an R&R role. It was sink or swim – that’s for sure.” He came through it successfully and got the hang of his new role under the added pressure.
In our post-pandemic world, asking how they weathered the COVID storm is almost compulsory. He stated, “We actually did very well. We had one employee resign during the pandemic, but the position was filled with two others – and work didn’t slow down.”
Before the pandemic, there were four transmission shops in the area. In 2020, one of those shop owners retired and closed business. Jeremy was able to buy out the inventory from that shop. In 2021, there was another shop whose son took over but soon shut down the shop and came to work for Sherman’s as a builder. Currently, there is only one other transmission shop in the area, and both stay extremely busy with transmission repair work.
With all the incoming transmission work, the crew has homed in on the niche of CVT transmissions. Jeremy stated, “Nobody around here does CVT repairs except us – so that has been our focus.” Jeremy explained that there is no current plan for expanding the shop, as they have a full schedule. He added, “The shop has been here since 1956, and people know where to find us.” Most new customers are acquired by positive word-of-mouth recommendations within the community. Because of this, there is no need to put much money, effort, and time into outside marketing. However, they sponsor the local high school by advertising in leaflets and on the local Christian radio station. Jeremy also manages a Facebook business page. The Facebook and Google reviews are highly ranked, proving that they provide a quality service that people appreciate.
Since the acquisition, he has stabilized the company while managing the busy workflow. He wears many hats, as most shop owners do. His favorite hat is working hands-on as an R&R technician, as it gives him a sense of accomplishment and contribution to the output of the business. The shop has three other employees:
Noah Murphy is an R&R technician. He has a background as a mechanic in the Army. He began working at Sherman’s in October of 2021.
Wes New is one of the builders. He started his career in 1984, and has worked at the shop since 2014.
David Sipes is also a builder with a great deal of experience, being in the industry since 1996. He started at the shop in 2021.
When asked about his life outside of the business, he discusses his family. His wife, Liza, is the homemaker, and they have two daughters, Ashley and Alyssa. They live on a lakeside property 30 miles south of the shop’s location. The family enjoys boating, fishing, and hanging out by the water. Jeremy explained that his goal for the business is to continue growing and eventually selling it at retirement.
Obtaining a business at a young age has both pros and cons. One advantage is managing and keeping the business operating longer than if the owner retires and closes. Another is the energy and ambition that youth brings to the company. On the other hand, it can be challenging to obtain the finances needed to purchase a business – especially at a young age. Jeremy overcame this by partnering with his mother, who obtained the necessary resources to acquire the company. Another disadvantage is the lack of experience and business knowledge that comes with being young. That expertise would be helpful when making decisions about the future of the business. I asked Jeremy to share some of his advice for other young entrepreneurs. “You must be willing to work hard and learn new skills in business. You also have to be able to take on a lot of responsibilities and stress.” Despite the challenges, he loves being a business owner.
Jeremy’s story of owning a business is one of hard work and dedication. He has faced many challenges as a young business owner, but he has persevered and has managed to continue the 60-year legacy of the shop. He’s remained up to date on the technical skills necessary to repair modern transmissions, such as CVTs. He’s also learned to accept his new position as the company’s owner by understanding and taking charge of the additional duties that go along with effective company leadership. The business is thriving, and it’s apparent that it will continue to do so into the future. The shop has a rich history, and Jeremy continues to write the story of Sherman’s Transmission.
Have you ever wondered how shops are chosen for this column? We know there are many deserving ATRA shops out there – you might be one of them. Sometimes, we hear about shops and their unique stories through the grapevine. However, most of the time, we end up being detectives. We ask our industry contacts for recommendations, and then we contact the shops they’ve suggested.
You’re invited to tell us about an ATRA shop that you think has an interesting story to tell – maybe your own shop. There’s no cost. It just takes about an hour for a telephone interview and a visit by our photographer. We’ll do all the heavy lifting. To get the ball rolling, send an email to Ruben at firstname.lastname@example.org.