The past year brought many life changes and challenges for us all. Natalie Landrau is no exception.
Natalie and her husband William owned a body shop in Florida. Despite its success, Covid threw a wrench in their plans. The couple decided to close the shop.
With no more business to run, the pair needed to find a new place to land. That’s when Natalie got hired as the body shop manager for Garber Buick GMC in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Things changed again. This time, for the better.
“I just recently became the body shop manager here, so I’m a new kid on the block,” she said. “I’ve been here for 10 months, and I’m very happy I’m here.”
This upcoming January, Natalie will celebrate her 1-year anniversary with Garber – and the anniversary of joining a company that has become like family to Natalie.
How does that saying go? Oh, yes: “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.”
Back in the day, Natalie subscribed to that way of thinking.
“I have a very strong personality,” the Miami native explained. “I always said, ‘Nope, I’m not going to work for anyone’”.
Fueled by their entrepreneurial spirit, Natalie and her husband became their own bosses, opening the body shop in Miami. But they weren’t just growing their business. They were growing their family.
“While owning the body shop, I was pregnant,” Natalie said. “My husband did all the heavy lifting. I did the office work.”
After their son was born, the couple received unexpected news.
“Our baby was diagnosed with autism, so I was in and out of the hospital, taking him to different therapies and neurologists,” she said. “Then this year, with so much going on and with Covid, we decided to shut down the business. I wasn’t able to be there for my husband 100% of the time and we figured it would be best.”
The couple looked into open positions at the Garber-owned dealership in Fort Pierce. During the application process for her husband, Natalie made an impression.
“Because I was so on top of everything paperwork-wise to help my husband, they said, ‘Do you need a job?’” she said. “They must have heard something in my voice and saw how I carried myself, and they offered me a job. I came in for an interview. My husband and I started working for Garber at the same time.”
Natalie and her husband William were back to working together again. While Natalie is the body shop manager, William is currently an auto body tech.
It’s familiar for the duo.
“We are used to working together and being together 24 hours a day,” she laughed.
They also are able to spend more time with their son, who has a new appreciation for automobiles, too.
“He is so sweet,” she said. “He loves car rides…just loves those joy rides.”
As the body shop manager, Natalie has watched the body shop team grow and see success because of the Garber values.
“Customer service is everything from start to end here at Garber,” she said. “We have a good team and our reputation is solid, from the office to the back end to the body techs: quality control, customer service, and having people that actually care makes a big difference. When I started, there were three people in the office and there were three guys in the back. Now we have six people in the office. In the body shop, we have 11 guys.”
Garber is quick to show appreciation to the team, Natalie said.
“Sometimes our GM cooks breakfast — pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon — for everybody early in the morning. He’ll bring bagels. He will grill steaks once a month. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen that at another workplace. He does that to show his appreciation because he sees how hard we work. The numbers prove that.”
She said she is glad she made the switch to work for Garber rather than be her own boss.
“The corporate world is definitely different from working for yourself or a mom and pop or smaller business,” she explained. “You have meetings every week, and in those meetings, you realize you are important. You’re there, they tell you how good you are doing, they’re on top of everything. That alone gets you motivated. At other places, you might have some bosses that come in and you think, ‘Oh God, is it 5 yet?’ or ‘I don’t want to come in yet.’ But that negativity? It doesn’t exist here at Garber: not with GMs, not with managers, or team members. We are always positive and planning ahead.”
Communication is Key
Along with family values and showing employee appreciation, Natalie said another perk of Garber is how the dealership respects the cultural diversity of the communities we serve.
“In this area, there’s a lot of diversity and different people moving into the community with so many different types of culture,” she said. “Garber understands that and gets involved. The community has a Puerto Rican parade and Garber is getting involved in that. They’re getting involved with the community as far as culture goes.”
To better serve the community, the dealership has numerous Spanish-speaking team members at the Fort Pierce location. Natalie is one of them.
“Culture is very important here; we have English and Spanish speakers here,” she said. “I’m not the only one. Others that work here speak Spanish so our customers can feel comfortable. Communication is the key. That’s definitely it. You want to make sure you understand them and do what you need to do to help. That’s the Garber way.”
So after being your own boss, how does one switch to working for someone else?
Natalie said Garber made it easy. Better, even.
“Garber’s culture is all about excitement, values, family…and I personally enjoy family more than work, especially now that I have my son,” she said. “When you’re an owner of a company, you have to be there 24/7. I thought work was going to be my priority. I was wrong. I prefer working very hard for someone that knows that family comes first. At Garber, you have your stability, you have a great team and a great environment. If I wasn’t happy, I wouldn’t be here. I’m glad I found Garber.”
Natalie said Garber’s family-focused attitude and positive culture gave her a gift: herself.
“With everything I was going through with autism and being stressed, you lose who you are,” she explained. “You’re thinking of your baby and how to get the help he needs, and you lose sight of yourself. Once I came to Garber and started working, it was like, ‘Oh my God, Garber helped me find who I am.’”
Now as a member of the Garber team, Natalie feels like a weight has been lifted.
“I feel good,” she said. “I feel younger. Before, when you’re stressed out, you feel heavy and down. You feel older. But then you’re working for a great boss, you have good people around you, and you wake up excited.”
What was your first job? My first job was at McDonald’s. I was a cashier and worked at the drive-thru. I was 15 turning 16 and I was that one cashier in the drive-thru that would sing through the mic. Right behind the McDonald’s, there was a community of townhouses, so everybody could hear me singing.
First car? My first car was a 1995 Buick Regal. My dad bought it for me and he was so proud. He got it at an auction for $500. I was like, “$500? Am I gonna make it to the corner?” But it took me through the whole city.
What are three things you can’t live without (aside from food, water, air…)? God, family, work
What is something people would be surprised to know about you? My strength is also my weakness. I’m the type of person that sees the good in everyone. But get very disappointed when proven the contrary.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and who gave it to you? My best friend in the world is my mom; she’s the one that gives me the best advice. Other than the cliché, ‘You can do whatever you want in life,’ I’d say the best advice she gave me is to treat others as you want to be treated. That’s something I’ve carried on my whole life and I wish everyone else would.