RSVP Shop Talk: CJ's Diesel Performance
Problem-solving and thinking outside-the-box fuel the life-long passion of CJ Sprau, owner and operator of CJ’s Diesel Performance in Vernal, Utah.
CJ’s Diesel Performance is a relatively new enterprise, but already thriving and keeping its’ owner very busy. CJ’s opened the doors on October 1st, 2016 and there has been no looking back. Since then, CJ's Diesel Performance built a shining reputation as a one-stop diesel truck repair shop, specializing in major and minor repairs, rebuilds, and even DOT inspections.
“I’ve always wanted my own shop” said Sprau. “My goal is….do what I do best, according to what my customer wants and needs….what they are requiring out of their engine. When I build an engine, I try to match to what they will be doing with it."
"When I build an engine, I try to match to what they will be doing with it."
“It’s rewarding” he continued. “At the end of the day, I get satisfaction out of knowing I did what I could to help my customer out. I like that my business isn’t so big that we can’t maintain the personal touch.”
Sprau was exposed to being around engines from a very early age. “My dad was always working on cars and trucks when I was young” he said. “Naturally, that got me very interested in seeing what he was doing and learning how all this stuff works. I started out working with him.”
“I think that exposure has worked out to my advantage as a mechanic. I’ve owned trucks…. and obviously, I’ve driven trucks. When I do a test drive, I know how a truck drives and how it should feel.”
"When I do a test drive, I know how a truck drives and how it should feel."
That’s not to say that starting out on one’s own doesn’t present unexpected difficulties. “Oh man” he groaned. “There is no book to tell a guy starting out how exactly to go about this. There are new challenges every single day!”
“It was a little scary starting out” Sprau admitted. “The first couple of months were slow and I was worried. But then, word spread that I was running my own shop. Since people knew about the quality of my work and that I care about what I do, things picked up pretty quick from there.”
“But, I had no idea about all the paperwork, government regulations, incorporation, permits and legalities that an owner must address. I handle one thing and just when it seems like everything is running smooth….another letter arrives in the mail with more red tape I have to deal with.”
“As an owner, my role is much different than what I was used to. I don’t quit at 5 PM. I’m on the customer’s schedule, not my own. From years of experience of owning and driving a truck, I know what it feels like to be broken down and needing help. My typical day ends at like 10 or 11 PM….even at 2 AM, I’ll answer the phone” he said.
In quick breaks from the demands of business, CJ and his wife of 17 years, DeDe, love to travel and to camp. The couple has 4 kids, ages ranging from 13 to 22. “We enjoy parking the camper and playing as hard as we work” he laughed. “We also all love to play Nintendo. We have every console there is and will collect and play anything Nintendo.”
"This is my passion and what I wanted to do. I enjoy problem-solving and looking outside-of-the-box. Not every truck is the same. You gotta be able to adapt to the truck and the owner’s needs."
Sprau knew exactly the direction he wanted his career to head. “I love trucks and engines”, he said. "This is my passion and what I wanted to do. I enjoy problem-solving and looking outside-of-the-box. Not every truck is the same. You gotta be able to adapt to the truck and the owner’s needs.”
His advice for a future in this industry? “If it fits your passion….do it! If it’s just a job or a paycheck....stay out of the industry. You have to love what you do to put up with the hard work and long hours.”
“The future should be bright in the diesel repair field. There is a big demand for techs. If a younger person enjoys computers and working with their wits and hands…there should be a place for them.”
“There is no bigger satisfaction…in my book…than finishing a repair on a truck and knowing that that truck is now out working and helping a guy feed his family.”