BIZWATCH: Altitude Driving School
Owners, instructors: Johnny & Ruth Gonzalez
Business description: Bilingual driving school providing all of the services required to prepare students to obtain a driver’s permit and driver’s license.
• How did your business start? Johnny is a DUI counselor. When the recession hit us, I decided that why not put a spoke in the hub — I already teach people how not to drink and drive so why not teach teens and adults how to drive? When I read or hear teens are killing themselves in rural Colorado, it really hit me to help in a way to educate young people how to be safe and drive the right way. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for teenagers because they lack driving experience. Their first year behind the wheel is so critical.
• What service do you offer? We do drivers education, a 30-hour, Colorado-approved curriculum, including Instructional Permit Testing in Spanish & English; BTW or Behind the Wheel — six hours of driving with an instructor; Road Testing — to get a driver’s license testing is done on an approved DMV route; and Teen Driving and Graduated Licensing Laws in Colorado. We are fully bilingual in Spanish and English.
We educate the newcomer on how to get his driver’s license. Our job is to steer the new teen driver into a lifetime of safe driving.
• What positive lessons did you learn during the recession? One thing I learned was to cut back on everything. The recession hit us very hard: I had to close one office. But now with the numbers coming back we are back in Rifle. The sad thing that I noticed is that in hard times people should work together, not against each other. Meaning that we need to pull together — there are just too many obstacles that are in the way when people are hurting, and it does not allow us to meet at the table and talk to resolve some community issues. We the people should unite and become one so we can all get along and help one another. It’s a sad situation when you own a business and you see it slowly going down. When times are down is when we must navigate to find a way to stay afloat or we’ll sink the ship.
• What strategy do you use to hire good people? None — our business is family owned and operated. I wish I had more business so I can give jobs to others that need. When you own a business sometimes you go home without a paycheck. By the time you pay your bills you are back to square one again.
• What is your strategy for growth in the next year? We are back in Rifle once again and now in Grand Junction. The Incubator Business Center in GJ is a helpful resource for small businesses. They approved a space for us, and they have all sorts of business menus to help one grow.
We are also taking our drug and alcohol agency to GJ. Johnny is a DUI counselor and Ruth is a Colorado registered psychotherapist.
• What is the best thing about running a business here? We came from the ocean to the mountains. From Puerto Rico to Colorado. Being bilingual, we are able to service both the Anglos and Latinos. It is a practical place to live and work. We noticed when you treat others the way you want to be treated they spread the word, and that is the best advertisement there is.
Each year, the Lions Club uses race proceeds from the FireKracker 4K race to provide eye examinations and eye glasses for those in the Roaring Fork Valley who are in need.
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