An Ideal Partner
Each December, Bob Goff would climb the ladder, sidle across the walkway and duck under a protruding car. With a Santa Claus outfit in hand, he’d then dress the mannequin on display next to the billboard just in time for the holiday season.
“Up in the air over collision repair?” the billboard asked. “Trust Goff’s Auto Body.”
Those billboards—which featured real cars “crashing” through the tarp—became a staple in Wisconsin, where the operation (now Goff’s Collision Repair Centers) has been a fixture for 50 years. Plenty has changed since Angela Goff Chmura took over the network (her father is still co-owner), which now spans six stores that annually pull in between $2 million and $5.8 million, but she has carried over her father’s passion for marketing.
And while Chmura still does her share of TV, radio and billboard advertising, she’s taken that marketing mentality and applied it heavily in another arena—one her staff had to learn to get used to.
She had spent her youth at the body shop answering phone calls and cleaning the office, and management became the next logical step. With aspirations of obtaining a Ph.D. and teaching business courses, Chmura had studied the art of growing a business and wanted to expand beyond Goff’s four walls. And for her, that meant forming area partnerships with fleets, rental car companies and—you guessed it—insurers.
“I don’t think everything should be 100 percent DRP-driven. But if you’re a good business person in 2018, you have to cater to both,” she says. “You have to take care of vehicle owners and provide a safe repair, and then be a good partner to insurance companies.”
As she stepped into leadership, that model was easier said than done, as transforming the shop culture and positioning Goff’s Collision Repair Centers as an ideal business partner was a task that took several years of planning. In the end, though, there were crucial steps in establishing her vision:
1. Employ a Right-Hand Man
Many of Chmura’s employees were seasoned veterans of the industry and shared similar views of DRPs, which meant simply stating her vision wouldn’t be enough to realize it.
“They had that mentality,” she says. “So I had to challenge to get them to look at both sides. Because at some point they have to believe in it, have to agree with what I do.”
Building a culture that bought into her vision was a top-down task. And at the “top,” that meant hiring people who’d carry out her vision from the get-go.
In stepped Sandy Ruplinger, who had worked with Bob Goff for years as an estimator and location manager before eventually becoming the vice president of operations. Ruplinger fully backed Chmura’s vision, and together, they instilled a more open mentality in managers from the very beginning. And, eventually, that open mentality would extend beyond insurers to fleets and rental car companies that presented opportunities for growth.
To this day, Chmura and Ruplinger’s partnership still works. While Chmura manages the marketing and HR side of insurance relations, Ruplinger focuses on hiring and employee performance.
2. Build a Funnel of Team Leaders
Chmura and Ruplinger strived to inspire managers to work together to meet expectations from insurers. As Chmura and Ruplinger pushed their vision until it became an everyday concern, managers became much more collaborative in exchanging ideas to achieve certain insurer-mandated benchmarks.
While someone stuck in their ways may take years of work, training new hires to carry out that vision is a much easier task. So, after selling that vision to the managers, hiring estimators and technicians infused with that mentality became inherent.
“The younger estimators we bring in have had an easier time grasping the guidelines for DRPs and following them,” Chmura says.
3. Be the CEO of Your Company
Just a couple years ago, Chmura’s management team was struggling with her omnipresence, as they felt the need to run most decisions by her. Thus, perhaps the most crucial moment in Chmura realizing her vision was removing herself from the day to day.
While she still visits each of her stores once per week, Chmura now understands the importance of empowering those around her, which means stepping back and being the one who enforces the vision from a higher plane. So by relocating herself off-site, she pushed her team to stop asking her questions and instead consider the company mantra when carrying out tasks and forming processes.
4. Set Expectations for Your Team
While Chmura meets face to face with insurers each month to go over benchmarks and performance, Ruplinger hosts monthly manager meetings where she ensures individual numbers are hit.
Ruplinger also performs a weekly audit of “scorecards” that track the different expectations from various insurers.
“All scorecards look different, so we made them universal on our scorecard,” she says.
By employing that centralized hub where numbers are stored, all the different expectations set by DRPs became a streamlined system for setting expectations. From the smaller shop to the larger location that has nearly 30 DRPs, this system provides an encompassing look for Goff’s on what needs to be improved at individual facilities.
5. Advertise Your Vision
Once she built the foundation for her vision, her operation started to hum, and selling her business as an ideal partner became much easier.
So, innately armed with her father’s marketing mind, she slowly built her shop’s DRP program, winning over new DRP accounts by showing off her team’s ability to hit insurance-mandated benchmarks and advertising her checks-and-balances system. Today, DRPs represent 65–70 percent of her business, with one of her locations sporting 29 in total. As larger, DRP-oriented operations have moved into the area, Goff’s has been able to utilize their good insurance relations and extend DRPs to additional locations.
Chmura will even take on projects that would win insurers over. To wind down cycle time, she set up an express lane at one shop, and then went through a PowerPoint presentation in a meeting advertising her services.
That approach bled into obtaining fleet accounts and rental car partnerships. Although fleets are low now, she’s working on making them more of a fixture in her system. And recently, Enterprise set up site at two Goff’s location.
All in all, once the seeds were planted, Goff’s flourished into a company that naturally carried out her vision. And from there, as she spreads her reach in Wisconsin, it’ll only grow even more.
“I feel like every touch point throughout business could be customers,” she says. “Everybody is connected. And if you take every relationship you come in contact with and develop it, there's always an opportunity to grow your business.”