Shop Life Repairer Life

How I Work: Mike Maddox

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KEYWORDS Mike Maddox

SHOP STATS: MICAR COLLISION CENTER  Location: CHESAPEAKE, VA.  Operator: Mike and Carolyn Maddox   Average Monthly Car Count: 190  Staff Size: 18  Shop Size: 16,000 square feet Annual Revenue: $3.8 million

Growing up, Mike Maddox spent his childhood building toy airplanes next to his dad as he built lifesize models.

Exiting his teenage years, Maddox built cars alongside his boss at the auto repair shop. After high school, Maddox joined the Air Force and spent eight years working with airplanes, but the job wasn’t the right fit.

“I spent eight years working with electronics,” Maddox says. “I never really loved that, but I was doing custom painting in my garage and I saw a small body shop for rent one day and I started renting it and never went back,” Maddox says.

As Maddox grew into his love of working with his hands, he realized finding a passion for an industry can often be defined by those you work alongside.

“My first job in high school was for a local service station,” Maddox says. “I started out as a mechanic, but my boss was just a fabulous guy. He loved his customers, he was happy that he was able to serve his customers, and he gave them the most that he could give for the money they paid.

“That was really good training for me.”

Two years after renting a shop, custom painting took a hit following the oil embargo in 1974 and Maddox moved to a dealership. The fit wasn’t what he was looking for, but ultimately led him to the start of his own business, MiCar Collision Center, which started in 1997.

“I have never regretted the transformation from electronics to automotive,” Maddox says.

Since the shop has opened its doors, MiCar Collision Center has grown from 1,000 square feet to nearly 16,000 square feet of space. It has been a center for repairs, but more importantly, it has been a facility that allows Maddox to teach the same work ethic he experienced from his mentors.

“I’ve worked with some people who develop an arrogance, and I don’t know how that happens,” Maddox says. “My philosophy is, ‘Be great, stay humble.’”

 

By the time I’m in the shop, I generally know what’s going on for the day. It’s not smart to plan on the fly, so the night before I head out, I know what to expect. I also know what I want my employees to do and I’ll make sure everyone has work. I’ve found that sometimes people aren’t good at planning, and I would rather be efficient and talk them through what their day is going to look like.

This year, our business received the 2018 Small Business of the Year award from Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, and I believe we stand out because of the way we treat our customers. We sometimes get insurance estimates for replacements that I would much rather repair, so I’ll call the customer in the morning and make sure they’re OK with the repair. We realize that customers aren’t buying cars to put more money into them, and so we work with the customer.

You’ll find me on the shop floor working throughout the day. I’ll walk through and make sure that everyone is busy, and if I’m sitting down, it’s because I’m helping someone on the floor. I don’t use an office and I want to make sure I’m around for my employees and customers. It’s important to work nearby so they are doing the right repair and are following training correctly, which is so necessary in this industry.

I’m basically an instructor here. When I walk around the shop, I’ll ask if anyone needs help or I’ll work through jobs with employees to determine if it’s the best way to fix the vehicle. In the past, I actually was an I-CAR instructor, but sort of fell out of it once I noticed how some students didn’t care about the material. We have such a shortage in this industry and when I bring new employees onboard, there’s a process to ensuring that they were be a viable fit in the shop.

Training is what we do at this shop. Throughout the day, we’ll have trainees work with other staff members over the course of a few months and even years to make sure they’re able to accurately do the job. When trainees are brought in, they start out with detailing cars until they’ve worked to complete it correctly. We try to move them along and ensure that their performance is up to speed with our shop.

I’ve found that partnering trainees with staff in the shop helps further the process of understanding how repairs are done in the shop. We’ll have trainees move to pulling and replacing parts, straightening metal, and then we start to work on welding and the structural process of the car.

I have five training in the shop right now and two are in the final stages of training. They’re doing an awesome job and I think it’s because our system works so well at the shop.

I know that it can be frustrating to stay in training mode for a long period of time, but we offer an incentive that gives employees credit when it’s due; I keep trainees on the clock but I start to add in a bonus aspect to their paycheck as they continue to produce more. It’s been a great system in our shop and I have had great luck with keeping employees around at the shop.

We focus on putting integrity into what we do at the shop. Depending on when we’re all available, we’ll meet usually mid-week to discuss how everything is going in the shop. During our team meetings, we’ll hash how things went throughout the last week and if there were any issues, we’ll document how we can fix those for next time.

It’s important to me to have a well structured shop because, in my past, I worked for a guy with whom I clashed. Our staff is great here because while perfection is impossible, we try to make our work as close to it as we can. I will take time to thank my staff for being the best employees around; they all have I-CAR certifications and they are willing to learn. They are the best around.

It’s our goal to show the customer that we care, so I’ll often give the customer a ride if they need a way home. We always make sure to thank our customers for their service; without their trust, we wouldn’t be in business.

My father taught me honesty and integrity, and I want our customers to know that they can count on us for the best possible repair. At the end of the day, I make sure our customers are happy with our service.

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