Shop Growth Through Generations
SHOP STATS: John Mugavin Auto Body Location: Batavia, Ohio. Operator: Shannon Mugavin and Shawn Mugavin, sister and brother Average Monthly Car Count: 35 Staff Size: 5 Shop Size: 3,600 sq ft; Annual Revenue;$500,000
Shannon Mugavin and her brother, Shawn, grew up down the road from their father’s body shop, John Mugavin Auto Body. As kids, they would ride bicycles down the two-mile stretch of road to help their dad, John, after school. Shannon tackled the office work by filing papers, paying bills and attempting to organize the office, while her brother worked in the shop, learning body technician skills.
Shannon Mugavin, now the shop’s president and treasurer, says the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” exemplifies her family business.
On the outside, the building is “vintage,” she says, and is so old it could use a facelift. On the inside, however, is a business that delivers a quality product and service, which is where the money is invested.
What keeps customers returning?
The caring touch to the business. Generations of families have been customers at the shop. Kids who were babysat by the owner’s wife grew up to bring their vehicles to the shop for repairs.
Since 1969, John Mugavin Auto Body has served the town of Batavia, Ohio. John built his business over more than 30 years and in 2015, finally relinquished control to his children (and shop worker Jim O’Toole, who has been with the business for decades) .
“Let them do it their way.”
In the three years since, it’s been a time of transition for the five-person, $500,000 per year shop. While John certainly laid the groundwork and the reputation, now that their father has taken a step back, it has allowed Shannon and Shawn to expand on that, finding a balance between the old and the new.
In fact, each of the three family members plays a valuable, distinct role in the business: John as the support, Shannon as the link between the past and the future, and Shawn as the vision leading the future of the shop.
John Mugavin: The Support
“I miss some of the people. I miss the paychecks,” John says. “I don’t miss some of the problems.”
John’s story is one that echoes many in the industry: He opened John Mugavin’s Auto Body when he was just out of high school and vocational school. He had gathered a reputation as someone who spent their spare time fixing transmissions and repairing cars for the community.
Eventually, a body shop in town elicited his help on a broken tailshaft and Mugavin started hanging around the shop, learning more about the business and attending vocational school for mechanics.
After graduating, he opened his own business in 1969 and it grew from there, with an addition in 1993.
Mugavin cemented the shop’s reputation as one that continued to be known for its honesty, fairness and quality work.
One effect of Mugavin’s business building is that long-time customers keep calling back. That’s because John says the body shop is not only in the business of collision repairs, but also in the advice business.
Customers still call the shop and ask for advice on selling or buying a car, he says. Often, the customer will inquire after repairs for the car because he or she wants to trade it in. The team will assist the customer in determining whether the repairs would cost significantly more than the customer would receive by selling.
Customers will send in handwritten thank-you notes to the shop. John still receives notes, in fact. Customers thank him for working to keep the cost down, the high quality of the end product and making an unexpected experience a friendly and pleasant one.
To cultivate long-term customers, the staff carries out a mix of community advertising and friendly service. Since the shop first opened, the community has been a small one, where seemingly every neighbor knows each other.
Mugavin still advertises the shop in the church’s weekly bulletin and still offers his services at town festivals.
“We go all the way to Florida and someone will yell out, “Hey, John!” Shannon Mugavin says. “Being involved in the community helps us keep in touch with customers.”
Mugavin formed the shop and its reputation but now says it is his time to step back.
“Let them do it their way,” he says. “It is not yours anymore. Ask how often you can visit or if you can at all.”
Shannon Mugavin: The Link
Shannon was thrown into the collision repair industry when she got her first car. It was a total and the only way she could drive it was if she learned to work on it and fix it herself. Her dad taught her how to replace the starter, repair it and then continue routine maintenance checks, like checking the oil and other fluids.
Later, after a brief stint as an office worker when she was younger, Shannon went on to work in a dealership office, as a service writer and part time kept up with doing accounting, filing and supplement work for her dad, she says.
Shannon is a numbers-oriented person. So, the lesson her father gave her took a while to really sink in, she says.
For instance, one insurance company refused to replace a customer’s side mirror, saying it was not damaged from a collision in which the car was hit on the driver’s side. The shop found out that the customer had a limited income and, therefore, decided to replace the mirror at no charge.
“Yes, we are out on money on the mirror but the customer is pleased and will probably tell his buddies and we will be okay,” she says.
Shannon has taken on a role in the shop in which she observes, listens and learns more each day. Her role has since expanded to bridge the gap left by her father’s retirement. She provides the customers with a new type of customer experience in which each person is informed about the repair every other day and her dad’s traditions of honesty and fairness are upheld within the exchange.
“I love having Dad here and he’s a big help,” she says. “But I know one day he won’t be around as much, or even at all.”
Technology has also become more prevalent in the office since she came on board. Gone are the old-school days of collecting records via paper and pen and now, the shop runs on an estimating software system, Audatex, and QuickBooks.
Mugavin’s new folder system helps the business keep more money in the bank by tracking parts receipts, and accounts receivables. Staff members no longer make the mistake of buying two loads of windshield cleaner, forgetting they already had some in stock.
Shawn Mugavin: The Future
While Shannon runs the operations at the front-end of the shop, Shawn spends the majority of his time helping on the shop floor.
He grew up at the shop, along with his sister, but he spent two years of high school at a vocational school, learning auto body repair. Shawn, along with Shannon, learned how to write an estimate and work with an adjuster.
The Mugavin siblings were able to improve their father’s scheduling method from having customers drop off cars on Monday to scheduling the repairs days out from each other, Shawn says.
Now, the Mugavins are looking into building additional stalls and work space in the future. Currently, the technician shortage has caused a delay in finding body men to hire and make it possible for the shop to expand.
Shawn took a step up and works as a technician day to day. He has talent with graphics and entry-level body painting, John says.
The body shop has slowly been upgraded to keep up-to-date on the latest vehicle technology. Upgrades include a new scan tool purchase and a scissor lift purchase to give the techs more comfort when working.
Recently, the shop purchased a Launch scan tool, the Launch X431 PADII, which has proven to save the technicians time when diagnosing a problem. In addition to the purchase, the shop no longer needs to sublet work to dealerships.
In the future, Shawn says he would like to add on a separate paint booth to the shop so that painting and repair work are completely separate.