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Getting into the Groove

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 Location: ARDEN, NC. Operator:  Joe and Jen LaBruno  Average Monthly Car Count: 60  Staff Size: 6  Shop Size: 6,000 sq ft; Annual Revenue;$1.2


I like to get in earlier than everyone else in the morning so I can collect my thoughts. I want to have my mind right for the day and the best way for me to do that is to come in early. I’m not one for being late to work, so I usually come to the office at around 7:15–7:20 a.m. every day so I can get a head start on what’s to come.

When I get in, I turn the lights on and begin to prep my itinerary for the day before we launch into our morning meetings with the team. It’s also important for me to come in early because most of our customers have to be at work by 8:00 a.m. and, since our shop doesn’t open until then, it allows me to help the customers out right away in the morning. Customer service is so important in our industry and when you look at reviews of our shop online, you’ll notice that our customers are happy with our service. It’s my job to make sure that everything is running smoothly—even before the day officially starts.

In order to get the morning off to a great start, I have a team meeting in the waiting room with everyone starting at 8:15 a.m. It’s nice to be able to talk to everyone in one place and our waiting room is the easiest to gather everyone at once. We talk about production for the day and what to expect and those meetings typically last roughly 10 minutes every morning. I have a dry erase board out there and we talk about what parts are expected to come in for the day, what cars are expected to come in and leave, and then I hand out paperwork for the guys that set deadlines.

Everything in my shop is measured and I like to be honest about how things are going. I’m always measuring employees and showing them what they can improve on later down the road. Besides having a quick meeting in the morning each day, we have our big team meetings on Tuesdays where we go over everything from the week before. We go over how the previous week went and where we can improve for the rest of the week.

I’m up front in the lobby, I’m outside, and I’m also running the whole show. I’m all over the shop throughout the day but I split my time accordingly. Of course, our phones are always ringing and we have walk-in customers, but the most important thing for me is to ensure that our customers are taken care of. Every customer is different; we have customers that are easy, and then there are customers that need extra attention, and I’m happy to provide that service to them. If a customer needs me to slow down, I also take time to explain a service so they understand what is happening with their vehicle.

I stay organized, though, and I have an old-school method that helps me visualize what I have going on for the day. I developed a folder system that helps me see what is at the shop, what has left, and what is expected. I have all folders behind the wall in my office and I put invoices in each of the folders. I’ve got the folders color coded and I move the folders on the wall according to their location in the repair process. If I’m not using the folder method, I use our shop’s CCC ONE platform for production. It’s the golden ticket around here and I’m able to track the car count for the day.

My guys know that I’m serious when it comes to work. I help around the shop as much as possible and I never take a lunch break away from the shop. I’m usually the only one here who can run a mix of everything and I don’t want our staff members to get hung up on something they can’t tend to right away. So, I stay. A lot of our other staff members head out for lunch and come back afterward. I want the staff to know that they can trust me and, at the end of the day, I’m looking out for their best interest.

I’m I-CAR certified, and I also want my employees to have the best experience for our shop in order to better serve our customers. I pay for them to get trained by I-CAR, as well as encourage them to take on additional training. Something that I have done for myself is branch out on how I can learn more about leadership and management. If I see an online course on a Saturday or on the weekend, I’m not going to pass it up.

I want everyone at the shop to know that I’m there for them. I’ve learned a lot through my past experience in the industry, especially about how I want to run my shop. In the past, I worked for a place that was interested in bringing work in during the weekend, and while I didn’t have a problem with that, working late wasn’t something that I necessarily wanted my staff members to anticipate at our shop. I’ve taken that idea and turned it into a different approach. If my guys can get their work done together as a team throughout the week, then sometimes I’ll give them the afternoon off on Friday. It’s an incentive and it encourages team effort, which is something I look for at our shop.

When I leave for the day, I want to make sure that everything is accounted for. I do a production walk-through just to see where everyone is at, and we get cars lined up in the building or outside of the building. That way, it’s not a scramble to get things done. A lot of the time, if my guys are done, I pay them for their correct labor time. I want them to know that they are appreciated and also recognized for taking care of the customer.  

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