The First Year as Shop Owners
Brian Myers, co-owner of Gould Body & Paint in Crawfordsville, Ind., covers his desk in colorful Post-It notes, which serve as reminders that tasks need to be done now or can wait for a day. Since taking on a more significant leadership role in the shop, Myers has become a fountain of ideas.
Despite a long history in its Midwestern location and $2 million in annual revenue, Gould Body & Paint still has a family feel—which Brian and Heidi Myers were determined to keep when they became owners in early 2018.
As new owners, the couple had a clear mission from the start: They have a vision for the shop, but want to continue to preserve the shop’s history as a business that supports its staff from within and delivers a consistent, high level of customer service for its customers. Their vision has been made easier with the help of the previous owners, Don and Diana Gould. When the time came for the Goulds to retire and step down, they handed over the torch to Brian and Heidi, both longtime friends and co-workers.
One year later, the Myers are on the cusp of making big changes to the shop. Within the first year, they renovated the shop’s front office and increased benefits for employees. Brian also adapted his previous role as general manager into one that requires him to make the big equipment purchases and decide which benefits he and his wife are going to offer their staff.
Meanwhile, Don and Diana Gould still remain involved in the shop processes to offer help and stay in touch with their friends. The Goulds help while the Myers continue to work out the kinks to running the business on their terms.
Restructuring the Space
Brian and Heidi both came into the industry with different backgrounds. Brian began working for a Subaru company, was the team leader for a direct repair program for Northwest Indiana and Progressive Insurance, and then landed at Gould’s Body & Paint.
During his previous career, Brian saw firsthand how 30 different shops operated and just how different those operations were. He learned that there is never just one right way to run a body shop.
Heidi, on the other hand, was a social worker before she decided to take on managing the body shop’s human resources department, payroll, accounts payables and marketing. She came in and hired an outside marketing firm to help design a new logo and colors for the shop and its online presence. She also spent six months training with Diana, on HR tasks.
“There’s been slow, but sure, progress in getting the [advertising] word out there,” Heidi says. “I try to spend a little time each week updating our online social media presence.”
Heidi wanted to come in and update the shop’s marketing. Together, the Myers had a goal for the first year to not change anything drastically, with the exception of those marketing tactics. Heidi added a Facebook and Instagram account under the shop’s name.
She also supervised the renovation of the front office to make it more friendly and open to the customer. The front office was remodeled in summer 2018, and the shop was made over with a new coat of paint and new tile in the waiting room floor, glass windows between the waiting room and the offices and a new reception desk.
The shop’s website boasts that “Gould Body & Paint is a family owned, state-of-the-art, collision repair facility in Crawfordsville, IN,” and it indeed appears to be. The shop still holds all its original values, just under new ownership.
Keeping the Old, Starting the New
Gould Body & Paint consists of two buildings with over 12,000 square feet on three acres of land, Brian says. One building houses the collision repair shop and the other is a place that the old, primary owner, Don, still visits to work on vehicle restorations.
“It’s a different atmosphere here because you have an old owner and a new owner sitting around a water cooler and having a conversation on most days,” Brian notes.
Since the transition of ownership, Don spends his days working in the restoration building and working on his painting skills, including airbrushing and fineline stripping. And, he is available for any questions that he has on big-budget purchases or production matters.
The transition was made even smoother because Brian was able to turn to the old owner for advice. Brian also has insight into the way the shop runs because he was the general manager and worked closely with the employees before the ownership switch. As a result, all 10 employees stayed on during the transition.
In the immediate future, he is looking to expand the shop and hire a new entry-level technician. Right now, there are two body technicians, along with two painters and a painter’s assistant. Yet, before he got to the point where he felt comfortable expanding his team, Brian worked out a system that helps him keep tabs on how employees are performing.
Brian even brought in a team from I-CAR to do evaluation interviews with every staff member, he says. Since the shop is located in a small town, his team had never before had the chance for I-CAR to visit on-site.
Treating Employees Like Family
Brian, like other shop owners, finds it important to check in with his staff every morning. He will make a note to try and ask everyone how his or her day was and on Mondays, and he inquires what the team did on weekends.
“I like to have informal conversations in the morning,” he says.
When he first took on the role of co-owner with his wife, Brian dabbled in having one weekly meeting with his staff. Yet, over time he found that, with a team of just 10 people, it was easier to meet one-on-one with everyone.
Today, Brian meets with each staff member briefly when he hands over a production list. He hands out an updated production list about three times per week, he says. This is just an updated Excel spreadsheet that is color-coded based on the technician and his job.
Brian forms the production list with his estimator during the week. The front office team, he says, works in close proximity to each other to tweak the schedule as cars go in and out. If anyone on staff has a question, they can find the list on a production board that is located in the front office.
Not only does Brian make a point to check in with employees, he still spends much of his day writing estimates for customers, as well.
In addition to the new process, the Myers also now offer additional incentives for the employees to feel like they’re still valued and keep the team together. For example, starting in March, the two were able to implement a company-matching IRA for all employees.
“When I became owner,” Brian says, “I realized I just love connecting with people. Everyone has a story and some we laugh about and some we are genuinely concerned about because it was a traumatic experience for them.”
So, Brian has kept up his interactions with employees, mainly by working alongside them at the reception desk.
SHOP STATS: Gould Body & Paint Location: Crawfordsville, Ind. Operator: Heidi Myers and Brian Myers Average Monthly Car Count: approximately 100 Staff Size: 10 Shop Size: 12,000 sq ft; Annual Revenue;$2 million