Running a Shop Leadership Operations How To Lead

Leading the Change

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In college ROTC, Dylan McCoy was accustomed to rank in leadership. He knew who was in charge and everyone’s roles were clearly defined.

Then, McCoy joined his father’s shop, Lents Body Shop Inc. in Portland, Ore., and within the span of a year, went from being an estimator, to the parts manager, and, finally, production manager.

But, compared to his ROTC experience, leadership within the shop simply felt different, he says.  

All of a sudden, McCoy had to lead people who were 30 years his senior and had more experience in the industry.

“I didn’t have a plan, but I think it’s better if you go into it thinking about what’s best for the employees,” McCoy says.

He entered his role as production manager and knew that the way to earn the trust and respect of the existing employees was to not act like he knew how to do everything himself. Instead, McCoy asked his staff questions and made sure each person knew his or her opinion mattered and was valued.

Eventually, the staff started working as a well-oiled machine, and McCoy was able to turn some of the old shop processes on their head in October 2018, in the end producing an annual revenue of just over $3 million (up from $1.5 million when his father purchased the shop).

Along with changing some processes, McCoy says that a big part of leading this change was striving for consistency each and every day—and he did so  in a number of ways.

“It’s really the linchpin of everything we do here,” he says. “Your process doesn’t have to be the best process in the world, but it will work better if you’re consistent as a leader and your team is all pulling in one direction.”

 

1. Change the layout.

Before: At the beginning, McCoy and his parts manager worked on the shop floor every day, but the duo started to encounter problems in that work environment. Their computers lost battery charge quickly and the environment was very noisy and less conducive to office work.  

So, McCoy decided to blow a hole in the process. Literally.

After: The shop renovated an old, fairly large storage closet to become McCoy’s and the parts manager’s office. Originally, this room was only accessible if an employee walked around a lunchroom next to the shop floor, past the owner’s office and then could enter the closet. After blowing a hole through the existing lunch room, McCoy was able to make a direct path from the shop floor to his renovated office.

 

2. Streamline workflow.    

Before: The production board itself was also changed last October. Before, the team had to go into McCoy’s office, come to him with issues and McCoy or the parts manager would have to go back out to the shop floor to update the ETA of the vehicle.

After: At the start, the shop operated using CCC ONE and had production meetings every few days. Then, the team decided to use AkzoNobel’s CarBeat, which is an electronic production board that shows each car in real time as it moves to different areas of the shop. The system is used on shop computers, which were upgraded to at least 24 inches to accommodate the information on the production board. The ETAs of vehicles are changed depending on any unexpected delays in the repair, so, now, every employee can check the board and make decisions accordingly, he says.

The team meets around the board twice per day, but in general, McCoy says the process raises his team’s confidence in its ability to make decisions on the repair. As an extra quality control check in the process, he’ll walk around and make audits on the quality control checklists that are handed between departments.

The shop’s cycle time has also improved, dropping from four days to five, McCoy says.

 

3. Rethink the estimators.

Before: The estimators were both working on the same vehicles and workloads, which McCoy says didn’t make sense. But, one of the estimators was really good at interacting with customers and the other was excellent at negotiating with insurance companies.

After: Lents Body Shop is an employee-first body shop, McCoy says. Shop leaders encourage their staff to make their own decisions and work to show they trust in their staff.

One change that McCoy made was analyzing the shop’s estimators and their individual specialities. He decided to designate one estimator as a back-end estimator, or blueprinter, and then have one other estimator deal with the shop’s customers directly. The blueprinter seldom interacts with customers, he says. Through switches like this one and making sure to take a close look at each employee’s strengths, McCoy and his parents were able to have zero employee turnover after they purchased the shop.

 

4. Define leadership style.

Before: McCoy realized early on in his time in the collision repair industry that a leader can’t accomplish anything without reflecting on his or her approach. He watched industry leaders like David Luehr, president of Elite Body Shop Solutions, in webinars and would gather ideas from attending industry events with other shop owners.

After: McCoy does “self-checks” to make sure he stays consistent in his leadership style. One area that he wants to work on involves more frequently praising his employees, he says. He wants to reach a better balance of praising and reprimanding. Recently, he read a book on one-minute management techniques and has started to utilize that advice. The book recommended taking one minute to go out to employees and compliment them on their work.

By empowering his employees to make their own decisions and feel confident in their work, the shop can go the extra mile for the customer. For instance, if a customer needs a ride to work or home because their car is being repaired, any employee can offer to drive.

“We shouldn’t make it harder on the customer,” McCoy says.

 

5. Re-evaluate SOPs.

Before: The shop experienced a series of unexpected issues, including issues with the customers. Sometimes the car would still be in detail but the customer would be informed of its completion or there would be an issue in the polished work.

After: As a guide for the staff, the shop has an arsenal of SOPs. While there are SOPs describing particular processes, McCoy says the SOPs don’t take into account exceptions to the rules. This is yet another area that he needs to be comfortable having his employees decide how to handle. For example, there is a system in place for techs to go into a designated cabinet and take a box of sandpaper or other items by also taking out the corresponding card with barcode.

When the tech uses the sandpaper and places it on the cart, he or she is then responsible for scanning the card’s barcode to reorder that particular supply. But, if the card goes missing, there is no area in the SOP that covers what to do, McCoy says, and it’s the technician’s responsibility to find a solution.

Like the rule for the SOPs, most rules in the shop show the employee’s expectation and not the exception, he says.

 

SHOP STATS: Lents Body Shop   Location: Portland, Ore.  Operator: First and Last Name  Average Monthly Car Count: 105  Staff Size: 7 in the body shop (3 journeyman technicians, 2 apprentices, 2 painters), 6 in the front office  (production manager, 1 parts manager, 1 blueprinter, 1 estimator, 1 customer experience representative and 1 controller)  Shop Size: 10,000 square feet; Annual Revenue;$3.1 million 

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