Pinpointing the Right Community Partner
Kim Branning and Lisa Lupo helm the leadership group at Branning Collision Center. While Kim, the owner, runs the shop, Lisa is her trusted advisor. The pair shares an office and, as a result, often bounces ideas off the other.
Lupo is the brains behind all the charity work the shop does.
Lupo is not only a driving force in helping Branning run the shop smoothly, she is the mastermind behind how the shop runs its numerous community partnerships.
“We never want to do something that makes our team feel too taxed,” Lupo says.
Despite that goal, the shop usually has a charity event going on at all times. Even if it’s a small event, Lupo pushes the staff to think about the bigger picture. So, the team may get to dress casually on Fridays, but if they choose to do so, they donate money to the shop and it eventually goes to a local charity.
Together, Branning and Lupo make a team that has kept the business going strong for the five years that Lupo has been with it.
Below, Lupo shares her tips for choosing the right community partner to make a collision repair shop thrive.
Tip #1: Find out what motivates your team.
Lupo says that at Branning Collision Centers, the staff consists of animal-oriented people. So, she took that knowledge and partnered with a local humane society. Lupo helped create a Powerpoint presentation for the humane society that was continuously displayed on a television screen in the shop’s front lobbies. It asked for anyone who had the means to donate toys to the cause.
Lupo also felt that, since the shop staff already helped families get their vehicles back on the road safely, that employees might also want to assist the community in other areas of life. Lupo partnered with RISE, a community service partnership that works to help families and individuals recover from setbacks, and hosted a food pantry at the shops. They also had a drive for personal hygiene products, which aren’t typically donated to charities.
Tip #2: Plan at least one, large event per year.
Since the body shop has six locations total, Lupo says it was important to find an organization the shop could partner with for an annual event. The annual event could be bigger, and allow every shop location’s team to participate.
In 2018, Lupo hosted a Recycled Rides event that was televised by Chasing News. Media and vendors were invited and attended. The vendors donated all the parts to repair the vehicles. Local businesses donated gift cards like Chipotle and Wegmans. Enterprise also partners with the shop to donate money and that money went to pay for a customer’s car insurance for the year.
Lupo also recommends partnering with a collision repair industry group like National Auto Body Council to put on Recycled Rides. That way, the shop can showcase its work while also giving back to its community.
Tip #3: Look for inspiration locally and abroad.
Lupo says that while she knew about the RISE organization before deciding to partner with them, her inspiration for choosing other local partners comes from the team members around her and other people in her community.
For example, the women in the company donate to United Way, which helps support communities around the world for items like building schools for children. Branning Collision Centers members who choose to participate have their donations taken out of their paychecks. Six team members volunteered at the Freehold YMCA to help children after school with homework and play games afterwards. The program and the YMCA is sponsored by United Way.
Tip #4: Ask how customers found the shop.
It’s important for the shop staff to keep tabs on how many people are coming into the business because they found it through a charity event, Lupo says.
At each Branning location, the customer service representatives ask customers how they heard about the shop. Then, the CSRs log that information in the shop’s software. One woman called the store after she saw employees rescue animals featured on the company’s social media during the month of December.
Tip #5: Stay proactive in the community.
Partnering with a local charity or nonprofit organization isn’t enough to keep customers up to date about the shop’s events. Lupo says shop operators much advertise such events.
She personally designs much of the graphic work that goes on event flyers and posters that get posted around town. The shops’ front lobbies always display a Powerpoint presentation that shares information on the business’ upcoming events.
And, of course, Lupo notes that advertising on television and radio has a wide reach to customers. In a television advertisement that runs about once per month, Lupo showcases the shop’s most recent charity fundraiser and how much money the business raised. The shop advertises on a local FM radio station. There are typically about six radio ads going, with each lasting 15-30 seconds, Lupo notes. Paul Branning usually records all the clips so the name and voice are recognizable in the community.
“I think people are more attracted to the business when they see other things going on and not just people working,” Lupo says.