How I Work: Chance Smith
When he was 16 years old, Chance Smith had a car window broken. He decided to take it down to a neighborhood body shop, a couple blocks away, to be repaired. While it was tended to, he sat and watched intently.
A couple weeks later, his car was in the crossfire of some neighborhood shenanigans and hit by rocks. Thus, another window broke. Smith returned to the body shop.
This time was different, though. This time, the shop owner turned to Smith and asked, “Since you saw how we did it last time, would you want to repair the window this time?”
“Why not?” Smith said. And, after he was finished with the repair, the work was so well done that the shop manager asked if he wanted a job. Smith responded with another “Why not?”
Thus began an accomplished career in the collision repair industry.
Smith, the owner of Crash Depot in Auburndale, Fla., worked eight years for that neighborhood shop before he branched out to start his own shop at just 22 years old. He rented a 1,100-square-foot building and started working on his own business while also working at the other body shop.
In 2014, Smith moved into a new building that was 2,500 square feet which seemed huge to him at the time. Eventually, he took over the whole building, leaving him with a facility that was 5,000 square feet.
By 2018, Smith’s shop was growing, not only in terms of production, but also to include insurance company partnerships. He couldn’t fit more than two cars and customers in at a time, however. So, he bought a 13,000-square-foot building right next door.
While the shop was the most profitable it had ever been when it was smaller and at max capacity, Crash Depot produces over $1.3 million today and continues to grow due to Smith’s scheduled routine and drive to improve processes.
As told to Melissa Steinken
I typically get into the shop around 7:30 a.m. every morning. The first thing I do when I get into the shop is walk around for 15 minutes and say hello to the staff that came in earlier. I usually start that walk in the paint department because the painters get in around 7.
Then, before 8, when the shop officially opens to customers, we sit down to a production meeting as a team. During this 10–15 minute meeting, we go over a schedule of the cars in the shop that day. The team goes over a schedule that’s written out on a whiteboard and outlines the technicians’ jobs by timeframe. Say my A-level technician has to work on a vehicle; we go over the time he needs to get it done in order to start on another repair. Maybe it will be working from 8 a.m. to noon and then working on another job from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
My office is right up front, near the lobby. I have four walls and a door to my office so I can close it to gain privacy, but I can also keep an eye on customers coming in and help out with any estimates or concerns they have.
When I’m in my office after the production meeting, I take about an hour to update all the car files so that the customer service representative doesn’t have to worry about asking me questions about a customer’s car. I also make necessary calls during that time. If we realized there was a critical issue with a car’s repair during the production meeting, I’ll follow up on that. Sometimes it means a quick call to follow up on where a missing part is.
The first couple of hours in the shop are really about being proactive and catching up on work so the rest of the day goes by more smoothly.
Since we’ve expanded into a larger facility, we’re also working on expanding our team. Right now, my team consists of 11 employees and they are all younger workers. Most are under 25 years old.
I’ve realized that the best way to hire for a shop is to make sure that you are hiring for attitude and aptitude and not for the experience level of the technicians. This is why I’ve taken the time to work with the local vocational technical school; I sit on their advisory board. I go to that school and talk in front of classes a couple times per year and also inquire afterward about anyone looking for work.
Our team also posts job openings on sites like Indeed and through Facebook posts. We recently received over 300 resumes for our CSR opening. Out of those 300 applications, I narrowed it down to 10 phone calls. Out of those 10 calls, five people answered the phone and only three people showed up for in-person interviews.
So, it’s really important to look for people based on their ability and actual willingness to work.
I typically take a lunch break, but I usually still work on small tasks during it. Even while I’m taking a lunch break, I’ll look through my emails or do another similar task. I like to keep busy, and going through emails is something that doesn’t require a ton of thought.
One of my current projects is boosting the shop’s presence across all social media. We’ve done radio advertising as part of our marketing and advertising endeavors for the past two years. However, we haven’t really seen a return on investment from those radio ads.
We’re going to target both extremes during the next year: We’re going to expand our social media presence to target those 40 years old and under. Then, we’re also going to go to the retirement community in town and post print ads. We want to target the “snowbirds” or people vacationing from other, colder states during the winter.
I attend two chamber of commerce meetings per month, to network. I think it’s important to simply go into the community and tell other people who you are and what you do. I just like getting my face and name out there for the business.
At the end of each day, I make a list for the next day. I take 10 minutes at the end of each day to write down a to-do list for the next day. I like to include the tasks I didn’t finish that day and make sure they’re on a list I can check off. I write this all down in a six-inch spiral notebook sitting on my desk. Then, I can go home around 5 p.m. and focus on being with my family.
I really think it’s important to have that balance between family and work. Right now, I have a baby at home so I want to spend as much time as I can there. So, I try to do all I can before leaving so I don’t think about work at home. I encourage this with my team, as well. For example, my team works from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, unless there is a lingering task. Then, we’re always closed on the weekends.