Running a Shop

Staying Organized as a Shop Leader

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In Derrick Thomas’ eyes, positivity leads to a productive workplace. And he strives to provide an upbeat vibe on a daily basis. 

Thomas, the general manager at Wright One Paint and Body Collision Center in Augusta, Ga., strives to put a smile on staff members’ faces from the moment he steps on the shop floor each morning. 

“I care about my employees and, at the end of the day, want them to be great,” explains Thomas, in his twelfth year in the collision repair industry. 

Adrian Wright, the owner of Wright One, says Thomas’ energetic nature is vital on her shop floor, and that he “handles whatever’s thrown his way with pride. 

“He handles 24-hour towing, consumer concerns, staff meetings, and so much more. He … keeps operations flowing,” she says of Thomas. 

Yes, Thomas maintains ceaseless positivity despite a work schedule that stretches well beyond 5 p.m. many days. And, he recently spoke with FenderBender about the keys to staying positive—and, just as importantly, organized—when juggling multiple leadership responsibilities at a body shop. 

Envision a daily gameplan. 

Like many shop operators, Thomas studies work in progress (WIP) by monitoring shop software like Wright One’s CCC ONE system. He also makes heavy use of his smartphone’s “notes” function, documenting his to-do list. 

But, the general manager also spends time at the end of each day plotting out his plan for tomorrow. Thomas feels that planning process keeps him focused on the tasks that must be accomplished each day. 

“I send a note to myself and go through it at night,” he notes. 

Foster open dialogue with employees. 

Each morning, the first thing Thomas does is touch base with estimators and body technicians, gauging their work in progress. He offers encouragement, suggestions, and insight in an effort to keep the shop floor productive. 

He also makes sure to listen to the feedback of Wright One’s employees. And, by doing so, he garners the respect of staff members who, in turn, work extremely hard for him by all accounts. 

“I get with everybody and see what they need, and see what I can help with,” the general manager notes. “Then, at 10 o’clock, we all come together, do a meeting, and go over what we’re trying to accomplish for the day.” 

Delegate When Appropriate. 

While Thomas has a reputation as a tireless worker, he’s also realistic enough to know that some shop tasks require everyone to tow the rope on occasion. For example, when it comes to operating Wright One’s two tow trucks, Thomas makes sure that the tasks are shared by multiple employees, though he oversees the process. 

Because the city of Augusta can call on Wright One’s towing services at all hours of the night. And, the Georgia shop is expected to get a truck to tend to a wreck within roughly 30 minutes once called upon. 

Towing “can be a hassle in itself,” Thomas says with a laugh. “Especially when we’ve got bad weather. We just kind of rotate” responsibilities. 

Clarify Employee’s Expectations. 

In an effort to keep Wright One’s shop floor efficient—and to help keep his to-do list from getting overwhelming—Thomas makes sure to update his staff frequently with regard to shop procedures. 

“Everything we try to do has an SOP to it,” he says. “We go over them at meetings. And, at least once a month we’ll do a refresher of the SOPs; We’ll walk through the whole shop and say, ‘This car is waiting for parts,’ for example. We’ve got a whole system.”

By ensuring that his workload remains tenable, Thomas is allowed to lead his staff effectively. And that keeps him, and his staff, positive far more often than not. 

“Employees, I can relate to them and encourage them,” Thomas says. “The key is to lead by example.” 


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