Running a Shop

Tips for Building a Rapport with Vendors

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DOMENICK D’AMORE MANAGER LINO’S AUTO BODY REPAIR CAROL STREAM, ILL. 

Domenick D’Amore focuses on keeping customers comfortable and happy. He also tries to foster staff camaraderie. 

But, the shop manager also takes a step that helps set Lino’s Auto Body Repair apart from many of its competitors: he puts an onus on making vendors feel truly appreciated. And, in the long run, that pays off. 

“About a year ago, there was a new compound, and the [vendor], because I always talk with them, wanted to come show me the product,” recalls D’Amore, whose father, Lino, has owned the Illinois shop since the 1970s. “And the finish was beautiful. We’re using that product now, and it’s also saving time.” 

In D’Amore’s experience, collision repair industry vendors aren’t always just trying to sell something. On many occasions, they’re trying to aid the industry and make shops more efficient. He tries to always keep that in mind—even when vendors visit Lino’s on an extremely busy day. 

“When a vendor understands that you care about them and you show them respect, you’re going to get good results out of them,” says D’Amore, who was nominated by a coworker for a FenderBender Award due to his selfless nature. 

“If you start discouraging [vendors], you’re probably going to have some problems,” he adds. 

D’Amore, who has worked in numerous shop roles since starting in the industry at the age of 16, explains the keys to building a great rapport with vendors. 

Embrace a team mindset. 

One reason Lino’s has forged a few decades-old vendor relationships, such as with a local Honda dealer, is that D’Amore consciously strives to avoid any adversarial exchanges. 

“We work together,” he says. “It’s supposed to be a team effort. You need them as much as they need you.” 

D’Amore learned long ago that his shop needs to have a symbiotic relationship with vendors. That’s why he bites his tongue if his shop experiences an occasional parts delay, knowing that, by being understanding with vendors, that they’ll typically reward the loyalty at some point. 

Try to display patience. 

Similarly, D’Amore strives to avoid any tense conversations with vendors, even on the rare occasion that they deliver an incorrect part, for instance. 

“To develop a good relationship,” D’Amore says with regard to vendors, “you need to understand that, if a part doesn’t come in in the morning like it’s supposed to, that you’re not the only body shop out there. You need to have a little patience. Human errors happen. 

“I mean, every shop wants their parts yesterday, but we have to [realize that vendors] are under a lot of pressure as well.” 

If D’Amore encounters a parts delay at his shop, or, if a part arrives mislabeled, he tries to call vendors and have a calm, level-headed discussion. 

“When you do something like that, and you give out positive energy with them,” he explains, “they’re willing and wanting to keep you happy. If you’re that body shop that’s constantly calling your vendor and complaining, eventually that grows tiresome—it develops bad blood.” 

Be proactive. 

D’Amore makes it a habit to let paint vendors, especially, know that he’d always love to hear about any new product they have to offer. By doing that, he puts Lino’s near the front of the line for new offerings that could benefit the facility. 

“I always talk to the paint vendors I use,” he says, “and just let them know that, if there's a new product out that simplifies things, to let us know. Don’t feel like you’re going to be a bother if you stop by and have new products to show us.” 

Yes, sometimes vendors visit his shop during less-than-ideal times, when the lobby area is overflowing with impatient customers. Still, D’Amore tries to set work aside for at least a brief visit with parts reps, paint vendors, or representatives of shop management companies. Eventually, he has learned, cordial gesture pays off. 

“I try to make them feel welcome here,” he says of vendors, “so they know that, if they have a new, efficient product that’s going to make something look nice, possibly cut costs, or make the job quality a bit better, I want to know about that.” 

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