How I Work: Nick Edwards
Nick Edwards has three main workplaces. Two are body shops, while the third business is typically a coffee shop.
As owner and operations manager of Car Center Collision & Mechanical in Greenville, Mich., alongside his father, Edwards oversees all operations of the shop’s three locations.
Edwards has one main goal when he steps into a shop. He wants to empower every manager to make decisions and run the business as if it were their own. He accomplishes this hands-off management style by focusing on his 80/20 rule—eighty percent of the time he’s working in the business and 20 percent of the time he’s working on the business.
“I go to a location and I’m basically just a support piece for my managers,” Edwards says.
Car Center Collision & Mechanical is a $6 million business, with roughly $5 million of that coming from the collision repair side. Edward’s tight schedule for operations helps managers run the multiple locations smoothly, but allows him to focus on future growth of his business.
As told to Melissa Steinken
Right now, there are two store locations I go back and forth to. When I’m not at those locations, I work remotely. Usually, I’m sitting at a coffee shop because I don’t have my own office. I just take my laptop with me and prop it up wherever I go.
When I go into the shops, I like to be able to sit back and observe what’s happening. I like to keep my ears open, and not having an office helps a lot in being able to watch the staff interact with customers.
It’s kind of a catch-22 as an owner when it comes to the hours that we work. I get into my “office” for the day, around 7:30 a.m. I like to get in a little bit before we open our shop doors at 8 a.m., Monday through Friday.
I typically stay to the end of the day, as well. I’ll stay a little after close, until 5:30 p.m. The only time I stay longer is if we have a customer waiting on a car.
I don’t really take breaks during the day. Since we’re in the process of adding more locations to the business, it gives me the chance to work off site from a body shop most days. This helps me reset my mind and take a step back from the hectic shop if I need to. But, I typically don’t take any breaks except for a short 10-15 minute lunch break.
Balance is definitely an on-going battle as an owner. I need to be able to stop thinking about the business sometimes but it’s hard because it’s so important in my life.
In order to stay organized throughout the day, I use the Microsoft app, Sticky Notes. I love to make to-do lists. Right now, I leave them on sticky notes that are on my computer. I prioritize everything on the notes according to four categories: urgent, non-urgent, important and not important. Usually the tasks that come up fall into two categories the most often. The most-used categories are the important and non-urgent, and important and urgent.
When I work on the future of the business, I focus on documenting our processes. We use Microsoft Office 365 as our cloud-based storage for all the shop’s documents, SOPs and schedules. I switched to Microsoft after I got sick of housing all the documents on my computer and having to share them every single time that I updated one.
So, I did some research and played around with Google Docs and Microsoft. I chose Microsoft because most of our documents were already in the format of Microsoft Word documents.
We also as a whole, work a particular operating system. This is a framework that we use to grow the business. From this platform, we have quarterly and annual strategic planning meetings. At our quarterly meetings, we set 90-day priorities for the business. These are priorities like spending. Right now, we have about four of them.
One of our priorities is focusing on future marketing contributions. We’re also working on how to give away $20,000 for 2020. Our goals include deciding which organizations to team up with, how to give the money away each month and how to market the charity campaign.
During the quarterly meetings, my right-hand team member, myself and a business coach meet.
As a team, we have bi-weekly meetings. We call these meetings “bird’s eye meetings.” This is a meeting that we do with all of the shop managers and myself. We look at our goals and see if we’re on track to meet them.
Shop managers facilitate weekly meetings on their own, which are 90-minute meetings that rate employees on a scale of 1-10 for productivity and effectiveness.
During the weekly meetings, the managers will go over the 30-day rolling numbers for the shop, equipment updates and processes, and a general health-check of the store. The whole team will walk away with a to-do list for the week.
I follow the slogan that we should never allow people to become numbers. It’s important that we never make our staff or customers feel like a number in a crowd. For our employees, I try to not micromanage them. I’m more soft than I actually should be, but I like to just be a presence in the shop that they feel they can come to with questions and concerns.
We try to gauge how the customer is feeling by asking them when they pick up their car to provide feedback on the service. For instance, we ask if they’re satisfied with the repair. Then, I look through the survey reports we get through our CCC ONE management and estimating system in order to find out their thoughts on the process. CCC ONE sends out an eight-question survey to customers.
Right now, our CSI is pretty high for the industry. We have a CSI of 97 percent. And, we ask them to leave us Google reviews, too. We have about 170 reviews on Google , with a rating between 4.8 and 4.9 out of 5 stars.
We’re able to be a one-stop shop for the customer but it does come with challenges. Roughly 60 percent of our business comes from collision repair and 40 percent comes from mechanical.
The services compliment each other, so it’s easy to offer health checks on the vehicles when they come in for a collision repair. We have the chance to upsell to customers to have their engine or oil checked out. On average, we see a customer once every seven years but with the mechanical side of the business, we’re able to see that collision repair customer another four times per year for oil changes and more.
While the business is great for customers, it is difficult from a scaling perspective. Collision repair and mechanical are still two different businesses, with different management systems and payroll and processes to consider.
At the end of the day, I try to repeat this mantra over and over: We never lose; we only win or we learn. I heard this from somebody else in the industry a couple of years ago and it really resonated with me. I think it’s important as a leader for you to make sure you learn from challenges and mistakes. Don’t count them as losing but a learning opportunity.
SHOP STATS: Car Center Collision & Mechanical Location: Greenville, Mich. ( 3 locations) Operator: Bill and Sylvia Edwards Average Monthly Car Count: 75 (for all 3 locations) Staff Size: 37 (17 front office/20 in back end) Shop Size: 10,000 square feet; Annual Revenue;$5 million (collision only)