Running a Shop Operations

Having the Time You Need to Change

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“Time management is really a big thing for me, because I still work back in the shop,” says Andy Powell, owner of Andy’s Auto Body Collision Repair, Inc., in Vandalia, Ill.

“I still have to write estimates, I still answer the phone,” he says. “I have to be efficient with my time,”

Powell is also concerned with how he appears relative to that time he has.

“I don’t want to seem rushed with a customer,” he says.

When there can be so little time during the course of a normal business day— without the pressures of larger goals and projects—how does someone as attuned to his time, like Powell, make the bigger-picture things happen, when there’s so little time to spare?

The Backstory

With some 30 years in the collision repair industry, Powell aimed to take on a number of challenges in quick succession: bringing his son into the business, moving his shop, and doubling down on only doing collision repair work, with the aim of making more money.

The Problem

Where to find the time for all that? Again, time is always on Powell’s mind, and it’s baked into every interaction he has with his customers.

“There’s a door that goes out to the shop with a window, and I always see people looking out there, and I tell them, ‘You can look!’” he says. “They always comment on how clean and organized everything is, we always try to line everything up so they can find their car. Everything I do, I try to be efficient with.”

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The Solution

To get his son up to speed so he could be involved with the shop, Powell says it was all about schooling.

“When he was in high school, I had him taking I-CAR classes online, and then that summer he came to work for me,” he says. “During that first year when he worked for me, that’s when we took all our I-CAR classes. We got the Gold Class done in a year… and now we push each other to set little goals, here and there. That was a big deal.”

While that educational headstart was big, Powell is also about finding time in the margins during the day, to lose as little time as possible.

When he’s servicing a vehicle, Powell is careful to note not only what is going to be replaced, but also the surrounding parts. If it’s a bumper, for example, he likes to make certain that the correct single-use fasteners are in stock before starting work.

“It seems like it's slow in the beginning when a car gets here, but I try to be real precise with our disassembly and doing our research on what we can reuse or what we're going to need,” Powell says. “So we know if there is a bracket or there's a grill emblem or something else, and if we're efficient about it at the very beginning and we get all our parts, we're not going to have the car in the shop as long.”

The Aftermath

There isn’t much use in working on things you’re not interested in.

Powell made sure to keep that in mind when he moved to his new location and made a slight rebranding as Andy’s Auto Body Collision Repair Inc. He wanted to make it clear that the shop was focused only on collision repair—and it is.

“I turn away a lot of work,” he says. “We don’t fix a lot of rust anymore, we haven’t even sprayed any single-stage paint in the new shop. All I concentrate on is collision repair, we’re getting super efficient at that. We make better money at collision work.”

The Takeaway

Powell says he knows it’s important to keep his attention on where he wants to improve. By laser-focusing on only collision repair, his shop is still bringing in work, but he’s also got the time to keep up to date on what’s new in the industry.

“We don’t fix cars the way we did five years ago,” Powell says. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’m still learning.”

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