Best Workplaces 2021: Family Helping Families
Owner: Dan and Wendy Ott Staff Size: 26 (Gainesville), 12 (Ardmore) Average Monthly Car Count: 140 (Gainesville), 40 (Ardmore) Average Repair Order: $2,800 (Gainesville) $4,700 (Ardmore) Annual Revenue: $4.5 million (Gainesville), $2 million (Ardmore) Average Employee Tenure: 7.5 years (Gainesville), 2 years (Ardmore)
With some 40 employees, Auto Body Concepts provides quality repairs while providing its staff with a welcoming environment that values family.
Rheta Ghilmer was a county judge for more than 20 years before her friend, Wendy Ott, co-owner of Auto Body Concepts, called her up and asked if she’d want to work at the shop.
Ghilmer says she, Ott, and Ott’s husband and shop partner, Dan Ott, have been friends for more than 20 years, which is why she felt comfortable plunging into a new field, knowing they’d have her back.
“You can work for a [jerk] anywhere, but these people are so nice,” Ghilmer says.
Just a year and a half into her position as a shop administrator, she says with a laugh, “I see myself staying here for the long haul ... or until they fire me.”
Ott says her staff at Auto Body Concept’s two North Texas locations—the first in Gainesville, and later in Ardmore— are like family.
“We’re just a small, family-owned business and [our staff] is part of our family,” she says. “We want to make sure we take good care of them.”
Auto Body Concepts takes care of its staff in the usual ways—providing I-CAR training, insurance coverage options, and paid vacations—but what makes the shops stand apart from the rest are their ability to foster a community from their shop floors on out.
Ott says everyone at the shops spends a lot of time together, so it’s important for staffers to break up the days and celebrate where they can. Whether that means bringing in birthday cupcakes, ordering a celebratory lunch, or even meeting up after work hours with employees and their families, says Ott, “It’s the little things that go a long way.”
Ghilmer says the Otts show their dedication to their employees’ families by allowing them to leave work if their kids are in need. “We all help each other and lift each other up,” she says. “We are one big family.”
“We want to make sure [our employees] know how much they mean to us and that we notice what they do.”
—Wendy Ott, co-owner of Auto Body Concepts
In more traditional years, Ott says the shops host a variety of events and invite everyone, including vendors.
“We enjoy getting to know [our employees and vendors] and know about their families,” she says, noting that with the onset of the pandemic, such festivities have been put on hold.
Still, says Ghilmer, staffers continue working together because of the bonds that have been made.
“Times are hard, but you still [work] because you love the people you work for,” she says. “I’m not the only one who feels that way, everyone feels that way.”
What most businesses would view as team-building exercises are baked right into the culture at Auto Body Concepts, even existing outside the shop walls.
During summer, Ott says she and her husband will rent the local public pool for their staff and families to enjoy a night of swimming, grilling, and drawings for prizes.
“We always treat them like they’re a part of us,” she says.
Between its two locations, Auto Body Concepts rarely has an open position that’s left unfilled, Ott says. People enjoy working at the shops so much that there’s hardly any turnover, with some staff members working there for 30 years.
“I hope they know how much they mean to us,” Ott says. “They’re here every day busting their butts for us. We want to make sure they know how much they mean to us and that we notice what they do.”