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Cropper: How to Find the Partner to Take on Your Shops

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Last month, we left off talking about the decision to sell my shops. We talked from my perspective, but finding the right partner and one that will take care of the team is a completely different perspective. It was very interesting, mentally. I invested 19 years and to call it done brings up a lot of questions; is it the right time? Can I swing it? Will it be the right decision?

There’s a lot that goes into the decision to sell and finding the right partner is a significant component. We’ve had interest from others over the years, but what set Classic apart is the plan they created for me and my employees. Their approach is to buy the higher performers in their market. Classic wants to grow rapidly so they need really good performers in the market to avoid having to add corporate power to keep things going. The leadership team has tons of industry background and the CEO built a vision of finding high performers, OE-certified shops and letting them run the best they know how.

Having such a stronger partner certainly made having conversations with the staff easier, and I’m proud to note we’re still at 100% employee retention, which is a fear I had, including my leadership team and myself. I had every competitor within 200 miles reaching out to my staff to get them and scare them. There has not been a promise made that has not been upheld. They also upheld any promise I ever made to an employee. I have a lot of long-term employees and they set their hire dates with me, for example. I was worried about certain positions in our company; the janitor, maintenance guy. I was happy to hear when they said, “Those positions are invaluable; we need to keep everybody and you have good people.” That played a big deal to the rest of the staff, too. They see the secretary is completely safe. They see the detailer isn’t going anywhere.

As time goes on, I think my staff will start to see they actually have more opportunities with a bigger company than I would have been able to give them. Better benefits packages, for one, but also some really cool career paths. We have a call center, which Classic noticed right away and promoted it to being the call center for the entire West Coast. That happened within hours of them taking over. They pretty much said, “These girls are rock stars; let’s train them and run with it.” Now we’re running things in Anchorage for the whole operation.

The unique opportunity I had staying on was good because I was able to make sure the transition went smoothly. People wanted to know that things were going to be positive. Once they started to realize that the changes were good, the change wasn’t a big deal. When the change takes away from quality of life, compensation, benefits, that’s when change has a negative impact. Our existing culture also played a part in how we were able to embrace everything. After the deal closed, the Classic leadership team—even the CEO and chief acquisitions officer—came up and started interacting with the staff, showing what they meant. That played a huge part to the team.  

The experience so far has been great and the support has been awesome. It gave me an opportunity to stay in this industry and have a team behind me. The fact is, I’m in as long as it’s fun and as long as I can face the employees with a smile. I no longer have to deal with most of the things I had to deal with before. Now my role is in charge of the state of Alaska, which will change at some point. I work with the shops to make sure they’re happy. 

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