Cropper: The Selling Rollercoaster
Since I’ve been in charge of Alaska, I was fortunate enough to have been asked to help with some acquisitions on the operations side at Classic Collision. It was super cool to have been able to live it myself and be able to help people get through the emotional side of that. It is extremely emotional, the name on the building and the name on the employees’ shirts. It’s such a big deal during those early stages that it was really cool for me to see that side since I just went through it. I was fortunate enough to be involved in a couple of those conversations.
Part of that is my firsthand knowledge of recently going through that. So many owners take such great pride in their business and their history and their employees who have been with them forever. Consolidators handle those employees differently. Do they honor the years served carrying forward? What do they honor when it comes to the legacy of the employees and the business going forward? Obviously consolidators have a brand to look out for, and I can tell you from my experience they all handle that differently.
You have to take that into consideration if that’s important to you. For me, it was super cool to have them honor hire dates. If someone had worked for me for 19 years, they’ve now been with Classic for 19 years. That was an amazingly cool feeling. What I see with other owners, especially if they’ve been around a long time, is that the name on the building is just so important to them. Being honest, in most cases, that changes. So I like to make sure that’s done delicately and with respect. Knowing that the name is going to change is not necessarily the problem. Is it done with respect? I think consolidators all handle that differently.
I really appreciated the respect that was given to the history of what they were purchasing. My staff’s email all still says Able Body Shop to this day. Able Body Shop, now a Classic Collision company. They didn’t just rip the Band-Aid off. They loved the stuff that we were doing well. They embraced it and if we needed help in any way, then they also were there to help us with what we needed help with.
I loved the respect they gave to all of the people who have been with me a long time. I had staff say ‘when do we have to stop wearing our Able Body Shop t-shirts?’ The corporate people said ‘we don’t care if you wear those t-shirts for another 10 years, as long as they’re not see-through!’ There was a very high level of respect, which was important to me, staying on board, that I didn’t have to face my team in any bitter takeover type situation. They made it feel so much more like a partnership than a takeover. They really respected that we were a well-run organization and they weren’t here to turn that upside down, which was important, but they do have stuff we can learn from.
I used to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to learn from other shops, and now I can do it just with the team we have at our fingertips.
They kept promises and showed an enormous amount of respect to us. They still do to this day. I don’t ever expect that to change. If you’re walking away the day your shops sell, maybe there are other things that are important to you, but me staying on and knowing I wanted to make a difference in this industry, which I truly believe I still can at a very effective level, there were different things that were important to me than are probably important to other owners looking to sell.
Each owner has to decide what’s important to them. Even if you are just ready to walk away and never turn back, that’s fine, but that list of what’s important is going to be different than mine. They have to look at that and make sure that whatever deal they’re doing is meeting those needs and is in line with what their real goals are. That may mean to walk away with the most money possible, it may mean to walk away and the name stays the same. They have to figure that out and it’s different for everyone.