Limitless: One Man's Committment to Let the Light In
Chris Maimone stood before the confessional that fateful day two years ago, wondering what he was doing there. He wasn’t sure if he was looking for answers. He wasn’t sure if he was looking for questions. What he did know, for sure, is that he was angry.
That anger was why his beloved mother, Lillian, had encouraged him to attend confession in the first place. She was concerned about her then 36-year-old son, about his negativity and short temper. But Maimone countered, how could he not be? How could he not be angry after five spine surgeries and seven brain surgeries within two years, the last of which left him with no feeling from the waist down? He should be angry.
Maimone thought of Saint Bernadette, the patron saint of the ill, whose life he had related to since childhood. And with that, he walked, with the help of his walker, into the confessional to speak with his longtime priest.
During that confession, Maimone spoke to his priest about everything: about the unexpected health problems that had upended his life, about his lack of faith in his future, and about his distress that his once seemingly great life had been taken away. Maimone can’t explain it, but after the priest blessed him with holy water and the confession ended, something shifted. Perhaps it was his father, the late Marco Maimone (of Marco’s Collision Center), looking down on him. Or perhaps it was the release that Maimone needed to move forward. But regardless, after that day, he says everything changed.
“After that change, that was two years ago, I was still using the walker but I had a clearer mindset. I was Chris again,” he says. “I’ve never given up and I’ve had things taken away from me that 90 percent of people wouldn't be able to deal with.”
In the two years since, what Maimone’s accomplished since returning to the workforce—as a now industry consultant, speaker and mentor—would be significant for anyone. And that’s his point.
“I hope that when people look at me, for one, never, ever compare yourself to other people. Everyone has their struggle—could be mental, physical,” he says. “If you can overcome them, you can do anything. Just because my body isn’t what it was three years ago doesn’t mean I can’t make an impact in someone’s life.”
The Early Years
To understand the Maimone of 2022, you need to go back to the beginning—to his birth, actually. He was born at 27 weeks; the doctors worried he might not survive the night. Maimone had lung and brain issues, which required 14 brain surgeries from birth to age five. Doctors warned Marco and Lilian he could be deaf, blind, or fraught with learning disabilities—all of which he defied.
In fact, he excelled, receiving a bachelor’s degree in business from California Lutheran University, and then working in his family’s businesses, Marco’s Collision Centers, which his father founded in 1972. He started from the bottom, washing vehicles, while he steadily learned all facets of operating the shop and eventually oversaw the biggest of the seven locations in Southern California, which had over 50 employees, produced an average daily output of $32,000, 50 percent gross profit and a consistent CSI of 98-100 percent. He was an integral part in helping them win national and local awards for quality, and CSI from Verifacts and multiple insurance companies.
“The toughest part of my job was checking for quality during the repair process. If something was not perfect, it was sent back to production,” Maimone says. “Honestly, there were many times I wasn't the most well-liked person at the shop since I’d promptly send back any vehicle scheduled to be delivered due to a quality issue.”
In 2014, Marco’s Collision Center was acquired by Service King and Maimone joined its quality assurance team before being promoted to team lead for the Western United States in 2015. He was also on the PAC board for the Universal Technical Institute from 2016-2018 and, as an avid advocate for bringing women into the industry, helped one of the UTI students become the first women accepted into Service King’s Technician Apprentice Program.
By all accounts, Maimone’s career was on the fast track, but Marco’s unexpected passing in 2018 also fast tracked three years of subtle neurological symptoms Maimone had hoped he could ignore.
Dark Night of the Soul
Maimone slowly opened his eyes, groggy from surgery, as his eyes readjusted to the hospital room around him.
He looked down the hospital bed at his feet and tried to move his toes.
Just a few hours prior, Maimone’s doctor sat him down and warned him that upon waking post-surgery, there was an 80 percent chance he’d be paralyzed.
But this wasn’t the first time he’d been issued such a warning. In fact, it was the third time in less than 18 months,ever since Maimone had, overnight, found himself unable to walk and—after a string of stumped doctors—it was finally discovered that he had scar tissue wrapped around his spinal cord, likely caused by his childhood surgeries. He was told he’d need a series of spinal and brian surgeries to correct the issue, all of which carried potentially serious complications. The first surgery went well, but the second spine surgery caused proprioception (the body's ability to sense movement, action, and location). The third surgery, which took place during the height of COVID-19 in 2020, was the riskiest yet.
Maimone focused all his energy on his feet and, to his delight, found that he had once again defied doctors. His toes moved.
“I didn’t know about the sensation part but I was able to move my toes,” he says.
Although he still hasn’t regained sensation from the waist down, that small bit of movement was enough to convince Maimone that he would be able to recover and walk again, which he has.
“I’m very proud of, for what happened to me, where I am mentally. A lot of people, including myself, would’ve given up,” he says. “The one thing that’s kept me going with all this medical stuff is my spirituality. Without that, I think I would be in a different place and mindset. I’m thankful for the gifts that I was given.”
Back in the Field
Maimone looked out at the audience and then down at his notes. It was only a few months since his last surgery, but he was ready to return to the workforce. He was ready to learn to manage his health and live fully again. He had started to dip his toes into consulting, and, in doing so, that’s when VeriFacts Automotive called.
They wanted Maimone to speak at their annual symposium, where Maimone now found himself.
He took one final pause, and launched into his story in a motivational speech titled, “You May See Me Struggle, But You’ll Never See Me Quit.”
“I should be wheelchair-bound, but I continually fight and push my body’s boundaries to where I know I can be,” he says. “That includes fighting for my capability to get back in the field.”
It was at the symposium where he met Sandy Panduro, the HR director for a number of CARSTAR shops in Southern California. The two got to talking about bringing Maimone on as a consultant and Sandy introduced him to her brother, Danny, and fellow shop owner Brian Frame. Maimone asked the team to list their main goals, the biggest of which was improving capture rate.
“I agreed these are two key ways to increase the capture rate percentage, but I stressed how there are other ingredients some may not anticipate,” he says.
Less than 30 days after the Symposium, Maimone began working with the CARSTAR locations on a daily basis to increase their capture rates and focus on those “extra ingredients.”
“What Chris shared with me truly changed my perception of what capture rate is, and working with him over the next several months proved invaluable to our entire CARSTAR family as it enacted a change in our perception of how we related to our customers and business,” says Danny.
After six months of working with the team and implementing those processes, Maimone put together a CSI report detailing those six months—to the elation of the team. For a full breakdown of the work Maimone did with the Panduros’ shops, head to fenderbender.com/Maimone.
“I’m big about coaching, making people better,” he says. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career but one thing my dad told me is, ‘You’re going to fall but you’re going to get up and you’re going to learn from it.’”
The Road Ahead
As for the future, coaching, public speaking, consulting, and motivating best fit Maimone’s hopes.
“That’s, I think, my gift that I was given since I was young,” he says.
For it is in these obstacles that he has continuously chosen to find the light, and for Maimone, despite countless challenges, his light has never dimmed.
“Just as how I am determined to walk one day without assistance again, I, too, am determined to do exactly what I had done for years: make people and companies better,” he says.
By making a daily conscious effort to repair himself, his life, and the lives of others through their companies the way he has done so with cars, has allowed him to cast out all darkness.
“Even though you have struggles, you’ll have a purpose in life. You’re still going to make a difference,” Maimone says. “At the end of the day, if you can bring one thing to the table, it’s worth it. Even with my major struggles and downfalls medically that would probably knock everyone to their knees, I've been able to get up and move forward.
“My mom used to say, ‘What makes a man is how they present themselves.’ It’s not the outer shell; how good you look or whatever. it’s how you present yourself to someone. That’s how I am. That’s how I always have been.”