A Family Perspective
It’s one thing to say that a workplace treats team members like family. It’s another thing to have a workplace that literally is family. At Xtreme Collision Center in Morristown, Vermont, owner Adam Grant knows about this distinction firsthand.
Adam and his wife Amy have a blended family of four kids. That family dynamic has come to play a critical role in the daily operations of the body shop, which opened in 2004. But starting the shop didn’t come without its challenges.
Within one year’s time, the father of Amy’s twins from her previous relationship tragically passed away in a four-wheeler accident, and then Adam and Amy discovered that they were expecting their youngest son. It was a lot of change at once and opening a body shop on top of everything else added another layer.
“When people talk about adversity and starting a business,” Adam says. “It's definitely not for the weak at heart.”
But through familial support and determination, Xtreme Collision has found a great home in Morristown.
“We moved into a shop that had been a body shop before for a number of years, which was great for us,” Adam says. “It started out with me writing estimates during the day and painting cars at night and getting little to no sleep, and Amy coming in in the morning and putting our son down on her desk on a little pad for naps. Our first year, I think we did about $450,000 or $500,000 and currently today we're at about 2.4 million.”
The numbers speak for themselves, but it goes beyond that. Xtreme has truly established itself as a stand-out shop in the immediate area and beyond.
“We're a small-town family run operation. We've got a lot of DRP relationships … our closest competitor that's a big DRP shop is about an hour away in all directions. We've got a nice little spot here and we’ve worked hard for [about] 20 years.”
Since the beginning, the family component of Xtreme Collision has grown alongside the shop, and over time more and more family members have joined the team.
Adam’s wife Amy handles the financial side of the business, which includes working with insurance companies. Twin sons Tucker and Dayne work in the shop as well, as does son Cole.
“Both Tucker and Cole started in the wash bay,” Adam says. “They came in there and then slowly progressed along to the mechanical side and then to being body men.”
About four years ago, Xtreme Collision had rented out the space next door to run a mechanical garage. Tucker originally wanted to pursue mechanical repair but found his way into auto body work when a spot opened on the Xtreme Collision team. It’s been a great fit ever since.
Cole participated in a local automotive program at a technical school, and he also had his aim set on becoming a mechanical repair technician. Adam says that when they ran the mechanical garage and things got slow, he’d enlist the help of Cole to pull a bumper cover off or do other body work. Now he’s working alongside other skilled body technicians in the collision shop, which is now Xtreme’s sole focus.
“We took two people that didn’t have any experience in a body shop and we’re turning them into real well-rounded body men,” Adam says.
Dayne went to school to become a chef and worked in that career field prior to joining the Xtreme team. After working countless late nights, holidays and weekends, he wanted a change of pace. Xtreme had an opening for a parts person and wash bay technician. Dayne took the opportunity, and it paid off.
“He does all the pre and post scanning and the pre and post washing,” Adam says. “He also checks in parts, receives parts and stores parts—all the parts manager duties.”
In addition to his family, Adam says there are three other technicians at the shop as well as someone in the office. Having a work environment that is rooted in family values has lent itself well to other aspects of running the shop. One such area that Xtreme has focused on includes the concept of “growing your own” technicians.
“We’ve taken people that have had an interest and put their feet to the fire,” says Adam. “It’s really about taking a person with an interest and letting them run with it.”
This strategy has involved an investment of extra time and effort, but it has worked out well for the shop. It has allowed Xtreme to employ and develop quality technicians from the ground up.
“Initially, it’s time consuming. Stuff happens, but in the next breath, they’ve all turned into great technicians,” Adam says.
Adam says that when the interest to do the work is present, the motivation to learn and execute the job correctly comes along with it. He details the success story of one technician who didn’t come from a body repair background.
“One of our technicians was an auto detailer. He put in a lot of accessories on vehicles, but never was a body man. Now, he’s tearing vehicles apart and putting stuff back together. He’s doing a great job. He had that interest, and it’s been well worth it.”
But the work doesn't end once the technicians are trained. Adam also understands the value of retention and keeping those quality technicians on his team. Adam says that maintaining an effective team, including those in his family and beyond, comes from understanding what they value.
“Obviously pay is a huge thing, but [find] out what's important to the technician,” Adam says. “Maybe it's time off, maybe it’s money, maybe it's being in a different place in the shop. But you've really got to find out what the employee’s ‘go’ button is and what they're motivated by.”
It hasn’t always been easy for Xtreme, though. Adam acknowledges that although he puts time and effort into keeping the best of the best on his team, he has also felt the impact of the technician and talent shortage.
“We went through a spell where we lost a lot of technicians. But I always look at things like that, like a blessing in disguise,” Adam says. “I don't think we would be in as good a place as we are right now if those people were here so keeping the right technicians, I think is a big challenge.”
Regardless, the family oriented Xtreme approach has proven positive for Adam and his team. With his family at the helm, they have been able to establish an environment that invests in technicians and therefore establishes a consistent promise of quality to customers.
Adam is proud of the foundation that he and his family have created. Naturally, succession is a topic that comes to mind with all his family members working together so closely.
Adam says that the presence of his family does not necessarily make planning for succession any easier, but at the same time it doesn’t make it any more difficult.
“At this point, with this much family involved in it, I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” Adam says. “If one of them wants to step up and take it over, then by all means. If they all don’t, that’s fine. If they all do, that’s great too.”