Running a Shop Operations

Keeping Track of the Little Things

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"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."—John Wooden, NCAA coach. 

That statement holds a lot of truth for a business owner, doesn’t it? 

When you sit down and think through all the little details and responsibilities that go into running a successful collision repair shop, it’s easy to see how it’s those little things that compound on one another to make the big thing—the business—happen. 

For Steve Wolfe and his partners at Diversified Body and Paint in Henderson, Colorado, the little things are seemingly endless … and, as an independently owned and operated shop, Wolfe and team had to implement their own system to manage it all from the ground up. 

How do they do it? Everyone has a role to play, and no detail is overlooked—from making the coffee in the morning and ensuring there’s bottled water waiting for customers to keeping the shop clean, the social media pages updated, and making sure the employees all have what they need—it’s imperative that everyone does their part so nothing falls through the cracks. 

As told to Lindsey Gainer 

Finding a System That Works 

There are lots and lots of small details to be successful in today’s business, on top of the most important job of all—taking care of your people and the things that keep them moving, like estimates, payroll, parts, etc. Take care of your employees and they, in turn, will take care of your customers. Details that affect the customer are always our priority, big or small. 

Everybody in the shop has things they’re responsible for, but we're not a corporate store—we're independent. So, as owners, we've carried a lot of these little roles on our own for a long, long time. In a car shop where you've got 20+ corporate-owned stores, for example, it's very cookie cutter. You walk in the door and the receptionist makes the coffee and this and that. But in our world, because we're independent, we wear a lot more hats. We have lots of checks and balances along the way to make sure nothing is missed, and we have to regularly assess responsibilities and workflows to ensure everything that needs to get done is being handled. 

Make a List…And Check it Twice 

Ron Kuehn—president of Collision Business Solutions and the leader of one of the 20 Groups I’m a member of—gave us all a sheet of paper (actually, it was three pages!) to write down in detail who does what in the business. All of the owners filled them out, and it was eye opening to see how much we all do day to day. As we went down through our lists, it was crazy what we discovered! We’ve delegated a lot, but seeing how many of the “little things” we still handle was really insightful. His challenge to us now is to work on giving more away, to continue to work on delegating. 

I’d recommend every owner take the time to write out a list like this, both for themselves and their employees, to track what’s being done in the shop and by whom. Not only is it important to know who does what and hold people accountable for their responsibilities, you need to make sure nothing is slipping through the cracks and have a contingency plan in place for when an employee needs time off. When that person is away, who’s responsible for stepping in to handle their work? 

No task is too small to include, either. Making the morning coffee may seem like a relatively unimportant thing, but the reality is that the little things really do matter. You can be the best of the best at what you do, but if you let the little details slide it can really affect your business in the long run. People notice those kinds of things. Customers’ expectations are high, and we always try to put out a product to match. A big part of that is not neglecting the little things! 

We’re big into checks and balances in our shop, too. Our estimators carry the job from cradle to grave, making sure no detail is missed. Checks and balances are set up for each and every department for accountability—sign-off sheets with supervisor approvals and spot checking are a daily occurrence. It’s all about quality control. We live by the rule, “pass no defects,” meaning you always double check your work before passing it onto the next person in line. 

A Final Word of Advice 

If I could give a new shop owner—or any owner for that matter—one piece of advice, it’d be to join a 20 Group or something similar, to share business benchmarks and ideas among your peers. You’ll be amazed at how beneficial the collaboration is in figuring out the best ways to run your business—in the big and small ways alike. 

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