For all of the differences among collision repair shop operators in this competitive industry, one truth is universal: grow or face extinction.
Shop owners and managers are increasingly consumed by performance metrics, evaluating how to cut cycle time, increase touch time, maximize throughput, do more with less, and so on. Growth isn’t easy. It’s a constant challenge and the day-to-day work that goes into achieving it can sometimes overshadow what truly drives it. At the heart of every business, whether those at the top are aware of it or not, are core values that influence the entire operation.
Hiring decisions, how customers are treated, what a facility looks like, the operating procedures employees follow every day—all of those things and more are ultimately determined by the values of the shop’s leaders. Defining those values provides a business with a greater purpose and can help shop operators chart a clearer path toward growth.
FenderBender found three shop leaders who have a firm understanding of their core values to discuss how those beliefs guide success in their businesses. Though each runs his shop based on multiple values, we asked for the one at the top of their list.
CORE VALUE: Getting it Right the First Time
Jake Shaw has spent 17 years working his way through the ranks of the collision repair industry, ultimately achieving a management position at the flagship store of a growing eight-shop operation in Colorado. His core value of ensuring every task is done properly and perfectly the first time around has helped him make that climb, and it’s a big reason for the success of the $6 million-a-year shop he oversees.
Shaw, who attributes his core value to company CEO George Lilley, says the multi-department nature of the collision repair process makes correctness crucial, especially during estimating. That’s why he implemented a blueprinting process at Global Collision.
“You have this great opportunity at the beginning to get all of your information, all of your ducks in a row, everything you need to get that job through the shop,” Shaw says. “And even if it takes a little extra time on the front side, it’s going to pay back 10-fold on the back side.”
To make sure Global Collision avoids costly supplements, estimators with laptops work alongside technicians who thoroughly disassemble vehicles and detail every need. The shop uses OE repair data from ALLDATA and vehicle manufacturers to ensure everything is accounted for and estimators will even call a supplier to request detailed photos of a vehicle to make sure no parts are missed. The shop is also sure to negotiate all parts prices up front, so no debates with insurers are left at the end of a repair.
“If you do that, the repair just follows that through the shop so quickly,” Shaw says.
Global Collision’s commitment to correct repairs is reflected in its five manufacturer certifications. Shaw says more are on the horizon.
“When we pull a car into the shop, we want to analyze it, rethink it, look at every aspect of it,” he says. “Get everything right up front.”
CORE VALUE: Striving for Excellence
Excellence is often talked about in this industry, but for Bob Pearson, achieving it is top-of-mind at all times. The value infiltrates Pearson Auto Body, the business he opened in 1969 and grew to $3.75 million in annual sales.
Pearson says some of his top strengths are strategic thinking, winning people over, achieving, learning and competing. Those strengths define who he is and have helped him shape and deliver on his core value of excellence.
“Those strengths radiate and permeate the minds and bodies and behaviors of the people who work for me because they see me doing it,” Pearson says.
One of the greatest contributors to excellence in all Pearson Auto Body does—whether that’s repairs, marketing, customer service, or any other aspect of business—is a commitment to training. Pearson has earned more than 200 credits from the Automotive Management Institute (AMI) and encourages staff to engage in continuous learning through that organization and I-CAR. His shop also hosts and sponsors I-CAR courses and Pearson has been involved in curriculum development.
He is continuously looking for ways to implement the things he learns through training. If he discovers a new strategy that makes sense, he won’t sit idle with it, though he’s careful about communicating change. “I always tell my people I’m just the conduit,” he says. “I’m not that smart. But I listened to someone last week who was really smart.”
After decades of service, Pearson says his shop has earned a reputation for achieving excellence, instilling a “durable impression” on customers. Pearson even goes as far as personally sitting in nearly every repaired vehicle to make sure all components are in working order.
“At the end of the day, the car is not going to remember anything,” Pearson says. “But the people are going to remember everything.”
CORE VALUE: The Customer is Boss
Jody Gatchell, who co-founded A&J Collision Repair in 1997 and later became the sole owner, has instilled in his staff one paramount value from day one.
“I tell them you don’t have to please me. I’m not the judge,” Gatchell says. “The person that you need to please is the customer, because the customer is actually writing your check.”
At Gatchell’s shop, everything revolves around customer service because the customer, he points out, is the one thing you absolutely cannot succeed without. You’ll never find his front office staff too busy to greet a customer. Employees dedicate as much time as is needed to make each person who walks through the door feel welcome and confident in the service the shop can provide. Education about the repair process and the actual work that needs to be done is critical, Gatchell says, as is staff demeanor and attitude.
Customer communication is regularly rehearsed and if something doesn’t go right, the problem is discussed to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The shop’s focus on customer service extends to the shop floor, where customers are invited to view repairs. The shop actually has customers inspect their vehicle at the beginning and end of the process.
Gatchell leaves most customer interactions to his staff, but he is sure to maintain some level of one-on-one contact each day. And though it seems like a minor detail, all of his business cards carry his cell phone number. That shows them how much he cares, he says, that he is willing to personally handle any issue that might come up.
Gatchell’s focus on customer service has resulted in near-perfect CSI scores and strong insurer relationships.
“I work for everyone who walks through the door,” he says. “That mentality has really paid off.”