Strategies to Speeding Up the Leadership Learning Curve
Wasted time is Robert Bumpus’ sworn enemy.
At Ferrari Maserati of Beverly Hills, where Bumpus has worked as body shop manager for just over two years, that enemy can be a serious threat. Ferrari part deliveries can take 10 days or longer to arrive from Italy, which means incomplete estimates or botched repairs can cause huge production delays. And they did—until Bumpus arrived.
In just three years at the 9,000-square-foot, seven-employee shop, Bumpus has managed to overcome the problem and double annual revenue in the process. Yearly earnings have climbed to $2.4 million. He slashed production time so significantly that the shop is expanding its services to other makes and models—growth previously unimaginable. Repair quality and customer satisfaction are better than ever.
The 28-year collision industry veteran attributes his success to one thing: continuous education. “All of our success has to do with learning,” Bumpus says. “It is all based around stuff that I have learned, picked up and adapted over the years.”
Parts Chaser to production master
Bumpus got his start in the automotive industry in the mid-1980s behind a dealership parts counter. He worked his way to body shop parts manager, then assistant shop manager, and eventually manager.
“My intention was always to be in management in an auto business,” Bumpus says.
He has met that goal, maintaining management jobs at several California shops including Roger Penske Cadillac, Walnut Valley Collision Centers, Holmes Body Shop and Keyes Collision Center. At each job he’s been a sponge, soaking up information from colleagues, learning by trial and error, and attending industry courses on new models, metals, procedures, regulations and more.
At Keyes, Bumpus fine-tuned his management skills working with veteran shop operator Don Long, who took Bumpus and other managers to tour and study successful collision businesses. During visits, they took pictures of various shop layouts, equipment and processes. They followed up the visits with a roundtable discussion about what worked and what didn’t. “It was a problem-solving process to eliminate snags and delays throughout the entire repair process,” Bumpus says.
By the time Bumpus moved to the Ferrari and Maserati shop, he was more than a learner; he was also a teacher. And he was quick to impart his knowledge and education philosophy to his staff.
Retooling the Repair Process
When Bumpus started his current job, estimates were grossly thin. Estimators missed overlap repairs and miscellaneous items, such as stone guards, that needed replacement. As a result, supplements were the norm, repairs dragged for months and customers vented their frustrations in unpleasant letters to the shop.
Employees used outdated repair methods, such as spot blends, which compromised quality, Bumpus says. Such issues would be problematic for any body shop, but he found them especially unacceptable at a Ferrari shop, where customer expectations are incredibly high.
“Once [Bumpus] came on board, all that went out the door,” says Remington Ortner, an aluminum specialist at the shop since 2008.
Ortner says estimates grew from a couple lines to several pages, down time all but disappeared, cars moved through the shop in days and repair quality improved. The shop’s customer satisfaction index rocketed to 100 percent and letters became far more enjoyable to read.
The turnaround, Bumpus says, is thanks to the following strategies:
1. Dedication to education. When a course is offered that might be able to help his employees improve, Bumpus makes sure they go. His small staff is cross-trained, so they can cover for each other when someone is out of the shop.
Bumpus takes part in continuing education courses as well, especially sessions about new models. He seeks out educational opportunities from I-CAR, manufacturers, paint companies and other organizations. Then, he makes sure to implement what he’s learned: If what we’re doing in the shop is not working, we’re out there looking to find something that does.”
2. Taking control. When Bumpus started, it was obvious he had to make some big changes quickly. That could have easily caused anxiety among staff. Bumpus handled the situation carefully.
He drew up new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for specific repairs and explained and demonstrated them to his employees. The new procedures, such as removing certain panels for paint rather than leaving them in place, were quickly accepted once technicians saw how they could improve quality and efficiency.
“You have to build their confidence that it’s not impossible to do,” Bumpus says of teaching his employees new tactics. “You must instill in your workers to take ownership of their positions, make them understand and know they are a big part of the repair process, and be open to their suggestions.”
Bumpus made a point to educate customers and insurers about certain repairs. A bent aluminum part, for instance, is weakened if straightened; so it requires replacement. Too often, he says, repairers fear losing insurer relationships and don’t push for the quality repairs they know they should make.
“They’ve got to take control of their domain,” Bumpus says. “If they don’t take control of their job, no one is going to.”
3. Blueprinting. Soon after he started, Bumpus implemented a blueprinting process, which involves a complete teardown, vehicle photo shoot and documentation of every part needed. Bumpus personally oversees each teardown to make sure every estimate is complete and supplements are nil, or nearly so.
“I like to be there and involved during teardown, so I can see everything first hand,” Bumpus says. “I’m like a D.A. investigating a crime scene. The key is the factual evidence found from the loss.”
Bumpus might have earned bragging rights at his shop and he doesn’t hesitate to boast his success, but he’s also first to admit he doesn’t know everything.
Once, Bumpus’ boss insisted he offer a free one-day wheel reconditioning deal. Bumpus was disgruntled about it, but the deal ultimately brought in more business than he could have imagined—and not just for wheels.
“Sometimes I don’t understand why he wants to give away free stuff,” Bumpus says. “But he knows what he’s doing with clientele.”
Even with the occasional deal, the shop now moves Ferraris and Maseratis so quickly that Bumpus has expanded service to include Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Porsche and other high-end models. His goal is to boost traffic beyond the roughly 34 cars a month the shop currently repairs.
The new work bring more to learn, but Bumpus is up for the challenge.
“It’s a forever changing industry,” he says. “So you have to be forever studying the new products.”