Running a Shop Family Business Leadership How To Lead Operations Shop Life

Third Generation

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IDENTIFYING ROLES: Since transitioning into a leadership role, Jason Mock (middle) acts as the face of the business, which includes leading daily staff meetings and motivating employees, including Ron Claypool (left) and Brandon Kirkpatrick (right). For four decades, when people walked through those front doors, they were there to say hello to their friend, to shake his hand, to place their vehicles in the hands of a man they trust—they were there to see Johnny.

Johnny Mock isn’t just another face in Turtle Creek, Pa. He’s the junior to his father, who opened the collision repair shop in 1952. Customers watched him grow up in the shop, learning how to run a business. And for 40 years, he continued to run Johnny Mock’s Auto Body Shop, one of only a couple of body shops in the city of 5,000. It’s hard to emphasize the importance of that name: Johnny Mock. It has always appeared on the sign, even back when the shop was called Johnny Mock’s Auto Beauty Center over 60 years ago. Generation after generation of Turtle Creek residents have known that name, seen and heard advertisements with that name, taken their car to that name. Well, here are two new names: Jason and Shawn Mock. Their names won’t be appearing on that sign. The staff at Johnny Mock’s hasn’t spent years working for Jason or Shawn. And, most importantly, the two brothers won’t be running the shop like their father did.

Many things will remain the same at Johnny Mock’s Auto Body: The shop will continue to be an important member of the community, to be a friendly face, to help local residents in need of collision repair work. But as the business is handed over to yet another generation of Mocks, Johnny acknowledges that each subsequent generation of customers is less and less impressed by “just a name.”

So with new operators will come an invigorated attentiveness to customers, leading to major changes in leadership style, the repair process, front office procedures, and a shop-wide commitment to technology. It’s all in the name of carrying the business forward, and all the Mocks are involved.

The Old Business Model

From helping his father fix cars during summers to his 40-year stint as shop owner, Johnny has overseen the business’s growth from a 40-by-40-foot building to the 22,000-square-foot facility that exists today through a focus on community involvement and grassroots marketing.

“I didn’t want to stay [in the old building]. I was more aggressive than my dad,” Johnny says. “He was just happy to work and make money.” That aggressiveness led him to be chairman of the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and collision division chairman for NACE/CARS in the 1990s. Anything Johnny might have lacked in official business training, he’s made up for through his charisma, his natural ability to lead, his knack for getting employees to open up and offer input about shop processes.

But as Johnny’s older customers have filtered out and new generations have come into the shop, he’s realized that the “old business model” has stalled business growth. “Back when I started, [customers] would throw you the keys and say, ‘Call me when it’s done,’” he says. “With insurance companies, management systems and everything that’s at our fingertips, one of the major issues with customers today is not being informed. It’s a different society now, and there’s a different process with customers we weren’t ready for.”

He’s now transferring his leadership skills to Jason, while also looking to both his sons to implement much needed change.

Shaping a Leader

Fourteen years into Johnny’s ownership, Jason came aboard. Following his father’s path, he spent many summers inside the shop, where he learned the ins and outs of the business. He eventually obtained his appraiser’s license, and spent his time up front working with customers and helping to establish the shop’s first DRP relationships. With Shawn working behind the scenes, tinkering with procedures, KPIs and payroll, Jason is now promoted as the “face of the business.” He will converse with customers, promote the business in the community, lead daily meetings with staff, and motivate his employees to carry on the shop’s rich history of performing quality repairs. But change isn’t easy, and in order to get all employees on board for the necessary alterations to shop processes, Johnny has coached Jason on how to lead through some key lessons:

“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” Johnny says. “I learned through making mistakes, since I didn’t have a business background. So for [Jason], I let him make mistakes to grow from them. It’s important that people learn in different ways.”

“Run the business—don’t let it run you,” Johnny tells Jason. “Almost daily, you have to know where your sales are, what your profitability is, where you’re going, all so you can make changes midstream of the month to stay profitable. You have to give the impression that you care and that you’re taking the business somewhere.”

“Ask ‘Why?’ five times,” is one of Johnny’s favorite pieces of advice. “It’s a great management tool for drilling down on an issue. If a car doesn’t deliver on time, you have to ask, ‘Why?’ And keep asking it until you figure out a deeper systemic problem at play.”

“Get your employees to open up,” Johnny emphasizes. “When I sense a problem, I like to ask what is causing them stress. It can be hard to get the answers flowing. Everybody starts getting nervous after about 30 seconds of silence, but you just have to sit here. And then once it starts, everybody starts unloading, and you take notes on it and you work on making a change and having an update for the next time you all get together. The problem can be as simple as there not being enough toilet paper in the bathroom. Any little frustrating thing you can eliminate that allows everyone to work smoother and help flow cars through more consistently is beneficial.”

The New Business Model

When Johnny—who still remains the owner of the business—decided it was officially time to retire nine months ago, Shawn, serving as the back office administrator, stepped in to work alongside Jason, currently the operations manager. With 20 years under his belt as a healthcare consultant, Shawn knows very little about fixing vehicles, but has immense experience in evaluating workflow and processes. Together, the brothers have worked with Johnny to identify several areas of much needed change in the business. And now that Jason has a better grasp on how to lead his team, those changes are leading to improved customer relations and a new repair process at Johnny Mock’s Auto Body:

Improved Customer Relations

REDEFINING THE COLLISION REPAIR EXPERIENCE: Part of the ownership transition process included identifying areas of the business where change needed to occur. Those areas included adopting a new management system to help streamline the entire repair process.Formerly the shop only had an estimating system. Now, it’s been integrated into the shop’s brand new CCC ONE management system, which has allowed Jason and Shawn to streamline several new processes through one program.

“Shops will get management systems and only utilize 45 percent of the capabilities,” Jason says. “When our [management system representatives] visited, we were asking questions most people won’t ask. We were trying to find ways of fixing all the problems we had identified. We want to know everything it can do.”

Through CCC ONE Update Plus, the shop is now, for the first time, offering several methods of contacting customers about repair updates.

“The first thing we ask when a customer comes in is, ‘How do you want to be communicated with? Who wants to be communicated with? What time of day?’ It’s a list of things we weren’t used to doing, and it’s a whole new mindset up front,” Jason says.

Keeping customers updated throughout the repair process has bled into improving insurance relations, which Jason is looking to expand as the new owner. “We’re reorganizing people’s responsibilities here to make customers a priority,” Shawn says. “Customers today like to be informed, and insurance companies are requiring a certain level of customer service.”

“It’s not an option any more,” Jason adds. “It’s a requirement. If you want to keep these relationships, this has to be done.”

By digitizing operations, the shop has eliminated the cluster of paper (from customer contact forms to estimates to profit and loss statements) that was causing frustration with the shop’s customer service representatives.

An Improved Repair Process

For his transition into management, outside training has been crucial, and nothing has been more beneficial than joining a 20 Group through Sherwin-Williams and establishing a newfound focus on lean processes.

And with that new mindset has come a restructuring of technicians throughout the repair process, transitioning from flat-rate individuals to teams working together to improve cycle times.

“Beforehand, if a guy was having issues with repairing a vehicle, his only saving grace was another tech helping out of the goodness of his heart,” Shawn says. “When you continually rely on that, it causes interruption, it’s not efficient, and it’s not a good structure.”

By working with technicians during daily staff meetings, Jason and Shawn have established teams, allowing technicians to divide up repair duties. This new team mindset led to a change in payroll, which Shawn has reshaped to coincide with the percentage of work a technician performs on vehicles. “It’s tricky setting it up, but now they’re much more motivated to help each other and get vehicles out quicker,” Shawn says.

The New Johnny Mock’s

Change is still fresh at Johnny Mock’s Auto Body. Johnny has remained onsite for the past six months, offering suggestions and answering questions, but Jason and Shawn now are running the show.

“We pretty much know and have discussed where we’re heading with the business,” Johnny says. “The takeover of the new generation is very important. They need to be able to take the business where they see fit.”

Jason says they’re evaluating procedures each and every day, working with the staff to tinker with processes and find new ways of improving operations. “It’s an ongoing process. Anybody who says they have it locked down is lying,” Jason says. “You always need a little help and input to keep things fresh. Constant reviewing is key.”

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