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Efficiently Outfitting a New Shop

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When Shaun Copeland acquires a new shop, he doesn’t need a year or a few months to get operations up and running—he doesn’t even need one month.

“Copeland is now at the point where he can have a store up and running with phone systems, computers, equipment and insurance relationships within about two weeks,” says David James, former vice president of marketing for CARSTAR. “When a new shop opens, it’s ready to go at full capacity, in part because he staffs the locations with people that he has promoted from other shops. He has created a very efficient process."

In his 25 years in the industry, Copeland has worked in every aspect of the business, from painter to body tech to estimator to production manager. And now, in his current position as general manager of six CARSTAR shops in northwest Washington, he’s applying his expertise to efficiently supplying each new shop with a capable staff and the equipment necessary to ensure proper communication.

From outfitting the facility with telephones and computers and software to setting up DRP relationships to having a dynamite staff ready to go at a moment’s notice, Copeland has a very disciplined process of providing each new location with a setup that allows it to start running immediately.

Know Your Goals

You won’t know how to staff and outfit a shop if you don’t have goals in place beforehand.

For instance, Copeland sets up each shop to make $100,000 a month. That way, he can seek out similarly sized shops in prime locations and know how to staff them immediately.

“Phone calls can be taken at our call center, so I don't need a CSR sitting at every shop,” he says. “So I just need an estimator, a manager, two body men, a painter, and a detailer. That's it. We're up and running.”

Connect the Shops

When Copeland opened his third location in 2010, he decided there needed to be a more uniform setup IT-wise to connect all three shops. He upgraded the equipment, and now uses the same structure in each new facility he opens.

“When somebody gets sick or has an emergency, I can always pull another guy out of another shop, and when he comes over to the next shop, all the products are the same, the computers are the same, the Wi-Fi is the same—they just walk in and start working,” he says.

The Server: All shops share the same server. This connects all the employees at once, and all locations are able to access the same network resources. A centralized location houses the core infrastructure needed to establish the network.

The Computers: Each shop is set up with the same amount of computers.

“I put two in the front office, so there's always an extra one I can get on or if I need to bring help in,” Copeland says. “And then there’s a computer in the shop so they can access the time clock and any of the procedures.”

Each computer is installed with the shop’s CCC ONE management system and accounting software, giving the managers and owner the ability to view different stores’ information and workload.

The Phones: Just like the computers, Copeland has a procedure with phones: Two set up in the front office, one set up in the back.

The phones are set up through the network’s main server, and each shop is given its own direct connection.

The Wi-Fi: With his established relationship with an Internet provider, Copeland is able to quickly get a Wi-Fi connection set up with routers placed throughout the shop.

Advance the Employees

Copeland has relied on advancing employees within his six-shop network to quickly set up shops for production.

“With certifications through I-CAR and ASE, you're just constantly having to train,” he says. “If you lose an employee or you add a position, you have to in this day and age be ready to fill that gap immediately.”

Technicians: The hardest position to fill has always been technicians, Copeland says. However, by setting them up for growth, he’s able to promote his techs into positions of leadership that set up new shops for success.

Copeland focuses on hiring quality employees for detailing positions, and then works on advancing their skills and knowledge to turn them into techs.

“If I can bring a detailer in, and he excels and shows the ability to understand that we need to map the cars and take pictures, we move him into repairs,” he says.

By building up a team of quality technicians, Copeland is then able to move seasoned technicians to new locations, and then promote detailers to the now-vacant tech positions at old locations.

Worst case scenario, Copeland will have to hire a new technician for a new location, but he’s sure that it’s staffed with at least one of his own promoted employees to lead the team.

Estimators: This is a similar scenario with the technicians—employees are promoted from the parts department to the estimating department.

“In parts, they understand the process, understand how we make our money on parts, what our profit margins are. Then we get them involved with dealers and help them understand where our best markup and margin is,” Copeland says. “After that, we try to bring them into a beginning estimator role. They’ll help estimators with parts matching, and then start shadowing them when they’re with the customers.”

Likewise with the technicians, estimators are promoted to run new stores, and their proteges go on to fill the vacant positions.

Also, by setting up a new shop with a trusted estimator, Copeland says he’s able to quickly and easily carry over DRP relationships from the old shops.

Managers: The most important position for Copeland to fill at a new store is the manager.

All of his managers started out (just like Copeland did) in lower positions, such as technicians and estimators, and were slowly promoted through the ranks. He’s always sure to have a manager-in-training so they can take over when a new shop opens.

“More than anything, we try to have guys in our system that are loyal and understand what our program is, versus trying to go out and find and convert managers that have been doing it another way for years,” he says.

The Integration

By establishing a cultural uniformity across several locations, Copeland says the learning curve for a new staff is extremely low. While a new team needs time to learn the new layout and figure out how to work with each other, the uniform setup will make that transition much easier.

 “It’s like we have our own MSO within CARSTAR,” he says. “We still follow CARSTAR procedures, but we’ve formed our own unique operation.”

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