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Setting Yourself (and Your Shop) up for Growth

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For Ben Nolan, growing a business is all about a team effort.

And nobody is more crucial to that team than Brian Osbon.

“No matter what processes I implement as a manager, it is crucial that the technicians buy in and have the same philosophies in respect to customer service, quality, attitude and production expectations,” Nolan, body shop manager for Robberson Collision Center, wrote in his FenderBender Awards nomination of Osbon. “I have worked in this industry for over 25 years and it is rare to find a technician who sees the whole picture the way Brian does.”

Osbon is a shining example of a veteran technician who constantly remains ahead of the curve. With 30 years of experience under his belt, Osbon achieved I-CAR Platinum individual status for both steel and aluminum structural repairs, mentors new technicians coming into the trade, and, according to Nolan, has been a major asset during the Bend, Ore., shop’s growth from $850,000 to $2.5 million annually.

Osbon shares his strategies for staying up-to-date on training, how newcomers can best position themselves for growth in the industry, and how technicians can help a shop succeed.

 

How have you kept up on repair trends and techniques over the years?

First of all, you have to have that enthusiasm for cars if you want to learn. You won’t be motivated to better yourself or your shop if you’re not interested in the industry and how it’s changing.

The main source that we use for training is I-CAR. Past that, it’s just a lot of reading—magazines and industry news. Internally, we use ALLDATA, which is a good source to find out stuff you need to know about the car.

And, really, experience is a big part of it. You know how to go into a project the right way just from experience.

 

What about technicians who have a lack of experience?

I’ve trained a lot of new technicians— one is even shadowing me now. I came in and I worked under a tech too, and that’s how I developed.

There is a natural ability that certain people have. It’s hard to explain what that exactly is, but there is natural given talent—then you can build from there. You have to be able to diagnose a car in your head; you have to have patience; you have to be able to work in a team environment. Some people, like me, just grow up around this stuff and can integrate into a shop more easily.

Not to say you can’t learn if you don’t have the natural talent. That’s the great thing about growing and pushing yourself: You can become great at something you didn’t have the natural abilities for. Certainly they can pick up on it and learn. It’s just more difficult. It just takes a lot more time. A lot of that stuff is off-hours that you need to learn so you can be better.

 

How important is your role in the shop’s growth?

It’s been 16 years, and we’ve definitely grown from where we started. It’s more than just a job you go to. You have to care about what the business is doing, where it’s been, and where it’s going. My son works here, too—he’s the next generation. I want to make sure this shop is running so he has a job.

Customer service is crucial for me. When we were a smaller shop, I interacted with customers on most repairs, so that was a big part of it, making sure the customer was pleased with us. As you grow, you don’t want to lose that. That’s the main source of your reputation.

I still interact with customers, and I enjoy talking to them. I like to help people when they’re in a jam. Caring about people makes this job easier. That’s a big part of it.

[Nolan] and I go back a long time—30 years or so. We actually worked together in another shop. We both grew up in that company, and then we moved on. Our friendship translates to the business relationship really well. We’re both dedicated to growing the shop and we want each other to succeed.

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