2012 FenderBender Awards
In five short years, the FenderBender Awards have rocketed from a concept to an industry fixture that draws nominations from hundreds of professionals across the country. Our aim is to recognize workers excelling in six segments spanning collision repair: executive, management, shop worker, administrative support, vendor, and wild card (open to anyone who doesn’t fit in the other categories). The following six individuals beat out more than 200 nominees to be named this year’s award winners.
Chief Operating Officer
CollisionMax Auto Body & Glass Centers
Pat Beavers’ work ethic was instilled in him at an early age, during family dinner conversations about his dad’s job. He learned about the stress and uncertainty that business decisions, such as overtime reduction or layoffs, created for real people.
“All this shaped my understanding that management’s decisions, good or bad, affect many more people than we know,” Beavers says.
The lessons helped Beavers, now 45, work his way from a part-time body shop helper in high school to the only non-family member among six equity Shareholders of an 11-shop, $32-million-a-year collision repair powerhouse.
The chief operating officer (COO) of CollisionMax Auto Body & Glass Centers, based in Trevose, Pa., had a passion for cars as a teenager that led him to enroll in Swenson Arts and Technology High School in pursuit of a collision repair career. He worked part-time at a couple of small shops during that time, where he detailed, cleaned, assembled, and did light bodywork. After Beavers graduated from high school, the president of what was then a young, two-shop business that would later grow into CollisionMax, heard about the young repairer from an employee who briefly worked alongside Beavers.
Beavers was offered a job as a technician at the company in 1985, and after just a year was promoted to parts manager. He helped CollisionMax open its third facility in 1987 and by 1989, at just 21, he became manager of the company’s fleet-repair business. The quick rise was unexpected, Beavers says.
“I wanted to be a technician. I really wanted to work on cars,” he says. “But I have a loyalty to the company and I think that’s what, at the time, kept me open minded to other positions. I just really liked being part of something. I’m from a large family of six kids and that’s what you do. You do what you’re asked and you help out.”
By 1994, Beavers was managing multiple locations and in 1995, he was named the company’s first non-family co-owner.
“It was an honor,” he says. “The trust that they had to bring somebody into their group. It was really a leap of faith.”
Beavers became COO in 2005 after his predecessor, Joe Tornetta, retired. He has since implemented numerous improvements, including the outsourcing of customer satisfaction index (CSI) surveys to compare the company to the rest of the industry, and launching a call center to be proactive about handling any customer issues before they show up in a CSI score. He has also developed a data analyst position to track sales trends and a social media manager position to improve CollisionMax’s reach.
Outside the shop, Beavers serves on the board of his former high school, helping to develop curriculum and mentor students. CollisionMax donates resources and vehicles to the school as well. And Beavers recently joined another school board, at the Eastern Center for Arts and Technology, to expand his extracurricular services.
“I look at people who are loyal to high schools as far as supporting them, and in alumni associations and all that, and thought, I’m able to feed my family because of things I was exposed to early on,” Beavers says. “I thought, there’s something I could easily give back to that is well within my scope of experience.”
Seven colleagues working in positions spanning the company nominated Beavers for a FenderBender Award, which is a testament to the impact he has on the daily lives of his colleagues.
“It is not unusual at times to see him chip in washing a car, test ride a vehicle, pick up or drop off parts, or offer advice on trouble shooting issues with a repair,” says nominator Jim DiPasquale, district manager for CollisionMax. “He knows all 230 people he works with by first name, always says hello, and is willing to talk or help them in time of crisis.”
Beavers credits his colleagues for his success.
“I have partners that have blind faith in me, that support me in my ideas and thoughts,” he says. “Even when they don’t like the direction I go, I feel there’s a trust that they feel it’s the right thing for the organization. And that empowers me to put the company first.”
Gustafson Brothers Inc.
Huntington Beach, Calif.
Dave Baylor does it all: He’s an industry leader, production manager, I-CAR instructor, a mentor to young kids and a musician.
Baylor originally moved to California to play hard-rock music. He sings and plays bass. Originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., he says he fixed tractors and combines as a farm boy. So when he didn’t wind up collecting his musical fortune, he says, he applied for a job as a mechanical technician at Gustafson Brothers Inc.
John Gustafson, president of the $5 million-a-year shop in Huntington Beach, Calif., didn’t have a spot for him as a technician but hired him for a temporary job as a service advisor. Baylor did well, and Gustafson kept him on to work in the parts department.
He has since become a leader at the shop.
Gustafson, who nominated Baylor for a FenderBender Award, says Baylor is extremely hard working. He is often the first to come in and the last to leave. He’s perseverant and not afraid to be a tough manager. “He’s firm, and when he knows he’s right, he makes sure you know it,” Gustafson says.
Baylor credits Gustafson with showing him the ropes of the industry. He says one of the first things he remembers learning was from author Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He listened to it on CD, and was struck by the piece of advice, “seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
“It just means, shut your mouth and listen,” Baylor says. “I’ve applied that in the shop. I’m a little bit of an old-school kind of guy. I’d rather whup your butt than hear
Baylor has been through PPG Greenbelt training, and once a week he teaches I-CAR classes in refinish and welding. He’s also the welding administrator for I-CAR.
He has a respect for high-quality repairs and demands that of himself and his employees at the shop. From a customer standpoint, it works: The CSI score for the shop sits at around 98 percent. Baylor shares his secrets with I-CAR students and shop staff so that they can keep elevating the level of their work.
At the same time, he recognizes what he can and can’t do. He admires the body technicians who make contours of the cars perfect—something he says he’s no good at.
He is good at running production. He’s learned the importance of planning the repair up front, and instills in his employees the importance of thorough teardowns.
When he’s not running day-to-day shop operations, he mentors youth in a special shop program that puts troubled teens to work. Gustafson came up with the idea for the program, and Baylor brought it to life in a big way.
In this program, Baylor takes revenue generated from recycled scrap metal sales, and uses it to pay teens to work in the shop. These teens are kids who have been getting into trouble around town and need a mentor, as well as something constructive to do. Each teen earns $8 per hour, and they typically do odd jobs around the shop for eight to 10 hours every Saturday.
He says he watches how having that responsibility, and positive adult influence, can change the attitudes of these kids, who are usually 16 to 20 years old. They typically work about a year in the repair center, although he has hired some as full-time employees.
He says he doesn’t have kids of his own, which might be one explanation of why he’s so good with them. “I guess I’m still a kid,” he says. “I think like them, therefore I can work with them.”
Gustafson calls Baylor multitalented. And with the accomplishments and experiences he’s built up, Baylor has proven himself.
“There’s really nothing he can’t do,” Gustafson says.
ARA Collision CARSTAR
Mike Hamilton is more than a painter. Yes, he can hold his own with the best in the industry, laying down flawless paint while maintaining efficiency levels between 250 and 300 percent.
But few painters have been entrusted with complete control of the paint department, to implement new processes to boost efficiency and cut costs, and to influence and train staff across multiple locations. Hamilton, a 22-year industry veteran who has spent the last six years at ARA Collision CARSTAR in Everett, Wash., does all of those things and more.
“He’s a 100-percent team player and he probably does more managing of the store than even my managers do,” says shop owner Kevin Parsons. “He’s always trying to keep people positive and keep the store moving in the right direction.”
Brent Biggerstaff, a regional service manager for CARSTAR who nominated Hamilton for a FenderBender Award, says the painter is always looking for ways to improve not just his own work, but also that of the entire company. He always has the greater good in mind and he challenges those around him to improve, Biggerstaff says. Hamilton recently became certified to use waterborne paint and has been the go-to trainer for painters at 21 other CARSTAR shops in the region.
“The way Mike teaches it, the way he understands it, he just does a beautiful job of painting,” Biggerstaff says. “His comeback ratio is zero. He just does a phenomenal job with paint.”
Hamilton says he started out as a helper in a friend’s father’s custom shop and quickly found out he had a knack for painting. He enjoys the hands-on creativity it allows him, he says.
“I just try to have a good attitude toward what I do,” Hamilton says. “And I try to be successful and continually look at ways to be more efficient.”
Hamilton has also painted cars for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and mentored youth interested in careers as automotive painters. He takes pride in his profession and takes the task of running the department seriously. He calls the paint department a “business within a business” and he routinely attends training sessions through BASF and other industry organizations to improve his craft and the company’s bottom line and services.
“We try to keep in mind that each car does belong to somebody,” Hamilton says. “The bottom line is, things are going to get repaired right.”
Automotive Services/Appliance Repair Department Chairman and Professor
Contra Costa College
San Pablo. Calif.
In Peter Lock’s nearly 40-year career as a body shop technician and a professor at Contra Costa College, everything he has done has been for the purpose of improving what’s in front of him.
“He is really one of the great people we have in our industry,” says shop owner Gigi Walker, who works with Lock on the board of the California Autobody Association (CAA) and nominated him for a FenderBender Award. “He’s made such an impact through Contra Costa and all the students he’s taught, and all the shops and organizations he’s worked with. There just aren’t many people like him.”
Lock, 57, has worked at his alma mater, Contra Costa in San Pablo, Calif., for more than 33 years, following a six-year stint at a nearby shop. In addition to his teaching duties, he serves as the department chairman and oversees the automotive curriculum the college offers.
His reach goes far beyond the classroom. What makes Lock stand out from other educators, Walker says, is his immense desire for the industry to succeed.
“He uses the positions he’s in to help whoever he can,” she says.
That means working hand-in-hand with other industry leaders—either through his position with the CAA or his interactions with vendors and insurers—to improve the industry’s training programs and to promote the profession to a new generation of repairers. He has used his classrooms and stage areas to host youth repair clinics for high school kids, and he does some outside consulting with shop owners.
Most importantly, though, he takes the knowledge and experience gained from shop owners and other industry professionals and incorporates it into his school’s curriculum, ensuring that Contra Costa produces graduates ready to work in a modern shop.
The results of Lock’s work are evident throughout Northern California, as his former students run many shops in the area.
“That’s the best part (of my job),” Lock says. “It makes me proud, because a lot of them have families now and homes and good lives that they all started at Contra Costa.”
Bookkeeper and Office Manager
Suburban Auto Body
Little Canada, Minn.
About 30 years ago, Cynthia Hervin was hired at Suburban Auto Body in Little Canada, Minn., to keep track of the shop’s money and pay its bills.
Hervin says she hadn’t planned on working in the body shop business; her father had owned a shop in St. Paul, Minn., and she knew the rigors of the industry. But she found herself searching for a job and ended up at Suburban, which was a new business earning $500,000 a year in sales. She was the first office staff member hired, and was one of five employees total.
Fast-forward 30 years, and she is one of 28 people at a company bringing in $4.5 million in annual revenue. She wound up taking on the work of several people and has helped grow the business into what it is today. Hervin is responsible for information technology and human resources; she does all the bookkeeping and bill-paying; she is the office manager and does outside sales and marketing; she is in charge of insurance compliance, as well as every application, contract and ordinance; she tackles I-CAR certification, and she is the hazardous materials supervisor. She went to school to become fluent in contract reading and writing, and she’s responsible for charitable giving for the company.
“She grew with us,” says owner Dennis O’Connell Sr. “The bigger we got, the more responsibility she took on. She educated herself. She took classes, and of course we sent her to seminars.”
You might think she works about 80 hours a week to make a dent in her sizeable workload, but she does her job in 36–46 hours, three days each week, O’Connell says. She’s efficient and focused.
Dennis O’Connell Jr., the shop’s president and chief operating officer, who nominated Hervin for a FenderBender Award, says Hervin is well respected around the shop, and she is a sort of company watchdog. She’s always minding the bottom line, and her communication style is firm and honest, yet tactful. “She handles the finances with ownership like an owner would,” he says. “She’s constantly reminding us not to waste money, that every little dime adds up to a dollar, that without profit there is no future.”
O’Connell Sr. says he noticed early on what she was capable of, and so he started asking her to do more. He respected and trusted her for all the important decisions: Insurance company letters that needed to be written, dealership contracts that needed to be signed, and conversations and negotiations that needed to take place.
He noticed, too, that her work style perfectly complemented his. He would work quickly and think big-picture, whereas she is more methodical and detail-oriented. “It’s the perfect partnership,” he says.
Hervin agrees, and says they see things differently. For example, she’ll see opportunities in working with certain vendors or bankers that he won’t. “We are two different sides of the same coin,” she says. “It does help a lot.”
She says because O’Connell Sr. always asks for her opinion, she feels like a valuable piece of the puzzle, which gives her an incentive and motivation to try more and work harder.
She’s grateful for the opportunities, but she also likes to continuously learn new things in various areas. She has taken I-CAR courses, as well as business law and insurance classes.
Overall, she enjoys her work and finds it rewarding. Her role is much larger than the bookkeeping job she was hired for 30 years ago, and the shop is better for it.
“We (as a company) fight every day, and win every day,” O’Connell Sr. says. “With the attitude of winning today, she has the same mentality.”
William Burnside never planned on a career in the collision repair industry. But after jumping at an opportunity in 1990 to lead a new paint division for a business he was involved with, Burnside has improved collision repair shops and industry operations ever since.
As a paint representative for Tri-State Coatings Inc., a Spies Hecker distributor based in Shreveport, La., Burnside has made it his personal mission to boost his clients’ performance.
“My customers’ businesses are very important to them. I need to be in that same mode,” Burnside says. “Things that affect my customers’ shops affect me, too.” Burnside says his workday isn’t a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. gig. He can’t go home satisfied until his customers’ problems are resolved.
Sometimes he’ll stay at shops until nearly midnight, helping with any challenge they have getting cars out the door.
“His level of service is superior,” says Kevin Adams, owner of Krystal Auto Collision Inc., who nominated Burnside for a FenderBender Award. “If you have any type of problem, he stays at the shop as long as it takes to get it taken care of. He never leaves until the job is done.”
But work still isn’t done even when Burnside leaves the shop. To keep his clients informed, he spends his free time researching new laws and regulations that impact small businesses and the collision industry.
It’s not just Burnside’s dedication to clients that makes him a standout in the industry. It’s also his efforts to improve industry operations throughout Louisiana.
For example, Burnside played an integral role in reviving the Northwest Louisiana Collision Repair Association (NLCRA). For years, the organization only drew a handful of participants and nearly fell by the wayside.
Now it’s a thriving entity.
“[Burnside] helped local shop operators understand that we’re not enemies and we can all help each other,” Adams says. “We wouldn’t have a body shop association in our area if it wasn’t for him.”
He also helped establish a collision industry task force to work alongside the Louisiana Insurance Commissioner. And he helped develop an annual “Industry Day,” a mini tradeshow for collision professionals.
All of his industry involvement is for one goal: Provide value every day.
“I just want to see my customers do well,” he says. “I only hope to make their road to improvement a little less bumpy.”