A Mindful Approach to Organization
In a mere 20 years, family-owned Supreme Collision in Naples, Fla., has grown from four employees doing $35,000 a month in sales to a massive shop covering 60,000 square feet and churning out more than $600,000 a month.
Owner J.R. Nocera credits the success to becoming a one-stop shop for all customer needs. While the shop’s list of services and partners is lengthy, Nocera notes that bigger is not always better. He continues to maintain and spur growth by making organization a daily focus in the shop.
Some of my greatest ideas for the shop’s growth happen in the middle of the night. I’ll get up at three in the morning and jot down some notes before I forget. I always have customers’ comments floating around in my head. You start to hear the same things over and over again. That’s an indication to me that we need to do something.
One of the things I kept hearing from customers is that they didn’t want their car to leave the property. I thought, if the car is leaving the property because we have to sublet something out, that’s less control I have. I realized: We have the property, let’s section areas off and designate different departments.
We are a full-fledged one-stop shop for our customers. Over the 40 years we’ve been in business, we’ve grown to 60,000 square feet that encompasses a mechanical shop, three paint booths, a detail center, full parts department and interior trim section. In addition, we’re also a direct repair facility for 13 different insurers, we’re aluminum certified, we have five different OEM certifications and we have Enterprise Rent-A-Car on site.
The catch is, bigger is not always better. As you grow bigger, you have to get more organized. I’m a man of many hats and the only way my day can run successfully is if I’m organized.
I get to the shop at about 7:30 a.m. and start by bringing the cars in from the lot. At roughly 8 a.m., the customers start coming in. I stay at the front counter to greet each customer. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m the worst body man in the shop and the worst painter in the shop. Once I recognized that, I thought, what am I good at? I’m a people person. I love people and I love talking. That’s why it’s been so important for me to hire managers and appoint very clear roles so that I can spend my day doing what I’m best at.
Delegation is key. When I took over the shop from my father in 1999, I never thought I would have to hire someone to handle the parts. What happened was that the parts deliveries would be so overwhelming that I would find my managers back there checking in parts. You’re losing the face of the business because they’re in the back checking in parts. That’s why I’ve been very deliberate about assigning roles in the shop. I have two shop managers, a customer support manager, a parts manager and I’ve also assigned someone to handle all of the OEM certifications. My brother, Jimmy, owns the mechanical shop and the parts department, so he is in charge of those areas.
The beauty of having these managers is that nothing falls through the cracks. For example, the customer support manager spends all day calling customers, checking in and updating them with the vehicle status. I never wanted to hear that a customer was not updated, and if there is a problem, it takes much less time to resolve.
We check in customers until about noon, and after breaking for lunch, I spend most of the afternoon in the shop. I like to walk around the shop and see how the process of cars are going. I check on the bodywork and see how the paint is laid or how the painters are keeping up.
Between doing that, I’m also checking in with other departments or partners within the business. We are on 13 different direct repair programs. Geico, for example, has their own office here and adjusters onsite, so I talk to them every day. For the others, I want to make sure that I’m in touch with the program supervisors a minimum of once a week. It’s important for me to build positive relationships with them. That’s another reason I like to take time to walk the shop floor. If there’s a bad apple thrown into a repair, I need to know about it right away and try to make it a good apple.
I also check email on my phone constantly throughout the day. It can be difficult for me to get to the phone, so email allows me to communicate much quicker. Another communication tool I’ve found helpful is having a PA system. All of the departments have a PA system and my brother and I use it frequently to communicate that we need a part or get an update on a repair. When you have 60,000 square feet of space, that can save you a lot of steps.
—J.R. Nocera, owner, Supreme Collision
I get back to the front counter at 5 p.m. and make sure the check-out process is going well. After that, all of the managers get together.
Rather than meet in the morning, we like to meet at the end of the day and talk about tomorrow. We review the previous day and create a plan for the next day. We hear from the customer support manager if she’s getting pressure from any customers and find out which cars need to be pushed the next day.
We then create a paint board and write down all of the cars that are ready to be painted tomorrow. I break it down so each painter knows exactly what to attack and which cars he’s going to paint.
After that, we arrange the parking lot for the next day. All the cars come into the lot at night and we move the finished cars to a different lot. That way, there is room for new incoming cars and the staff can easily pull them inside the next morning.
The last part of the day is meeting with Enterprise. Enterprise has a full staff here, so they come over at the end of the day to check in about tomorrow. I let them know how many reservations we’ll need and how many cars they should staff.
The front counter and the Enterprise counter are a total of eight yards away from each other in the front office, which makes checking in customers so much quicker.
I have a couple weekend rituals that really help spur new ideas, too. We’ve had our own radio show here in Naples for 26 years. Every Saturday from 9–10 a.m., listeners can call in and ask us car questions. It’s been my father’s passion, but I sub in for him every third week. Not only is it a great way to make connections in the community, I also get to hear listener’s concerns and generate potential ideas for the shop.
On Sundays, I sometimes come down to the shop for an hour when it’s closed. I’ll do some paperwork or walk the shop with no one there to distract me. It’s my way of keeping a grip on the shop. I want to continue growing, but only if it’s still organized and positive. As soon as you lose grip, it’s a slippery slope.