Jerry Burns realized his love for working on cars when he began repairing his own as a hobby. Because he enjoyed it so much, he began taking classes at a local trade school and started looking for jobs in collision repair shops. While working in the shops, however, he always found himself thinking in terms of the big picture—how a body shop ought to be run. So he decided to strike out on his own. After researching the industry and establishing a good location for a business, Burns opened Automotive Impressions, Inc., in Rio Rancho, N.M., four years ago.
When he’s not running his shop, Burns enjoys his favorite pastimes of hunting, fishing, and skiing. Most of all, though, he loves spending time with his wife and their children and grandchildren. Here, Burns taps his expertise as a leader in the collision industry to share some best business practices and how he’ll use his role as ASA’s secretary/treasurer to lead the organization into the future.
What are some things you’re doing in your shop to remain successful in a tough economy?
By being active in the automotive collision industry and in the Sherwin Williams 20 Group, I am able to network with leaders in the industry as well as shop owners who all have a common goal. We gain practical knowledge to apply in our businesses and have the resources through this vast network of people to help us through problem areas by sharing experiences and solutions.
In our company, we are currently working on reducing waste and increasing efficiency of our support people by redefining roles and duties in production. We also eliminated a dedicated parts position. We are continually refining and developing one another in our company. We are now more proactive in preparing for a vehicle repair to avoid delays. We research potential problem parts before the vehicle arrives, write complete and accurate estimates upon vehicle arrival and do immediate teardowns.
What are some marketing strategies you’re implementing at your shop?
Automotive Impressions, Inc. is in an environmentally-conscious community. We have always gone beyond compliance in our practices concerning the products we use and how we dispose of waste. We recently switched from solvent-based refinish products to Sherwin Williams AWX Waterborne refinish products. This product reduces VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions by 50% and is gentler on the environment. We are among the first in the Rocky Mountain region to make the transition to waterborne products voluntarily. We publish brochures educating our customers about the waterborne refinish products, which assures them that the quality of the repair and color match is not being compromised.
We are also known as the body shop with the special shapes hot air balloon. Sunday Cruise, our 1957 Chevy in the sky, is our flying billboard. We fly mainly in Rio Rancho and on the north side of Albuquerque, therefore flying over our potential customers. Our family and employees serve as our chase crew, which gives customers an opportunity to meet us outside the shop to simply chat about the balloon or even address collision repair concerns in an informal setting. [Refer to the February 2006 issue of FenderBender for more information on the balloon as a marketing tool.
What are some things going on in the industry that keep you up at night?
There aren’t many things that keep me up at night. One concern I have for the industry, however, is how some insurance companies take advantage of customers in the handling of claims and take advantage of and bully shops. There are shops that enable this behavior, but they need to stand up to this type of insurance company. However, there are also insurance companies that are willing to pay for the repair parts and materials to perform a proper repair. These are the companies that have their insured’s best interest at heart, while other insurance companies do not. By the same token, there are shops that are concerned with the customers they serve, while there are other shops that are only concerned with turning a profit.
You were recently presented with ASA’s Phoenix Award for your contribution to the automotive service industry. How has receiving the award affected you?
Receiving the Phoenix Award came unexpectedly. I am very honored to be acknowledged by my peers in the collision repair industry for the work I’ve done. I am very thankful to my wife and sons who have given me the support and flexibility to be away from home and our business to serve the industry.
As the secretary/treasurer on ASA’s board of directors, what will be the biggest issues the board will address this year?
As a member of the ASA board of directors executive committee, it is my responsibility to our membership—collision and mechanical repair shops alike—to lead ASA into the future. One of my goals on the board is to increase membership. It is very important that collision repair shops throughout the country get together and unite in an association of ASA’s caliber. ASA provides a lot of time and resources to informing our members about issues that could possibly be keeping collision shop owners up at night. No association can provide 100% satisfaction 100% of the time, but if ASA is able to provide benefit and value to the members, then it is worth belonging.
What upcoming events does ASA have planned for the remainder of 2008?
The ASA collision division operations committee is meeting in September. They are planning on meeting with one or two insurance companies to address issues, concerns and common goals both parties may have. They are planning to learn about waterborne refinish products to better equip our members with information about those products. They are also planning to learn about the lean process in an effort to increase efficiency in members’ shops.