Running a Shop Leadership Shop Culture How To Lead

Patience Makes Perfect

Order Reprints
ShopTalk_Hero.jpg

Looking back on her personality six years ago, Jess Anderson would describe herself as angry. Irrational. Irritable. Antagonistic. Depressed.

Losing her father at the age of 9 and her mother at the age of 16, Anderson grew up with a chip on her shoulder. She hated school. She was contentious with her friends and family. And she had no idea what to do with her life.

That was until she signed up for a collision repair class. “They told me I could use a hammer and get graded for it, and I was like, ’OK, sign me up,’” she says. “It turned into therapy for me. It helped me get my head on straight. I was going down a really crappy path, but then I found that and actually ended up loving it.”

Working as a technician for four years at Ellis & Salazar Body Shop in Buda, Texas, she now describes herself as calm. Collected. Understanding. Deliberate. Considerate. Attentive. Helpful. And that abrupt shift in tone really paid off as she transitioned into her current managerial role as the shop’s foreman just six months ago.

Being on the floor with her technicians for three years has allowed Anderson to be a more effective leader off the floor. By stepping back and calmly assessing the shop’s deficiencies, she not only made her technicians more efficient and productive, but also upped the shop’s monthly revenue average from $90,000 to $161,000 in just two months. 

AS TOLD TO TRAVIS BEAN

I try to lead by example. I lead how I want to be led. I now think things through before I jump to conclusions. Rash decisions don’t work out well from a managerial standpoint. We can have fun and be friends, but we’re also going to get the job done.

The first thing I do each morning is print out four copies of the production schedule for me, our porter, our customer service representative and our manager/estimator, and we go over it at our production meeting with the entire staff every morning at 8:30 a.m. We go over every car in the shop, which is typically anywhere from 25 to 35 cars. We’ll go over the production schedule and organize everything by the scheduled-out date, so the first ones we discuss are the ones going that day.

Any issues are brought up first thing in the morning. That way everyone is on the same page to start the day. “We’re waiting on this light. We called about it yesterday, it should be here today.” Typically my parts guy and I know when our vendors come through and make deliveries, so we estimate what time it’ll be here so the tech knows to keep an eye out for it.

go over it at our production meeting with the entire staff every morning at 8:30 a.m. We go over every car in the shop, which is typically anywhere from 25 to 35 cars. We’ll go over the production schedule and organize everything by the scheduled-out date, so the first ones we discuss are the ones going that day.

Any issues are brought up first thing in the morning. That way everyone is on the same page to start the day. “We’re waiting on this light. We called about it yesterday, it should be here today.” Typically my parts guy and I know when our vendors come through and make deliveries, so we estimate what time it’ll be here so the tech knows to keep an eye out for it.

The meeting is where I’ll distribute the workload. There’s a lot to take into account to make sure the guys are actually able tomakeacheckattheendoftheday.IfIhaveacarI’m waiting for a supplement on from the insurance company, then I know that’s going to come through a lot sooner than ones that are not through a DRP. Each insurance company is different, too. If we call Progressive, it’s probably going to be out two to three days. If we call Geico, it’s a week.

“IT MAKES ME FEEL GREAT KNOWING THAT AT THE END OF THE DAY I WAS ABLE TO HELP LEAD A GREAT TEAM TO THE GOALS WE TRY TO REACH EVERY DAY.” — JESS ANDERSON, SHOP FOREMAN, ELLIS & SALAZAR BODY SHOP

Laying out all that information allows me to make sure everyone is getting a fair share on any given day.

Knowing what the techs can handle comfortably without overwhelming them is a large part of it. I worked alongside two out of the three current techs, so I was able to see their strengths and weaknesses; one tech might be able to do a quarter panel replacement a little faster than another.

We hired a new tech that replaced me, and it was interesting to try to figure him out. I had to get to know him personally and understand what he was used to from prior shops. I had to learn how to get him onto our program and what workload he can handle. It was all trial and error. Coming in, I knew how many hours he was used to running. I threw that and a little more at him and was able to see at what point he got overwhelmed, so now I have a better understanding on how quickly and efficiently he works.

Around noon, I’ll typically go through parts orders with our porter. He does all the receiving while I’m managing the floor. I’ll get with him and make sure he has all our return sheets for parts that need to be returned. I also look at the list and see which cars need what parts, what cars are supposed to go today, if I need to call my glass guy, if all the sublets have been checked on.

I’ve freed up my manager to be able to focus on customer relations while I handle any issues that arise in the back of the house, whether it’s parts issues, supplements or equipment issues. Getting all of those things off of my manager’s plate has made a big difference in our customer satisfaction and our efficiency.

It has been an interesting transition. I always knew how vital everything was, but whenever you’re thrown into controlling the schedule, then it’s a lot different. During my first month and a half, we had a lot of parts issues. The techs would trim out the cars and I’d bring them wrong or damaged parts. The communication between me and the porter and my techs was very poor at first.

I’ve gotten that under control a lot more. Now, I’ll hand out the job to the tech, he’ll tear it down, write a supple- ment, bring it to me. I’ll then take that printed copy of the estimate, go out to the car, go over it line for line, check everything, take all my pictures. I also pull out every part we receive and take it over to the vehicle and mirror-match it to the damaged part. Going line by line ensures that we have truly replaced each part that is on the ticket, repaired each area and properly installed every R&I item. This will always be a part of my routine because not only does it ensure a proper quality control check, it also helps with making sure we are ordering only the parts we need. Instead of ending up with a bunch of returns throughout the vehicle repair process, we can order parts one time and be done and correct.

We’re getting better at keeping track of the repair process and making it more efficient. In our management system, CCC ONE, technicians move their cars on the computer when they’re done in their departments. Then I can pull up a report and see in which bays cars are spending the most time and where we’re getting held up. Then I can go to that tech and figure out the issues and address them.

For a couple of weeks we had a lot of redos and a lot of technician errors—scratching paint, things like that. So we implemented a redo tracker. It’s a list that tracks the repair order, what we’re redoing on it and why, who the technician was, and how much in materials bills it costs. I said, “As a team, we need to work on having less redos.” If it became an issue with one technician, we sat them down and said, “OK, now you’re going to start paying for what you’re doing.” It’s reduced our materials costs significantly.

The afternoon is when I focus on where we’re at with the cars that need to go out that day. I’ll go out on the floor, talk to the techs and make sure they’re not having any issues. If a part hasn’t shown up yet, I’ll make a call and see when it’s going to be here. I’m making sure my techs and porters are actually on task and that we’re all on the same page.

When the car goes to the wash bay, I’ll inform my manager/ estimator, who contacts the customer. After I’ve given my manger the go-ahead to call the customers, the last 30 minutes or so I’ll sit down and look at my list for the next day. If I need to shoot an email to my parts guy, I’ll get that out of the way and get those questions answered so I’m ready for the next day.

I have always been one to face things with the attitude of "where there’s a will, there’s a way," and taking that into a leadership role means having to answer a lot of questions that others may have given up on. There is no such thing as a problem without a solution. Learning to be more patient at work has reflected in my personal life too. It makes me feel great knowing that at the end of the day I was able to help lead a great team to the goals we try to reach every day. 

Recommended Products

2015 FenderBender How I Work Survey: Complete Report

2016 Education & Training Survey: Complete Report

Related Articles

Management Mentorship

Making Changes Stick

Seven Keys for Managing Your Superstar Employees

You must login or register in order to post a comment.