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Overcoming Adversity in a New Market

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A special-use permit meeting on April 27th in Horseheads, N.Y., turned out to be more than what Joe Carubba, Carubba Collision president and CEO, bargained for. Obtaining the permit for his brand-new shop was not the issue, Carubba had met all of the necessary requirements and received it without any problems, but during the meeting, two local shops took the opportunity to voice their opposition to Carubba Collision opening in the area.

Before the meeting took place, Carubba saw the schedule of events and knew they would be speaking, but he was surprised by what they had to say. Never one to shy away from competition, Carubba believes that competition pushes shops to grow and offers consumers more options, which can only be a good thing.

Carubba shares how he managed the situation, and how he has been able to open all of his locations with little resistance from the community.

Anticipate the Reaction

From opening other shops and dealing with the Horseheads situation, Carubba has learned that the demographics of the area influence the type of welcoming that a shop can expect to see when opening a new location.

Before selecting Horseheads as Carubba’s new location, the team did extensive research on the marketplace to see if it would be a good fit for the New York-based MSO. After completing market studies, Carubba determined that the area was unserved and the location would fit in well with his expansion plan, which includes heading even further east than Horseheads. There were other body shops in the area, but Carubba didn’t think it would be an issue for his business and didn’t shy away from competition.

Carubba says that in all of his other shop openings, he never experienced the kind of opposition that he did in Horseheads. When he opened his shop in Syracuse, which was a larger market with more established competition that was more confident, according to Carruba, there was no concern. He believes that the marketplace in Horseheads was a unique situation that attracted a type of response that he hadn’t previously seen.

Prepare for Anything

Just because Carubba hadn’t had any type of opposition to his shops before didn’t mean he wasn’t prepared for it.

During the meeting that Carubba anticipated being about a special permit, a number of different employees from the two body shops took to the floor to voice their opinion that Carubba would be bad for the community. Throughout the meeting, Carubba kept his cool and honed in on the message that competition was good.

“During the meeting, I began thinking about my drive there. I drove past a bunch of different fast food restaurants and it got me thinking about the argument that was being presented. The argument that Horseheads doesn’t need another collision repair shop,” Carubba says. “I thought to myself, what if a town only had one restaurant? One cell phone store? One gas station? That’s not a good way to be. The community should welcome competition, it will benefit everyone.”

Carubba did not have a statement prepared, but delivered his thoughts plainly and in a non-combative way, reassuring everyone in attendance that he did not specifically select Horseheads to target anyone’s business, but that it would be competition and the shop’s needed to prepare for that.

The meeting, which attracted local media coverage in Horseheads, didn’t slow down progress of Carubba’s 10th location or create any negative press for the company. Carubba’s calm and collected attitude during the meeting and his knowledge of what it takes to open a shop in an established marketplace helped diffuse the situation and put the New York-based MSO in a positive light.

Don’t Fixate on the Competition

The thing that surprised Carubba the most about the meeting was the opposition to a competitive marketplace. He was not upset about the shops speaking out—he respects every shop’s right to speak their mind—but he was concerned about their fear of competition, which is something that he has always embraced.

“I’m less worried about the competition than I am about other things. We’re worried about running a business in that area,” Carubba says. “We’re not focused on what the competition is doing or what they’re going to do. Our focus is on standard operating procedures, finding quality staff and all of the things that are important in running a business. It’s not about worrying about the competition.”

That extends to talking in a negative way about other shops in the area, even if they are making things difficult. Even though it may have been easy to be upset over what the other shops had to say, Carubba maintained his composure and has made it known at all of his locations that they are never to discuss or badmouth the competition, including those that spoke out in Horseheads.

Get Involved

Becoming involved with the local community is something that’s very important to Carubba and something that has helped his MSO gain positive word of mouth. All of his locations are involved in some sort of community activities, whether it’s showing support for local sports teams, holding annual charity events to benefit local communities, painting murals in parks or sponsoring an event like the Golden Gloves boxing tournament. Spreading positivity is something that Carubba believes has been beneficial to the shop’s success and a trend he plans on continuing at his newest location.

“The residents will see that we’re community-minded. We believed in that full-heartedly,” Carubba says. “We’re committed to Horseheads. We’re committed to the whole territory.”

Since announcing the opening, Carubba has reached out to members of the community and had nothing but positive feedback. By establishing a positive reputation, the shop is being welcomed by the community with open arms.

Stay True to Brand

With nine successful shops already under his belt, Carubba knows exactly what the company name stands for. For the new location, Carubba plans on having a rather large marketing campaign to spread the word about Carubba Collision and what it means to be a part of the operation, just as it has done in the past.

Manage the Situation

Things have quieted down for Carubba after the meeting, but he thinks things might start up again closer to the opening.

“I’m sure once it gets closer to the opening, they’ll ramp up their advertising and so will we. Then it will be up to the customers to decide. It doesn’t do anyone any good to keep complaining. If they do continue to have a problem, I’m more than happy to meet with the shops. I want our shop to represent good competition, our strategy is not to put everyone out of business and I’ll explain that. We will play by the same rules that we’ve played by everywhere else,” Carubba says.

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