Tips for Overcoming Adversity in the Shop

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When FenderBender last spoke with Dave Wierer, owner of Dave’s Auto Body in January 2010 (“Rebuilding from a Fire") the Green Bay, Wis., shop had just recovered from a destructive fire. In Jan. 2009, a chunk of ice had slid off the shop’s roof and severed a natural gas line, igniting the blaze.

Fortunately for him, Wierer was well-insured, and possessed a positive nature buoyed by a strong faith. The longtime, single-shop owner was offered a rental facility down the street and was back in business within seven work days. 

But rebuilding wasn’t easy. The bidding process alone took nine weeks. The rebuild process lasted roughly seven months in its entirety, before staff moved back in on Aug. 5, 2009. 

Today, the shop runs smoothly, and Wierer, its president/owner, provided FenderBender with the main lessons he has learned about how shops can overcome adversity. 

1. Put on a brave face. 

Wierer’s first suggestion to owners struck with misfortune: Maintain supreme focus. 

“Stay positive,” he says. “I said, ‘No, I will rebuild, and we will be working as soon as we can. [My employees] had one day off of work. They came back to work that Tuesday after the fire and they were cleaning up the mess. 

“People look at a fire as being a devastating thing, and I didn’t?I just [said], ‘It’s another challenge.’”

2. Relay a positive message to customers. 

In the wake of his shop’s fire in 2009, Wierer promptly tied up pressing issues brought about by the fire (two customers’ cars were lost in the blaze, which he says he addressed with immediate, “straight-forward” conversations with owners that were surprisingly understanding). 

Wierer was quickly granted a $500,000 insurance check, further fueling his desire to get his business back up and running swiftly.

Dave’s Auto Body is a business the Wisconsinite has long poured his soul into, where he often worked 19-hour days early in his career. So, in early 2009 Wierer let customers know “we will be here,” even while he was relegated to working in an ill-equipped rental space.

3. Accept the help of others. 

Seven years ago, Wierer was reminded it’s alright to occasionally lean on those around you; local vendors were especially compassionate, setting 

MAINTAINING A POSITIVE ATTITUDE: In the aftermath of his shop's fire, shop owner Dave Wierer believes that maintaining focus and putting on a brave face went a long way in creating trust among employees and customers.

the shop owner up with a rental compressor, for example. Additionally, the city allowed Wierer to build on his property with less than expected green space.

“If you treat everyone fair, they see it. It’s integrity, honesty,” Wierer says. “Then, therefore, if something goes awry, they’re pretty understanding.” 

4. Keep employees in the loop. 

Wierer sought employee feedback during his rebuild seven years ago, and now has a staff that’s immensely motivated as a result.

“The guys are more company-minded, giving us a better quality of service,” he says. “We see it by what happens down the road. People say, ‘You must come to Dave’s.’” 

Nowadays, the Wierer family?Dave gets a sizable assist from daughter Jessica Senn?oversees a shop that’s built to last. The shop, which has had profits stabilize in recent years, was increased in size seven years ago, up to 12,000 square feet, and Wierer is appreciative of all its modern amenities, like heated floors.

“I obviously thank God for what we’ve got,” says Wierer, who also oversees Dave’s Auto Resale. “We have a place better than we deserve. … We can move forward with this, for the future.” 


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