A Helping Hand
When Chris Jones thinks back on everything that shaped him into a successful collision repair shop owner, one quote from his father really sticks out:
“If you want something, you better work for it—because I don’t have it, and I sure as hell ain’t going to give it to you.”
And when Jones—the owner of two Precision Collision Centers in the Kansas City area—describes his day, it’s easy to see the influence that quote had. While he has taken on more of an executive role now that his shops total $5.4 million in annual revenue, you can often find the car-washer-turned-technician-turned-estimator-turned-manager-turned-shop-owner offering advice on a repair, or filling in for an estimator, or taking phone calls during a CSR’s lunch break, or even cleaning the bathroom if it’s needed.
Above all else, Jones says this humbled approach to running a shop has gone furthest in earning his employees’ trust.
“I have witnessed Chris care for his employees like they were his own blood family,” says Mallory Stanley, marketing director for Precision. “If anyone is struggling in life, in the shop or outside of the shop, Chris is always there to help them in any way that he can.”
You know the saying about wearing many different hats? Well, sometimes I feel like my hat is more like a clock. Depending on what time it is, I’m a porter, I’m a floor sweeper, I’m running errands, I’m running between both of my stores. If someone calls in sick and something needs to be put together and we don’t have anybody to do it, then I’m down there doing it.
I’ve been there. I think back to how I was coming up through the ranks, and if I didn’t have mentors and owners taking me under their wings, I wouldn’t be at where I’m at today. I’ve heard owners say, I’m the first one that’s going to get paid. I’m not like that. I take care of my employees and their families first.I know there are several managers or owners out there that are just business people, and don’t get too involved in the everyday. And that’s fine. But when somebody is repairing a car and they feel comfortable getting your opinion, I think that’s important to employees.
In the morning, I come to my office at the Pleasant Valley, Mo., location and get into the management system to see our workload for that day If there’s an issue I need to address, or if I need to send out an internal message on our management system, I’ll do that.
I have a really great bookkeeper who puts together numbers for me each morning. I look at profit and loss, the daily monies we took in. I’m looking for anything that sticks out and would require my attention. For instance, on return parts, I’ll check our credits and whether there’s anything out of the ordinary.
Team Player: Although he’s less focused on the day-to-day now, Chris Jones is still available and unafraid to help out with any task that pops up throughout the day.
You find a comfort zone of where you want to see the numbers and what you base your projections of growth off of. If a credit return is over $3,000, then I really start dissecting it: Did we have a big job that totaled and we had to send all these parts back? Are we ordering too many parts? Are they sending us a bunch of parts that we didn’t order?
I’ve got two store managers, and I’ll bounce back and forth throughout the day when I’m needed. Very seldom will I visit a store and not say “hi” to everybody. I’ll say things like, How’s it going? Do you have everything you need? Is there anything I can help you with? You know my door is always open.
The advantage of doing that is it shows them that you care about them, about their employment there, about your business. They know that I couldn’t do this without them. I’ll be the first to tell them, If you’re not touching the cars, we’re not producing and not making any money.
We’ll do cookouts for everyone a few times a year. We throw a nice Christmas party for them and their spouses, and provide a nice Christmas bonus for them. It bonds everyone, and makes everyone more comfortable with me.
The majority of my day is working with my managers, my office staff, and my marketing director to solve problems we might have or discuss changes to certain processes. Often we’re using our messaging system to discuss those ideas and hash them out. We have these discussions daily. Our attitude is: Let’s figure out a way to speed up our process on the rest of the cars so we can get that in sooner.
—Chris Jones, Owner, Precision collision centers
The managers talk about the scheduled vehicles coming in and going out during morning meetings. I used to sit in on these meetings, but I don’t anymore. I just leave it to them. I don’t want to micromanage them. Communication is the key to everything, I believe. If they need me involved in something, I’ll get involved. Otherwise, if something gets out of line or out of hand, I leave it to them to handle. That’s part of having good people.
A big issue we all came together to solve was our scheduling process. That took collaboration from everyone, and we probably went through six or eight changes over several months. We worked with a consultant and broke it down to the size of jobs and types of jobs and built our schedule on a spreadsheet. Our CSR sitting up front can schedule the vehicles by just plugging in the hours a time slot allows, and that feeds into our management system. If we follow that, it’s the most steady we’ve used.
I try to meet with my marketing director, Mallory, at some point throughout the day. I believe you need to hire somebody dedicated to marketing. You need somebody out there seeing the agents, going to all of the events, visiting the Chamber of Commerce. She’s active on social media, responds to review, designs our brochures and pamphlets. I just don’t have time to do all that, and she stays on top of it.
If I have an idea for a campaign, I’ll meet with her and she’ll put some stuff together and we’ll review it. I’ll change some language and make suggestions, and we’ll work together on it.
Customer is King: Customer service is at the forefront of everything that Precision Collision does, which is why owner Chris Jones ensures his shop’s marketing is always customer focused.
All the marketing is customer focused. Recently, I invested in a mobile estimating app that provides free estimates without customers even having to visit the shop, and she’s done a great job of promoting it. I want to get the point out to the public about their rights when they bring their vehicles here. We’re coming up with new ideas constantly, marketing our customer service, our aluminum certifications, our focus on training.
Tracking marketing is difficult, but we try to do that as well through our management system. We want to make sure our efforts are working.
I’m just available to do whatever needs to be done. Sure, I’ve got certain things I do every day, but there’s nothing I can’t put aside to make sure things run smoothly. I’ve built this shop that way, and I’ve got it running that way because of the team I have in place.