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Adding a Human Resources Department

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Classic Collision was founded in 1984 and up until recently, experienced slow and steady growth. Within the past three years, however, the Georgia-based MSO has more than doubled its size. At the end of April, the company announced the opening of its 19th location in the north Georgia market and there are plans for anotherl location to open in July.

Brandon Bishop, president of Classic Collision, says that by the time he turns 55 (he’s currently 49), he plans on having 50 locations. The company’s growth meant Classic Collision needed to make changes and update the way that it does business. One of those changes has been adding a human resources team.

Bishop, who has been with the company for 30 years, took the time to speak with FenderBender about the growth and how that led to the addition of a human resources team.

How did you know when the time was right to add this department?

For us, I would say that we got large enough and there were enough situations that came up that warranted it. At first, we tried using an existing employee to fill the needs of our human resources department. That didn’t work. When we had the office managers handling everything, they weren’t equipped to deal with many of the issues and couldn’t commit the time to handling everything correctly.

A bigger company, for example, needs to make sure that all of its bases are covered if an employee is let go. A human resources team is able to provide the necessary information for documenting the process so we avoid wrongful termination complaints. Having a human resources team has also helped prevent turnover, in general, because they can provide coaching on how to prevent this situation and get the employee on the right track.

How has the human resources helped your company grow?

They’ve been able to vet our hiring process to make sure we get the right people on board. With plans to hire hundreds of new employees in the next few years, dedicating the time and knowing what to look for in a quality employee is huge. For example, an employee may not be working out for one shop manager. If he or she brings that issue to human resources, the team might be able to find a different manager with whom that employee might work better.

How has the way employees go about getting their questions answered changed?

It’s changed a lot in the past few years. With all of the questions about health care, we wanted to make sure that our employees had a voice that would hear them out. The main reason for creating a human resources team was for payroll and health insurance questions. In the old days, we had our office manager handle that but as we grew, we saw that they didn’t have the necessary expertise to properly address these issues.

Right now, our human resources department is comprised of two individuals. They oversee our 600 employees. We made our first hire two years ago and the second employee came aboard about six months ago.

Six hundred employees seems like a huge responsibility. How are two people equipped to deal with that many people?

Many times, the employees will still speak with their office managers and handle certain issues on a store level. By addressing many issues on an individual store level, we’re able to keep the human resources team small. Typically, the human resources team won’t be contacted unless it’s an issue that only they can address or something that’s a more technical issue.

If an employee has an issue, how do they get in contact with the human resources department?

Typically, they pick up the phone and call them directly. The human resources team is based out of our corporate location in Sandy Springs. Once the employee has reached out, the human resources team can handle it over the phone or will make an appointment to go to the shop and speak one on one with the individual.

Since there are so many employees and many of the same concerns, we have shop meetings and training sessions where the human resources team will address common topics, like health care. On average, the human resources team gets to every shop about every other month. There are a list of common issues that they cover over per year, such as harassment. We also have a dedicated trainer on staff. If the human resources team thinks that we need a training class on something—safety, for example—they can work with the trainer to put a class together.   

With all of your growth plans, do you see your human resources team growing?

Yes. Right now, our shops are separated into three different quadrants. We’ve got the South side, North side and the West side. We plan on staying around this area since it is so concentrated. I could eventually see each quadrant having its own HR representative or even HR team.

What advice would you give to a shop owner that’s looking to hire someone for human resources?

It should be someone that has a background in human resources and fits in with your culture. The biggest mistake we made in the beginning was not hiring the right person. Originally, our CFO said we needed a human resources person and none of us really knew what that meant, so we just went with who the CFO wanted. The original hire had a background in human resources, but wasn’t a good fit for our culture. That employee realized that. They eventually left the company and we had the opportunity to hire someone that would really work for Classic Collision. We wanted someone that was more apt to coaching through situations.

For our next round of hires, we made sure everyone thought the hire was a good fit. The COO, the owner, CFO and I each got a chance to speak with the candidates one on one. We then got together and each voiced our opinion. We eventually decided on our current employee, who has a background in human resources.

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