Hiring an Office Pro
A lot of the time, shop owners are focused on having the best technicians, up-to-date technology and building great numbers, while overlooking that having a strong office staff—and more importantly, a strong office manager—is just as important.
Jason Boggs, owner of Boggs Auto Collision Rebuilders in Woodbury, N.J., knows the importance of having an excellent office staff. At his $2.2 million, 11-person shop, that office staff is comprised of three people: an office manager, an appraiser and himself.
His office manager is the first point of contact for customers and insurance companies, in addition to taking care of insurance paperwork and payments.
Boggs offers a few tips on what to look for in an office manager or office staff, and how it will help your shop in the long run.
There are a few indicators for when a shop is ready for an office manager. When a company gets stagnant and can’t grow by handling more work, it’s a sign that there isn’t enough office staff in place because everyone is handling as much as they’re capable of handling.
If you, as a shop owner or operator, can’t step away from the business for even one day, you need to hire someone. Lastly, if you feel that there isn’t enough time in a day to finish all the things you need to get done, you need to hire someone.
There are three crucial qualities every effective office manager should have: personality, communication skills and the ability to multitask. Personality is something you can’t change, so always focus on finding the right one that you can work with and manage.
A good trick for finding the right candidate is to ask them during the interview process what businesses they like dealing with and why. It’s a good way to sense what’s important to them and what they want in a company. If the interviewee brings up qualities that your company strives for, they’re a good fit.
Your office manager’s personality needs to be focused on friendliness. Customers are coming in after a rough experience, so the person greeting them needs to be warm and welcoming. Because there can be high demand at the shop, that means that your office manager needs to have a high tolerance level for stress and be able to multitask between the shop’s needs, customer paperwork and additional responsibilities.
There are two industries that are very similar to collision repair: fast food and banks. Both of them are process driven and get hit hard at certains hours of the day and their staff doesn’t get overwhelmed when that happens. If your candidate has a background in either, they already have skills for which you won’t need to train.
We used to think that we had to find someone with either vehicle knowledge, insurance knowledge or something in the industry and I think sometimes we tend to forget that we all started somewhere in the beginning.
Lastly, the office staff needs to have clear and effective communication skills, because talking to customers about things in this industry may seem like a foreign language to them. Your office manager needs to be good at putting the repair process in layman's terms.
If hiring someone internally or promoting someone from within is the right fit for your shop, just remember to look for the same qualities you would in someone outside of the company.
Once the right staff or manager is in place, the responsibilities they carry should allow the owner to focus on tasks to better the business. There will be more opportunities to go to trade shows, handle additional work and focus on KPIs, but most importantly, it will give you the time to see the business from the outside in.
The office manager can deflect calls and workload to make sure any one person is not overwhelmed at any point of the day. When stress levels go down the quality of the work goes up. In a business with an office manager, there is more organization, which usually leads to reduced cycle time and increased CSI.
We constantly talk about being able to work on the business versus in the business; that office manager allows you to work on it. If you don’t have one, most of the time, you’ll find that you're working in it.