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How They Did It

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The Idea: Attract the Best Employees in Town

Dave Mitchell has led a few teams in his day.

Actually scratch that. Considering that, years ago, his lone Tampa, Fla., shop grew into a three-shop network, which led to an executive position at an eight-location MSO, which led to an acquisition role at Gerber Collision & Glass—well, you get the picture. In those positions, Mitchell oversaw 40 different locations and hundreds of employees.

That’s why, when he sought to expand his new solo project, Car Guys Collision Repair, years ago in central Florida, he understood the difficulty his competition presented in obtaining quality employees. So, to compete with area MSOs, he knew he needed to sell his business in a way that attracted top talent in his region.

The Execution

1. Form a Mission Statement

The phrase “do the right thing” doesn’t exactly turn heads. Yet, when Mitchell opened Car Guys Collision four years ago, that phrase laid the seeds for his current 140-employee team.

“When you’re the new kid on the block, it’s tough,” he says. “You need people that trust you and your vision and feel as good with you as you do with them.”

So, “do the right thing” isn’t just a slogan for Mitchell—it’s a mission statement. He made it the foundation potential employees stepp upon when they first interview for a Car Guys position.

“‘When you’re finished with a repair, would you put your daughter in that car?’” he would ask prospective employees. “It makes them stop and think what kind of company we are.”

Because of that, Mitchell says his reputation spread amongst area professionals, cementing Car Guys as a go-to collision repair employer in central Florida.


2. Empower Employees

Mitchell has managed enough facilities to convincingly argue that hiring for culture is even more important than hiring for skill.

“Animosity will kill you. That spreads like a cancer in the shop,” he says. “So, getting the right personalities together and making sure the co-workers gel is crucial to how we operate.”

To ensure his employees meshed, staff members would participate in the second round of job interviews. This instantly integrated prospective workers into the shop culture. It also infused leadership qualities in Mitchell’s employees, which helped him identify management candidates.

“Certain things are hard to teach,” Mitchell says. “You can teach efficiency, but it’s hard to teach a good attitude. So we look for people with leadership qualities.”


3. Encourage Feedback

Improving efficiency; offering better benefits; increasing gross profit on paint and materials—all topics Mitchell openly discussed directly with employees.

Even if it involves a disagreement.

“If you’re building a larger company, a little diversity on your team is good,” he says. “I don’t want people that agree with me on everything. I want your honest opinion. I want your feedback. At the end of the day, that helps me make the final decision.”

To assure his employees were contributing to the company’s overall growth, Mitchell invited suggestions and feedback at regularly monthly meetings. He and his vice president also provided their phone numbers to each employee, which helped them feel more connected to management.


Conducting Group Interviews

Including employees in interviews has not only given staff members more pride in their roles, but simplified the process for Dave Mitchell. Here’s how his second round of interviews work:

Prepare Employees

During the first round of interviews, Mitchell says he’s looking for the most qualified candidates. The second round, however, means putting the job candidate in the same room as potential co-workers.

“Right before the interview, we say, ‘We’re thinking about hiring so-and-so. These are their qualifications, and this is what we’re looking for,’” Mitchell says.

Then, they all discuss what questions the employees should ask.


Establish an Informal Process

Unlike the first interview, the second interview is a very informal process, Mitchell says. He schedules the group interview for a day with a lighter workload, gathers everyone in a room, introduces each person, and simply lets a conversation unfold.

“That loosens them up and they can talk a little bit,” Mitchell says. “Then we just watch the interaction and how they get along.”


Follow Up With Employees

After the interview, Mitchell and his employees discuss the job candidate. This is ultimately how he and his managers gauge which candidate will fit in best.

“It really helps,” Mitchell says. “Being part of the decision-making progress, the staff buys in on it, and the odds are much greater that we’ve chosen the right person.”


The Result

With 11 facilities and 140 employees on staff today, Mitchell has quickly made a mark in just four years. He attributes his network’s $23 million annual revenue to his employees’ collective sense of purpose—which is now aiding his ability to acquire competing businesses.

“We like to come out and meet with employees before we sign,” he says. “We go over our culture and what we want to do as a company.

“We tell them, ‘We’re not going to cut benefits and pay. We won’t replace you.’ And because of that, most of the time they walk away feeling good, telling their owner how excited they are to be on a new team.”

SHOP STATS: Car Guys Collision Repair  LOCATION: 11 FACILITIES IN FLORIDA  Staff Size: 22  Average monthly Car Count: 200  Annual Revenue: $23 million* 

*Four locations were recently purchased

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