Team Building Leadership Shop Life Repairer Life

A Manager to Count On

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Up until three years ago, Darrell Aebischer, owner of ColorTech Minor Collision Repair in Edmond, Okla., didn’t trust anyone to take care of his customers in the way that he did. He didn’t take vacation and rarely left the shop.

So, what changed? Robby Trevino joined the ColorTech Minor Collision Repair team as its manager.

From day one, Trevino has managed the shop like it was his own. Coming from a background working as a service advisor in dealerships, Trevino says he was able to see service through the eyes of the customer and he didn’t always like what he saw.

“Customers are my Achilles’ heel,” Trevino says. “I’ve been in their position, I sympathize with them.”

Trevino’s approach to customer service and his management style has given Aebischer the confidence to leave his shop more often. Aebischer says that all of the shop’s customers love Trevino and are always telling him “how great the new manager is.” On top of that, all of the employees at the shop feel respected by Trevino and are comfortable going to him with any problem they might have, which has freed up a lot of Aebischer’s time.

Trevino says that he and Aebischer have similar styles when it comes to running a shop, and because of this, he’s earned the trust of both Aebischer and the entire staff.

Two years ago, I totaled my vehicle. It had been in my wife’s family for 16 years. I loved that car, but I had to look at the cost of fixing it versus the actual value. I couldn’t afford to fix it. Being in that position, I know how customers feel when they’re faced with a tough decision. The biggest thing you can do is listen to them. At the dealership I was working at, I saw workers who were disengaged when speaking with customers. Empathy is so important.

I met Darrell when I was working in a dealership. I really admired the way he ran his shop. I told him that I would be more than happy to help him run his shop, and about six months later, he called me and asked me if I’d like to come aboard. I’ve been the manager for three years now.

Darrell and I are almost the same person. I think that’s how I was able to win over the staff so quickly and gain their trust. The way we run the shop is very similar. It’s funny, we often have customers ask if he’s my father. We’re not at all related—I’ve just watched him and seen how he’s taken care of customers and addressed issues.  

I typically get in the shop between 7–7:15. Darrell’s usually already there. We’ll meet and go over the plan for the day. Typically, we lay out what cars need to be gathered for the day from the dealers and which ones we need to get out. We’ll also discuss any parts that need to be ordered, as well as any adjustments to any of the estimates/supplements that need to be sent in.  I’ll start the machines and get the paint fixed to prep. The rest of the staff is usually in the office between 7–8. They know what they’re doing, we don’t need to meet with them. They’re self sufficient.

I think my management style, like trusting them to work on their own, is part of the reason that the staff appreciates me. I want to make it clear that they work with me. I don’t ever want them to feel like they work for me. I’ve seen that type of manager and it’s typically met with resentment and resistance. The only difference between me and them is that I make decisions, moneywise, that they don’t.

On Mondays, I head over to the three used car dealerships that we work with to inspect the cars for damage. We get most of our work from nine different dealerships around the area. If needed, I speak with the manager and get authorizations for repairs. That usually takes me until about 8 or 8:30. After that, I’m back at the shop. My primary job throughout the day is to order any necessary parts and I’m the touch-up and buffer person. I spend most of my day picking up and dropping cars off from the dealerships.

I also do estimates for walk–in customers. We don’t require appointments and we’ll never tell a customer that we can’t see them. We make the time. With my bay right next to the door, it’s easy for me to stop what I’m doing to help a customer or check an order when it comes in.

At ColorTech, our goal is to make everything as cost effective as possible for the customer. We’re able to make things more affordable for the customer because of the way we do things. For example, all of our staff is paid hourly, so our markup is not substantial. We aim to save the customer money while still delivering quality work.

Before any vehicle is released, it needs to go through me. I do quality control on every single vehicle. If I don’t think I would be happy with it as a customer, it’s not getting delivered. When I started here, I made it clear to the guys that I do not like comebacks. I don’t want anyone ever having to come back with something that should have been fixed the first time around.

I’m big on training for my staff. This place is a learn-as-you-go type of place. Darrell and I will have discussions and we’ll make the decision on who needs training or who makes the most sense to have a certain certification.

Throughout the day, I try and make my way around the shop and check in with the staff. I try and do this about every half an hour. My staff knows that I have an open-door policy and they can come to me with any problems that they have—I’m not going to slam them for it. There’s always a resolution, we just need to figure out what it is.  

Our shop is not very big, so at the end of the day we like to bring in as many cars as we can. We’ve never had a problem, but because our lot is not fenced in, we like having that extra security. We take any overflow cars back to the dealerships and get them back into their lot. I usually leave work between 5–5:15 p.m.

I like working here. I come home in a good mood—just ask my wife. It gives me a sense of accomplishment when someone picks up his or her vehicle and is happy with it. It’s fun and my goal is to keep it that way.

 

Trevino's Tips For Connecting With Techs 

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  1. They work with you—not for you. It’s important to remember that you’re all on the same team. The end goal is to have repairs done correctly and in a timely manner.

  2. Take interest in their lives outside of the shop. Have a 5–10 minute conversation about what’s going on with them.

  3. Listen. They are your connection to the work that is going on. I learn more about what needs to be done to make a repair go smoothly by simply listening.

 

SHOP: ColorTech Minor Collision Repair   LOCATION: Edmund, Okla. OPERATOR: Darrell Aebischer  SIZE: 7,000 square feet STAFF SIZE: 13 AVERAGE MONTHLY CAR COUNT: 400 ANNUAL REVENUE: $1.08 million

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