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Snap Shop: Central Missouri Auto Body

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SHOP: Central Missouri Auto Body  LOCATION: Columbia, Mo. OWNER: Carol Miller  SIZE: 13,725 square feet  STAFF SIZE: 13 (4 body techs, 3 paint techs, 2 front desk helpers, 2 estimators, shop manager and owner) AVERAGE MONTHLY CAR COUNT: 75 ANNUAL REVENUE: $2.4 million

 

1. Taking Over the Shop:

Back in 2003, Carol Miller, owner of Central Missouri Auto Body (CMAB), and her former spouse opened up shop in Columbia, Mo.

The pair decided to give the shop that name based on their location; since they are in the middle of the state, it made sense to name the shop Central Missouri Auto Body.

In 2014, Miller took over the business and became the sole owner of CMAB. Miller notes that although it was a smooth transition, there was some uncertainty from her staff. They weren’t familiar with her or her leadership style, but as the months wore on, her staff got a feel for both. The shop culture was unphased, and instead they grew closer. She also promoted a member of her team to production manager and she now delegates work to the rest of the team.

Miller notes that a lot of customers believe that CMAB actually stands for Carol Miller Auto Body. With the shop’s likeness in name to her own initials, Miller believes that customers make a more personal connection with the shop. These customers see Miller as more than the typical shop owner, they can talk to her at the shop or they can see her around town at community events. She’s approachable and she cares about her business and the people CMAB serves.

 

2. Boxing out Space:

Back when the shop was built, Miller and her partner wanted the facility to be totally enclosed.

“The idea was for the vehicle to never leave the shop and be affected by the elements,“ Miller says. “With the layout of the shop, there really is no need for the vehicle to go back outside until it’s done.”

According to Miller, the shop is sectioned off to create departments for each aspect of the repair process. There is a detail area and an area designated just for the shop’s paint department. There is a wall between the body area and the paint department. Each technician has two stalls with benches and carts for their supplies. And, right behind the break room is a supply closet.

As vehicles go through the repair process and are prepared to get a fresh coat of paint, technicians line up all the vehicles and put them uniformly through the six-stall paint department.

Additionally, she is working on creating a parts area for the shop. She’s mapping out the space with architects, for the parts area, but she hopes it will be completed by spring 2018. Miller also plans to add on more space to the shop.

 

3. Investing in the Shop:

When the paint department was being mapped out, Miller and her partner worked with consultants to figure out what type of paint booths they should go with and what size they should be. The shop features two GFS booths. One is a downdraft paint booth and the other is a curtain paint booth.

Another thing that Miller looked into was refreshing the shop logo. She opted for the silhouette of a car because it looked polished, high-end and classy. The design is from I/D/E/A, Miller notes, an online auto repair product store she says produces lots of amenities for shops.

Overall, Miller has added the following to CMAB:

  • Alignment machine
  • New phone system
  • Updated security camera system
  • Van (loaner vehicle)
  • Trailer (hauls shop scrap metal)
  • Employee parking lot
  • Shop lighting (LEDs)
  • Office space for production manager

In total, Miller notes that $45,000 was spent on these updates. She paid for them from the shop’s revenue, not out of pocket.

 

4. Nurturing Shop Staff and Customers:

“Most collision repair shops are going to have equipment, etc., what makes my shop stand out is my team and the effort they put forth to get their job done,” Miller says.

Every first Friday of the month lunch is on Miller; she’ll either cook or get a caterer to provide food for her team.

“The point is, I buy the whole crew lunch giving us the opportunity to sit and eat together and connect on a more personal level,” Miller says.

For customers, Miller developed a warm and welcoming customer waiting area to help alleviate some of the stress associated with bringing their vehicle into the shop. She provides the usual assortment of entertainment and snacks for customers.

CMAB has three loaner vehicles that customers can use for free when they don’t have rental coverage. Customers are also offered a ride home if it lies within the Columbia city limits.

Another way that she proves customer satisfaction is a top-of-mind priority is by providing a warranty on all our paint work for as long as the customer owns the vehicle.

Miller also works on the advertising side of the business, she produces commercials for radio and credits most of the shop’s growth to word of mouth referrals.

CMAB is also involved in the community, the shop makes donations and collaborates with schools and youth sports team on fundraisers. The shop recently donated its time to paint a Bobcat for a Breast Cancer Awareness Fundraiser.

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