Culture and Character

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Joey had a 16-year-old girlfriend that he met as a customer at his shop. Joey also had a wife. His girlfriend ended up shooting his wife in the face. And this was just the beginning of Joey’s self-inflicted problems.

Joey Buttafuoco, arguably the most well-known body shop owner of all time, eventually did jail time for statutory rape and later for insurance fraud. So, whatever you do, don’t be like Joey. 

Now, If you’re under 40 you may have never heard of Joey, as his star faded as quickly as it ascended, even though he put a lot of effort into keeping himself in the spotlight for as long as possible. 

Here’s a short list of facts about his rise to fame:

  • He had an affair with a 16-year-old customer he met at his shop named Amy Fisher.
  • He was convicted of statutory rape and did 4 months in jail.
  • The woman he had an affair with shot his wife in the face on the porch of their home.
  • After that incident, Buttafuoco was indicted on 19 counts of statutory rape, sodomy, and endangering the welfare of a child to which he eventually pled guilty.
  • After this, the Buttafuocos remained married for a time, moved to California and divorced in 2003.
  • In 1995, he pled no contest to solicitation of a prostitute.
  • In 2004, he pled guilty to insurance fraud and did another year in jail plus five years probation. He is no longer allowed to work in the auto body industry in the state of California for the rest of his life.
  • He became the punchline of many of David Letterman’s jokes in Letterman’s last year of hosting Late Night with David Letterman and was parodied in many Saturday Night Live sketches. 

If one were to compile a list of all the things that might be done to discredit an industry and bring embarrassment to it, this list is pretty near perfectly suited for that! 

And in the current climate both in politics and Hollywood with woman after woman—and some men as well—coming forward accusing politicians and entertainment stars of inappropriate use of their status, wealth or power to gain sexual favor, we are starting to see how much character matters.

I do not want to see our industry’s reputation tarnished by similar stories. We do not need more Joeys in our industry! What we need are more leaders, managers and owners who have integrity. Almost everyone I’ve met in this industry is a person I’m honored to be associated with. My hope is that as we continue to highlight the good and teach the next generation that our industry can actually become a shining example of integrity in an increasingly dark world. 

A topic that I have absolutely become fascinated with and passionate about is culture making. A shop with a strong culture can grow and remain true to itself and its values without the leader having to always be there to provide guidance on every little decision. A strong shop culture is what can carry a shop’s good reputation far and wide. And culture, for better or worse, is rooted in the character of the shop owner and managers.

In the months ahead, I want to do a series of columns on the benefits of creating a strong culture, share practical ideas on how to improve your shop’s culture and lay out a simple framework for nurturing culture as one of your shop’s core systems. Like estimating or finance or human resources or customer service, each shop has a way of accomplishing those core tasks. And how you build culture affects all of them. Culture can be implemented haphazardly or well. It can be strong or weak, clearly defined or just a set of assumptions in the manager or owner’s head. But every shop has a culture. My goal is for you to have a good one that is intentionally built and nurtured and able to consistently guide your shop toward health and high performance. 

Culture begins at the top. Whether it’s your immediate family or shop, sports team or the PTA, all groups have a way of operating and they will reflect the leader. If you are a shop manager, leader or owner, then you are responsible for the culture and it will reflect you—the good and the not so good! And keep in mind that your character matters. How you treat others will eventually come to light. More importantly, your organization will increasingly reflect who you are.   

If you have ideas, questions or resources to share about building a strong shop culture, please reach out to me at kevin@carstarcares.com I’d love to have a conversation with you as we dive into this new series of columns on this important topic.

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