Leave Work at the Shop

Nov. 1, 2018
General manager Harrison Rusk wants his staff members to leave the shop when it’s closed and spend time with their families
SHOP STATS: Master Car Care and Collision  Location: Houston, TX.  Operator: Byron Rusk  Average Monthly Car Count: 120 cars for collision, 680 overall  Staff Size: 17  Shop Size: Collision side: 12,000 square feet; mechanical side: 14,000 square feet; office space:  2,000 square feet; Annual Revenue: overall $3.5 million, collision: $1.25 million

At Master Car Care and Collision in Houston, Harrison Rusk runs the family businesses’ collision repair and mechanical repair facility. Rusk’s brother, in return, runs the shop’s satellite store for estimating and collision repairing.

“My dad ran shops while I was growing up, so I grew up around shops sweeping the floors, helping out around the shop doing general service technician stuff,” Rusk says. “When I graduated high school, I was not interested in working in the automotive field and wanted to try different things.”

After a nine-year career in the Marine Corps, Rusk came back with a refreshed outlook on the industry as his father, Byron, owner of Master Car Care and Collision, inched closer to retirement, he says.

“I enjoy interacting with people and running a team so it was a perfect opportunity for my personality type and thought it would just be a really good career choice, as well,” Rusk says.

In 2014, Rusk was made general manager of the business, which had been purchased by his father a few years prior. The facility, built in 1941, was revamped to fit the business’ structure as both a collision repair and mechanical shop.

“We upgraded some of our technology and started focusing on I-CAR certifications to really boost our collision repair services,” Rusk notes.

Today, Rusk serves as managing partner of the business and works directly with staff on both teams throughout the day. He finds that, in order to gain success at a shop, you need dedicated employees.

“I want to better improve the skills [of my staff],” Rusk says. “Should they decide to go somewhere else or continue with their future they’ve got everything that’s going to have them best prepared and be the most successful going forward.”

I try to walk the whole shop and greet all of my team members in the morning before I answer any phone calls. It’s important to me to be able to touch base with the guys in the morning or even simply say, “hello.” Our staff all comes in at different times, so it’s important for me to touch base.
We have staggered scheduling at our shop, so we split the staff into thirds and each third comes in at different times: before opening, when we open, roughly 1–1.5 hours after opening. I started this scheduling method when I got into the shop because I wanted to give everyone the chance to get home at adequate times, and then we rotate those schedules each month. In this industry, a lot of people work such long, hard hours, and after I got feedback from my team, I did some adjustments and this was something we were able to make happen. I think this gives everyone the chance to have enough personal time and time at home after work.

I like to know what’s going on with my team at the start of the week. I’m not a big formal meeting holder, but we hold a “team huddle” on Monday mornings to get things rolling. During these meetings, I like to address what everyone’s goals are, as well as what the overall team hopes to accomplish. We do some coaching sessions if they are needed, especially if we run into any issues that need to be addressed. I typically like to keep the huddles no longer than 30 minutes and if we need to have more, we’ll have smaller huddles throughout the week.
During the huddles, we also really encourage the guys to bring up any issues they see and we try to address those issues early on. When they bring those issues up, it allows everyone to learn from one another.

After initial greetings, I do a lot of follow-up with customers. I try to reconnect with customers who have had their vehicle picked up within the last two or three days because I find that it’s the perfect time to do a general follow-up. Once I’m off the phone, I coordinate with my service writers and make sure that we’re on track with what our game plan is as far as sales plans for the day.
I don’t like to be removed from everything, so I keep my desk in the front office as a way to stay connected with the shop floor and my customers. If there are things I need to take care of, I head into the back office, but I think it’s important to stay accessible for my team. Even though I’m not 100 percent involved with all customer interactions, I still think it’s important to stick around the front office if I’m needed.

By lunchtime, everyone’s schedules are different as the staggered scheduling gives everyone the opportunity to eat at different times. I leave it up to each department to manage their time and their lunches. When mid-afternoon hits, I make my way around and make sure they know that I’m available for a consultation or if they need any assistance.
It’s important to me that my team is set up for success. We have some programs for technicians where, based off of their productivity, we go ahead and fund their tools. Our team is pretty experienced here, but if there are advanced training opportunities available, we send the guys out to a day-long course. If an opportunity arises that would increase their skill set, we want to encourage staff to attend training and stay updated with the industry.

When I wrap up the end of the day, it’s important for me to touch base with everyone in the shop. Typically, I touch base with all of the key players and make sure that all bases are covered before we all leave for the night. I also do a final sweep of the shop where I look around and check on the status of everything, making notes on what needs to be covered for the next day’s shifts.
I try to make sure that everyone is out by 6:30 p.m. With the staggered scheduling, some guys will head out before we close at 6 p.m., and I try to get the last round of guys to be out of here by 6:30 p.m. We’re really fortunate to have some really dedicated staff members, so since we are located in a pretty bustling spot in Houston, some of our team members will make the decision to stay later to assist a customer, if needed. I try to push to have everyone out by 6:30 p.m. because I think it’s important that staff members are able to go home and relax for the rest of the night.

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