Jeff Feasel had a lot of great things to say about his dad in his 2013 FenderBender Award nomination:
“He grew up in the industry and is one of the greatest mentors a son can ask for!”
“He is setting up the shop for the future and is doing it with a smile every day.”
“The turnover rate at Feasel's is almost non-existent, with the average tech being there 15 years.”
“One of his greatest attributes is an eye for the best.”
And after you talk to Rick Feasel, it all makes sense. Opening Feasel’s Frame and Collision Inc. in Tiffin, Ohio, in 1984, Rick spent nearly every moment of his free time growing up alongside his dad in the shop. Through those times growing up in the shop, Rick’s passion for collision repair was born.
“I’ve never done anything else in my life other than this,” he says.
Starting out sweeping floors, Rick eventually worked his way up to being a body tech and, at the age of 19, became manager of a local dealership.
It’s that same passion that he carried with him through the years that has driven him to not only run a business, but also teach his son, Jeff, how to run it as well.
Above all else, Rick’s servant leadership style has helped him welcome and manage his employees, whether that be those he’s brought on, or even his own son.
From rare staff turnover to mentoring all of his employees, Rick explains how he manages to keep those in his shop happy and motivated.
Treating Employees Well
“I haven’t hired anyone in a long time,” Rick says.
With 12 staff members total, he’s had one employee with him for 35 years, another for 30 years and yet another for 25 years. And the rest of the employees have been with Rick for substantial amounts of time.
Prior to a staff member leaving a few years back, it had been 10 years since Rick has had to deal with an employee leaving.
So, what is his secret? It’s quite simple, Rick claims:
“We treat them good. We treat them as family.”
He says that he gives his employees the benefit of the doubt in almost any situation, which helps build trust.
As far as pay goes, his mentality is the following: The more money they make, the more the shop makes, so he pays them well. The shop has both flat rate and hourly plans. For flat-rate technicians, Rick will offer them a certain dollar amount per labor hour for the first 40 hours. After 40 hours, the hourly rate goes up about $3, as an incentive.
Most importantly, Rick says he never concerns himself with what other businesses are doing. Focusing on only your business will help you get ahead in the long run, whether that’s with staff or with financials, he says.
Mentoring the Same All Around
Just because Rick hasn’t lost any employees in a long time doesn’t mean he won’t add to his team. In fact, Jeff was, in his eyes, the perfect addition.
As Rick needed more help in the office with estimating, parts and job placement, Jeff had already reached the top of his pay scale in his previous industry of news media.
Rick and his wife flew to Florida to formally interview their son. In July 2012, Jeff began working for Rick, gradually taking on more responsibilities and eventually becoming manager.
However, leadership comes with the right training and mentorship. In order to bring your family or even just a new employee into the business, Rick says to consider the following:
Let them explore other options before deciding. Rick says that because his son explored a different industry for several years, he knew him coming back was a move his son wanted. Rick recommends that anywhere from 5–6 years in the “real world” is enough for them to realize whether collision repair is their true passion.
Let them make mistakes. It’s all about communication, he says. If your new hire makes a mistake, let them learn from it and teach them how to go about it next time.
Foster their ideas. If your trainee has a new idea, let them try it out. It may not always work, but at least he or she will be encouraged to always try something new.
Rick says there have been plenty of times where Jeff will ask him how to do something. Rick will tell him what he would do, but always reiterates that if there is a new way to do the task, explore it.