One mistake cost Elizabeth Mayoral $7,000 out of pocket and ruined a number of her shop’s relationships. That mistake was hiring the wrong person. The estimator that she hired ended up not being who he said he was and was, in fact, stealing business from right under her nose.
Once Mayoral, co-owner of JC Collision Center USA in Bakersfield, Calif., found out who he really was—an owner of a local automotive shop—the damage was done. She was forced to pay him overtime for his final paycheck and needed to find ways to repair relationships that had been damaged, including a $500,000 fleet account and numerous clients he stole.
Rather than take legal action, which Mayoral felt would reflect poorly on the shop, she decided to re-evaluate how JC Collision Center did business.
Mayoral was able to win back a number of customers the shop lost, including the fleet account, by explaining what happened and reassuring them that it would never happen again. Mayoral also wrote checks for overcharges that the bad hire charged. Even though it cost JC Collision Center a lot of money, the way that Mayoral handled the situation impressed many people, including the Chamber of Commerce, and the shop ended up receiving many referrals.
Retaining the individual customers and the fleet account saved the business $50,000 and the referrals that the shop received played a role in JC Collision winning the “Family Owned Business of the Year.” Even though the situation turned out alright in the end, Mayoral is set on not making the same mistake again.
Aftermath of the Mistake
Since FenderBender last spoke with Mayoral, she has stuck with her revamped hiring process and continues to check references, set clear expectations up front and makes sure the candidate is a fit with the rest of the staff. Mayoral has hired an estimator and a bookkeeper, both of which are working out.
“Right after we let our estimator go, we weren’t having a lot of luck,” Mayoral explains. “But then, a local shop closed down.”
Mayoral asked around about the staff at the shop and she got good recommendations about the shop’s estimator and secretary. After interviewing and thoroughly checking with her references, Mayoral hired her. The shop also hired a bookkeeper that had no experience working in a body shop, but Mayoral decided to give her a shot and it’s been working out well.
After making the hires, Mayoral still checks in with her new employees as well as her current staff—something she wasn’t doing a good job of before.
“After I hired him, I should have questioned what he was doing,” Mayoral says. “I noticed a lot of things, like he was always texting, but I never checked in. I felt like it was too personal.”
Now, as soon as Mayoral notices something, she has the employee come into the office and talk.
“If someone is late or frustrated about something, I try and figure out the reason,” Mayoral says.
When Mayoral notices a change in behavior, whether it be in appearance or demeanor, she checks in. This has helped her bond with her employees, and she will give them time off when they need it for personal matters. She recently gave one of her employees a few weeks off to handle a personal issue, something Mayoral thinks will make her shop stronger in the end.
“I have compassion for people once I get to know them,” Mayoral says. “If they’re not taking care of themselves at home, they won’t perform well. I might have to give them time off to deal with personal stuff and that will leave us shorthanded, which is hard on our business, but I’d rather have someone that’s really focused.”
Mayoral has also changed the way that she leads her employees. She’s more direct in her approach and more clear about her expectations.
“After hours, I see what was done and what wasn’t,” Mayoral says. “I write down my observations, and the next day, I begin by telling them how much I appreciate them, and then I tell them what I need from them.”
Mayoral specifically does this with her bookkeeper, who was unfamiliar with the collision repair industry when she joined the team. Instead of doing it verbally in front of everyone, she’ll write down a list of things to do and leave it on her desk.
“It takes me maybe 10 minutes but it’s there for her when she gets in in the morning and she can start working right away,” she says.