How I Work: Robert Grieve

Jan. 17, 2019
If you want to lead your shop effectively, it often helps to have an open-door policy, and to schedule minimal meetings.

Stepping into Nylund’s Collision Center in Englewood, Colo., a customer is treated as if he or she stepped into a friend’s home.

For shop owner Robert Grieve, each person that walks in is a guest and will be treated as such, he says. Grieve has taken this approach to business with such enthusiasm that now some of his customers—or “guests”—have even become friends, he says.

“I’m consumer-centric and spend most of my day interacting with people in the office or on Facebook,” Grieve says.

Grieve has set up his collision repair shop to run similar to a dealership, with a showroom of some of the repaired vehicles and two general managers, which allows him to spend most of his day focusing on the big picture aspects of the business.

He bought Nylund’s Collision Center in 2006 and leased the location from the previous owner’s brother. Two years ago, Grieve and his wife purchased a different, roughly 20,000-square-foot building that seemed to better align with his old dream of owning his own dealership.

Now, Grieve is almost always in the shop, even coming in every Saturday that it’s open—and he wouldn’t have it any other way. His days revolve around every detail that can make the shop better in the future and keep producing around $4 million in annual revenue.

As told to Melissa Steinken

I get in around 8 a.m. every day and head up to my “eagle’s nest” office or down to the main office. We have a loft that is suspended over the front area and I usually spend time working online up there. I don’t meet with my staff for production meetings or anything because my two general managers handle that. We have one general manager that handles the front office side of the business and another one that handles the shop floor and back end of the business.

My team knows they can find me in my “eagle’s nest” and usually each person comes to find me if there’s an issue. I don’t ever schedule sit-down meetings.

I’m the only one that can manage our Facebook page. I spend a good chunk of my day on Facebook, putting up the marketing posts or replying to comments. Whenever I get a notification for another Facebook group I’m involved in, like the Collision Repair Technicians United, I might comment or at least click on it to check out what’s going on.

My shop is mainly on Facebook. I do personally respond to any type of online customer reviews that come through. It’s easy to see when these are posted because we’ll get notifications through Google Analytics. Alerts will come into the email. And, everyone in my shop only uses one email so everyone can see what’s going on in terms of production and customer content.

My staff comes from all over the country. I don’t typically post in the Collision Repair Technicians United Facebook group but often when I comment or do post, technicians will reach out to me about job opportunities. This is mainly the way I hired and staffed my current 25 employees, 15 of which work on the body shop floor.

When I’m not in an office, I am either greeting a customer or working on a post-repair inspection. I have basically taken over all of the shop’s post-repair inspections to alleviate some of the work from my technicians. We get a lot of these customers and often it’s easier for me to handle them.

We have people coming in when they’ve had their vehicle already repaired and something seems a little off or not running quite the same as it did before the accident. I take time to do the paperwork and walk with the customer around the car, doing an overall visual inspection. Then, I go over the next steps to fix the issue.

Sometimes, I just need to sublet the work to a dealership.

I have cultivated relationships with dealerships over time. I have a good relationship with a Lexus dealer in the area and now a Subaru dealer because a lot of technical issues have come from those types of vehicles. Roughly 65–70 percent of the work we do comes from our partnership with the local Lexus dealership.

I found the dealerships through my parts vendor. Whenever we buy from a specific dealership, we make an appointment with the dealership with whom we’re already doing business. Now, these dealers have started to recommend customers to my shop.

I want to not only make the customer feel like a guest in the shop but also want to offer them as much information as possible. I hired a staff writer who helps write the blogs and other social media posts for our shop. We offer blogs on our website to give the customer as much information as possible. These blogs are posted each month based on something that happened that week or an experience a customer had that made me realize other customers might need to know about this information.

The blog topics have included how to talk with insurance adjusters, a new hire profile, photo estimates and anything technology related that’s relevant.

We’re just now starting to expand our production board from one that’s old school to the new scheduling system we use. For a long time, we have scheduled jobs according to a whiteboard and sticky notes. Now, we’re slowly integrating that old system with a new online scheduling system.

I’m here almost all the time. The time of the day that I leave varies and it could be 4 p.m., 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. before I’m heading out the door. Even when I’m gone, everyone has my cell phone number and I’m accessible all the time for the staff.

We’ve built a brand and people want to be part of that brand so everything I do is because I try to do it better, and different, than everyone else.

SHOP STATS: Nylund's Collision Center   Location: Englewood, Colo.  Operator: Robert Grieve  Average Monthly Car Count: 75 (ARO: $4,941)  Staff Size: 25 (15 in the body shop)  Shop Size: 20,000 square feet; Annual Revenue;$4 million

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