Victor Gutierrez had his career planned out. He was managing a local Texas restaurant for more than ten years and creating a hub in which locals visited frequently and knew him by name.
And then after a mutual disagreement with his boss, he was let go.
Until then, Gutierrez strictly viewed his passion for cars as a hobby. He learned how to fix cars during a two-year, high school trade course and then helped his dad at the used car lot they co-owned. But, it wasn’t until the day Gutierrez was fired from that restaurant role that he thought about turning his passion into a full-time job.
Gutierrez kept his eyes peeled for news of a job. Finally, he got a call from a friend who was a painter. His friend informed him of an open position at his shop.
“Well, I love cars,” Gutierrez thought. He applied for the position. Turns out, the body shop owner was a frequent customer at his restaurant.
The owner of Collision and Classics Inc. in Beaumont, Texas, recognized Gutierrez’s solid work ethic and offered him a position. Fifteen years ago, Gutierrez started out as an estimator.
Fast forward to 2020 and Gutierrez has worked his way up the ranks of the shop floor. Today he runs the facility as manager. Despite his unconventional start in the industry, Gutierrez believes it taught him that you can always learn, no matter your stage in life.
“Training never stops,” he says, a fact that he strives to teach his team every day.
As told to Melissa Steinken
The whole team arrives at the shop every morning at 7:30 a.m. The doors open at 8 a.m., but before that happens, we go over the schedule for the week. We gather for a meeting and go over if there are any cars scheduled that need to go out, or if anyone has any issues. We also recognize any achievements made during the week. We like to get to 50 cars during the week, so that's the goal on which I focus.
I lead these meetings but the owner, Gerald Condon, attends almost every one so he stays up to date.
We use the Nexsyis Collision management system for our production schedule. Once the doors are open, we make any phone calls to customers to inform them on delays or pickups. I like our management system because it updates customers via text message. We’ve been using the same management system for the past three years.
We have a 55-inch flat screen television on the body shop floor, and my team has the management software downloaded onto their phones. In order to help keep myself more mobile, I’ve really enjoyed using the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet as I walk around.
During the morning, I go out and help blueprint cars with the staff. I take the time to teach my estimators how to improve their skills and help them if they have any issues. I like to focus on training my team because with the technician shortage occurring, it's hard to find new hires.
A lot of estimators still need to learn how to understand a repair instead of just writing it on paper. I have them watch as the vehicles are dismantled and try to instill the fact that, if we touch the vehicle, we should get paid for the time. I also encourage them to document every single part of the process. They need the proper documentation, including photos.
I strongly believe a teardown needs to be done in order for workflow to go smoothly. My team will update me as they go along through the teardown process. They send me messages through our management system or by text message.
I do take a break around 11 a.m. or noon for lunch. My breaks are usually only roughly one hour long. After my break, I go back to check on the team on the floor. I do my paperwork close to the end of the day and the rest of the time I'm walking around the shop.
When I’m not helping our estimating team, I focus on the parts side of the business. We're always trying to put factory parts back on the vehicle, and I make sure to take time to research OEM repair procedures to do this correctly. I also help with price matching so that we’re getting paid correctly for parts ordered.
I think it's important for a body shop to become OEM certified. For our shop, I want to be certified in as many OEs as possible, because I think that’s where the industry is heading. For instance, we’re certified in Ford, General Motors, Subaru, Nissan, Fiat Chrysler, Kia, and Infiniti. I make it a priority to research the proper OEM repair standards through OneStop, I-CAR and manufacturer sites.
I have a customer service relationship manager who mainly handles customers. As a body shop, we focus on having a good rating on Google and other social media sites. So, when a customer leaves a bad rating, I help with the situation. Sometimes we can get false reviews from someone who was never in the shop. I make sure to check first that the customer was in the body shop and then I follow up personally with a customer to rectify the mistake.
In all aspects of the shop, I think training should never stop. I think it's important to not only educate customers on how it's important to repair a vehicle back to the proper safety standards, but I think it's also important to keep teaching your team how to do their jobs better than before. For instance, It may take me an hour to research a repair method but, in the end, that's going to mean a customer gets put into a safe vehicle.
SHOP STATS: Collision and Classics Location: Beaumont, Texas Operator: Gerald Condon Average Monthly Car Count: 100 Staff Size: 17 (9 back end) Shop Size: 28,000 square feet Annual Revenue: $4 million Average Repair Order: $2,850