Managing two locations is a challenge, but one that Bob Winters takes in his stride. As the general manager of South of the Square Collision Center, located in both Medina and North Ridgeville, Ohio, Winters splits his time and energy between the two shops each week.
“The biggest challenge is creating continuity in the business plan between the two facilities,” Winters says. “Trying to keep everybody on the same page and working toward the same end goal.”
The Medina branch is larger and requires more time, so Winters spends three days per week there, and two days per week in North Ridgeville.
“We’ve got a strong team in Medina and trying to develop that in our North Ridgeville facility to meet the same customer standards, that’s really what I’m all about,” Winters says.
In both shops, he prioritizes creating a lighthearted environment to challenge whatever the hardships of the day may be, whether it’s a long schedule or bad weather.
Winters says that he stresses to employees that, yes, it’s a car that they’re working on, but it’s the impact of that car on people’s lives that matters most. That concept generates a positive atmosphere in the business.
“Spark some joy,” Winters says, with a laugh. “There’s nothing wrong with a smile.”
As told to Courtney Welu
I start every day by saying “good morning” to everyone. You have to start the morning with a positive attitude and show there’s something good in what’s going to happen today. I want to get my employees to understand that even though upper management is here, they’re all important, too.
I walk through the floor and get a good look at everything, talking with some individuals on the progress of the day. If there are any particularly difficult repairs going on, I check in and make sure it’s all running smoothly. I also check in with the production manager to see what I can assist with, or if we need to move anything forward.
We have a production meeting each morning as well. I just sit in and pay attention to how the prior days have gone, and what kind of anticipation there is for the upcoming week’s successes and struggles.
The majority of my day is spent in the numbers. I have to pay attention to the business numbers, the sales numbers, the closing ratio, closing ROs, and managing all of the general dollars of the facilities.
Still, I do oversee the general umbrella of the business, and that means I need to be there for the day-to-day struggles of our employees. keep workflow moving, and keep customers satisfied. I want to make sure we’re all meeting expectations.
I focus on personal coaching to create continuity in the two shops. Most weeks, I spend three days in the Medina shop and two days in the North Ridgeville shop, though it varies based on where the needs are. If I need to fill in for workers on vacation, or if training and process development is required at more in one facility, I adjust my time to give more energy to a shop. Since Medina is larger, I do spend more days there.
To make sure that both shops are held to the same standard, I focus on personally coaching the employees in each location in the same way in order to calibrate our teams. One of the most important things I want to convey to my employees is that we’re about fixing people—the car is just how we go about doing that.
I want my employees to understand who South of the Square is, the reputation we are trying to uphold, and how our shop was originally developed, and how to continue to execute that in the future. I coach them through dealing with customers in ways that prioritize showing empathy and understanding.
I am a cheerleader for the employees. I try to stay involved with my workers and listen to their needs. I want them to know that their struggles are important, and I’m paying attention to what they need.
Did we provide the proper training for them? Do we have the right equipment? Do they have the right technical support? I try to have these conversations each day to make the workplace as comfortable as possible for everyone.
I’m the bearer of bad news for the customers. I really enjoy dealing with people. That's been kind of a passion for me. However, in my role, I interact most with customers that might be a bit of a struggle. I will explain some of the more technical repairs because of my background as a collision repair tech, and because I’ve been in the industry for so many years.
I can offer a cleaner approach to an explanation of a customer concern than our younger estimators or CSRs who don’t have my experience. I find that when a customer understands the repair process better, it’s easier for them to understand whether it’s the value of the repair or the time frame of the repair that we’re dealing with.
I’m big on communication. Our most common issues in the shop are usually a result of a lack of communication. If we don’t individually communicate in the facilities themselves well enough, then we’re going to have a problem.
I work on our internal systems that allow internal messaging, so that communication is always open and available.
We need to get an understanding of the best repair process. We want the cleanest possible process of repair and procuring parts. I spend quite a bit of time asking if we’re developing a clean estimating process, what we call a meticulous disassembly. I want to know what gets us the cleanest estimate.
A major part of this is eliminating repetitive steps in our process. We want dealership parts walking in our door once instead of five times for the same car. If we take out these repetitions, it allows our internal process to be much smoother, with fewer interruptions in the workflow.
I find it difficult to structure my time because the business is so reactive. With two facilities especially, I have to react to what happens much more than I’m able to plan and structure my days. We’ve spent a lot of time this year working on OE certifications, so there are equipment, shop, and training needs all involved that are far more reactive than something I can plan around.
One thing that I do have to structure is that there are certain times where I have to sit down in my office and commit my time to making sure my administrative responsibilities are handled. I need to spend time with the numbers so that the company as a whole can meet its needs.
Every day before I leave, I want to address that day’s problems. Whatever the present day’s challenges were, whether customer or employee-related, I want to handle them by the end of the day. I don’t like to put problems off until tomorrow. It just leaves people thinking we didn’t care.
SHOP STATS:South of the Square Collision Center Location: 2 Locations (Medina and North Ridgeville, Ohio) Operator:Rick and Susan Stickland Average Monthly Car Count: 175 (Medina), 75 (North Ridgeville) Staff Size: 25 (Medina), 11 (North Ridgeville) Shop Size: 14,000 square feet (Medina), 10,000 square feet (North Ridgeville) Annual Revenue: $4.5 million (Medina) and $2 million (North Ridgeville)