2022 Best Workplaces: ProTech Collision Center

March 1, 2022

By being transparent with their employees about the day-to-day operations of the shop, to small things like surprise outings or barbecues, Adria and Bryan McLemore have built a close-knit culture among employees and leadership in their business.

SHOP STATS: ProTech Collision Center Location:  Houston, Texas  Owner: Adria and Bryan McLemore Staff Size: 8   Shop Size: 12,000 square feet  Number of Lifts/Bays: 12 bays, two paint booths   Average Monthly Car Count: 63  Annual Revenue: $908,000

For many body shops, the last two years have been all about survival. With the world stuck at home and accident rates plummeting, sustaining has been the primary goal.

For established body shops, whether large MSOs or small two- or three-shop operations, the time also presented an opportunity for growth, such as acquiring businesses that were struggling or working with longtime shop owners who saw it as an opportunity to get out of the business. 

Adria and Bryan McLemore don’t fall into either category—and that’s the beauty of their business. 

Over the past two years, the couple went from never having owned a shop to purchasing, reimaging and reopening a Houston collision repair center. Challenged with hiring a whole new team and establishing a brand image during COVID-19, the McLemores have transformed the business from a struggling shop on a downward trajectory to one ready and ripe for expansion, with employee relations as a top priority. 

The approach has produced impressive results so far. In their short time, they’ve received several recognitions from the Better Business Bureau, including the 2021 Award of Distinction and a BBB Gold Certificate. They’ve also been recognized by the community as a 2021 NextDoor Neighborhood Favorite. Now they’ve been named one of FenderBender’s 2022 Best Workplaces. 

“When you change ownership in this industry, often you’re starting from ground zero,” says Adria, saying they always hoped to own a shop at some point. “We saw an opportunity, between Bryan’s operational knowledge and my financial background, to make this work.”

Learning from the Past

Bryan spent much of his previous 20 years in the collision repair industry working with MSOs and saw the advantages and pitfalls with those companies. Maintaining transparency and a family atmosphere became a strong desire for him. And Adria has similar experiences working outside the industry. 

Their learning experience also stems from the previous businesses that occupied the space before them. In its heyday, the facility was touching $450,000 per month. But the last owners used the space as a car sales business before attempting to transition to body work and struggled to find a customer base.

So when the McLemores took over the business, repositioning it back as a fully operational body shop under the new name of ProTech Collision, they had a roadmap of things to avoid. They picked up several DRPs to get the business up and running (something the previous owners weren’t able to do), and focused on assembling their team. Again, the idea of simple proved effective. They focused on quality of life benefits, including medical insurance, PTO, and a 401(k) and training reimbursement to anchor their plans. 

“It’s been more productive than putting everything down, stopping everything and having meetings somewhere else,” Adria says, adding it's much less intrusive. 

Simple and Effective

The principles that have gotten them there haven’t been outlandish. The central mission of providing a repair that they’d be willing to put their family in has reverberated from the top down, from Adria and Bryan to their employees.

“We all get along really well,” says Emmy Alamilla, an office assistant at the shop and one of their newest employees. “And that allows us to work with customers on a more personal level. We get to inform them on their vehicles and we all help each other out.”

The one key that has stuck out to Alamilla, and has been a central tenet of the McLemores’ mindset, is transparency. Through organized meetings and informal conversations, Adria and Bryan constantly keep their team up to date on the shop’s performance. That means ups and downs, which there have been no shortage of, especially when starting a business during the pandemic. That has established trust early on. 

“It’s been hard, of course. Lots of long days,” Adria says of starting the business, “but having that transparency gives our employees a sense of the impact they have and how they are contributing to the end product and that really helps.”

Anatomy of a Technician Check-In

Learning has been a constant process for the shop. After initially holding formal daily staff meetings, the shop moved to a different approach after Bryan and Adria found it not to be a reliable, productive use of the entire staff’s time. Alamilla has now taken the responsibility of the meetings, but instead of all-staff, she meets with every technician individually for 5-10 minutes in the morning. It allows a personal, one-on-one conversation that allows the technician to get all the information they need in a condensed time. Alamilla goes over parts inventory, the schedule for the day and updates the tech on everything they may need to know for the day ahead. 

And while saving technicians’ time, it also has empowered Alamilla with more responsibility and room for growth, a constant goal for the shop. 

That transparency is a part of every aspect of the business. The entire team is active in the hiring process. With a small staff, making sure the unit is cohesive is pivotal, Bryan says. Alamilla has enjoyed the process, and doing it as a group has aided in making the team feel like a family. They get an opportunity to speak about concerns or voice their support for certain hires. It’s been an important part of building up from ground zero (they did not inherit a single worker from the previous operation).

Actions Over Words

It’s been important for Bryan and Adria to actualize their encouraging words and appreciation for their team members. It’s part of the reason they provide free lunches every Friday for the employees, which often sees Bryan grilling out for the entire team. It’s been a consistent and well-received gesture that the shop has implemented. They also do special lunches around holidays, such as a two-hour lunch they took for Thanksgiving during which they closed the shop. In addition, the shop was closed Wednesday and Friday of Thanksgiving week and the McLemores paid vacation time. 

It’s also important they show their customers and employees they value the community, and it was a pivotal move in helping establish business in the early going. The team hosted benefits for the local firefighters association, supported the local rodeo and have held several functions to support the military, which has been important to Bryan, an Air Force veteran. 

“Veterans do a lot and have done a lot. Teachers, first responders too,” Adria says. “We try to be ourselves, which hopefully leads to customers and employees that are happy and satisfied.”