It’s early in the new year, and everyone is holding their breath and hoping to see a big turnaround in business. But we all know that turning things around has less to do with crossing fingers and more to do with taking action.
Hopefully, the tough economic conditions over the last couple years haven’t caught anyone by surprise. After all, smart business leaders are always looking years down the road, anticipating expected struggles and concocting strategies to lessen the impact of those struggles on their businesses so they can safely weather the storm. But you have to be working “on” your business and not “in” it in order to do this, and only a precious few business owners are ever able to successfully put themselves in this position. Call it an urge to micromanage, lack of delegation skills, substandard equipment, or the wrong employees whatever the ailment is, it keeps the business owner stuck handling the minutiae and swabbing the deck instead of seeing the big picture and steering the ship on a steady course.
The following collision repair executives are ones who have mastered working “on” a business instead of “in” it, and thus we at BodyShop Business felt it would be wise to ask their advice on how to make 2010 a successful and profitable year.
We know there are far more savvy body shop business leaders in the industry than represented in this feature, both multi-shop operators and small, independent owners. If we had spoken to each one, we probably could have filled the entire magazine with their comments. The five executives quoted here were only meant to represent a small but insightful group willing to offer succinct and to-the-point advice on how to get your business going in a direction that will ultimately improve it and increase its staying power no matter what economic hurdle is thrown its way. We hope you glean a couple things here that can help improve your own business, and please post a comment to share your own insights.
Name: Michael Quinn
Title: President and CEO
Shop: 911 Collision Centers
Location: Tucson, Ariz.
No. of Shops: 7
No. of Employees: 165
2009 Gross Sales: $18 million
Never give up. Put in the time, effort and whatever else is necessary and fight for your business. Be bold, try new ideas and then try others. Learn to market your company to insurers and consumers. But first…can you delegate effectively to others? If not, learn how to do this and how to do it well. If you cannot delegate responsibilities and ensure that the desired results are achieved, you’ll never be able to work on other more strategic aspects of your business. As Michael Gerber says, “You’ll never be able to work ‘on’ your business if you’re stuck ‘in’ your business.” Delegation is key. Only those with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and the desire to better their careers and the shops they manage will survive these challenging years ahead.
Name: Clark Plucinski
Title: Executive Vice President
Shop: True2form Collision Repair
Location: Gaithersburg, Md.
No. of Shops: 40
No. of Employees: 650
2009 Gross Sales: $85 million
With the advent of DRPs, many shops became order-takers. Today, we need a new higher level of service and commitment to the customer. Communicate with your ears listen first, ask the right questions, understand customers’ needs and then serve those needs. Are we truly high-quality service professionals, or are we working to our own levels of comfort? Those who really understand this will succeed.
Name: Michael Giarrizzo
Title: President and CEO
Shop: DCR Systems
Location: Mentor, Ohio
No. of Shops: 6
No. of Employees: 85
2009 Gross Sales: $12 million
Know your customer.
Listen to your customer.
Know your people.
Develop your people so they become more versatile.
Build standard work that supports your vision, and execute with extreme focus.
Always look for a better way. There always is.
Name: Rollie Benjamin
Title: President and CEO
Shop: ABRA Auto Body & Glass
Location: Minneapolis, Minn.
No. of Shops: 98
No. of Employees: 1,316
2009 Gross Sales: $252
I would recommend that collision repairers improve revenue generation efforts and business processes. Review activities that generate shop traffic such as business referral sources and consumer marketing to be sure the effort and results are happening. Improve your closing ratio and upsell opportunities with the people coming to the shop. In addition, be sure that process improvement is ongoing by applying lean principles to shop operations. Shops with inefficient processes resulting in poor throughput will actually achieve less revenue.
Name: Dan Bailey
Title: Director, President and Chief Operating Officer
Location: Overland Park, Kan.
No. of Shops: 400
No. of Employees: 7,200
2009 Gross Sales: $627 million
Don’t count on any relief from the economy.
Manage your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on every job.
Negotiate better purchasing deals.
Keep your overhead below 38 percent.
Raise your closing ratio 10 percentage points.
Get every P-page dollar out of every estimate without friction.
Don’t stop marketing.
Don’t stop training.
Pay yourself last.