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A Strategic Battle Plan for Your Body Shop

Doing the heavy lifting in terms of planning ahead of time ensures you have the right battle strategy for the year ahead.

“A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.” Those famous words from General George Patton are perfect guidance for our approach to strategic planning. We do the heavy lifting in terms of planning ahead of time to ensure we have the right battle strategy for the year ahead.

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Planning Ahead

With three locations in Ohio – CARSTAR Sidney, CARSTAR Troy and CARSTAR Piqua – we have to have a comprehensive plan for our growth, our people, our buildings and equipment and our opportunities. That doesn’t happen by accident. We have to do thorough research on our performance starting in October and develop our projections for the next year by November.

Since 2020 was an anomaly, we went back to our performance in 2018 and 2019 to get an accurate picture of where we are and where we need to be headed. That’s where a partner like CARSTAR is so valuable – they can look at data across North America to help guide our projections and build our battle plan.

You have to know your numbers first, your market sales trends and your team members’ potential. You have to think through your needs for your equipment and infrastructure. If I need a new piece of equipment in one location, I look at how I can deploy the existing equipment to another location.

Giving More

“Do more than is required of you.” When General Patton asked his troops to always give more, that was sage advice. When we look at strategic planning, we don’t just look at what we need to do to maintain our position. We look at how we need to grow each component of our business. We want to see each team member evaluate how they can contribute more to our performance. We evaluate each location to understand how they can grow. I look at my own role to see how I can contribute more to our cause.

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We learn collectively – my way isn’t always the right way – but my principles and approach with [my employees’] skills and fresh perspective always make us better.


One great example on our team is Sandy, who is now the manager at CARSTAR Troy. I met her when she was a branch manager at our local Enterprise Rent-a-Car. She was looking for a new opportunity, came into the Sidney store for an estimate on her vehicle and we started talking. I talked her into working part-time for me doing accounting and quickly saw that she had a lot more potential. She joined us full-time and started learning the front desk role along with the accounting, then moved up to an estimator and really excelled at all these tasks. When I was deciding to build CARSTAR Troy in late 2013, it made it an easier decision knowing that she could do all of these tasks and manage the facility. Fast forward to today, and she and the Troy location have exceeded my expectations and she is well on her way to one day becoming a successful owner.

At our original store, our business is more mature, so we look at how to profitably manage that business. At our second store, we have the foundation in place and are focused on growing that operation. For our newest store, we’re creating the fundamentals for success. Bottom line, for every location, we have to give more than is required to build and succeed.

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In the Trenches

“Do everything you ask of those you command.” General Patton was right. You still have to be able to fight in the trenches.

I came up from the technical side. I started out painting the collision shop – literally – that I now own when I was 15. I just never left. I got my technical education and stay involved in our local career center to help others like me. I like to get on the production floor – when they’re busy and have a lot of cars, I’m helping out with sanding and disassembly. I was just recently sanding cars at our CARSTAR Piqua store, and it makes me a better leader to see it from that side – although the team gives me a hard time about it sometimes.

If you aren’t willing to follow your process or learn what’s needed to do the job, you probably shouldn’t be in charge of people. But if you’re so committed to the cause that you will fight side-by-side to accomplish the team’s goals, you become a powerful force.

Mentoring

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

I’m a firm believer in grooming people and giving them a roadmap to success, just like a battle plan. General Patton’s approach to mentoring the troops applies today. We have an ongoing process to outline the job, provide the training and then let our team implement it. We look at daily progress reports on how we’re doing and direct the process from there. And we learn collectively – my way isn’t always the right way – but my principles and approach with their skills and fresh perspective always make us better.

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I take a “mentor-to-manager” approach. I always have several new team members from the career center and our more senior team members help them learn the ropes. We’re always grooming folks for the next opportunity. With three locations, there is always a new position that offers advancement and rewards hard work.

The Leaders

“Lead me, follow me or get out of the way.” Transitioning from an employee to a manager to an owner didn’t happen overnight, and you have to learn what is your best path. General Patton knew that not all soldiers want to lead, that not everyone should be a leader and some people aren’t going to help advance your cause.

It’s important when you set out your strategic battle plan that clearly identify the leaders, determine the responsibilities of the team and outline your method of attack. There may be some people on your team who you realize aren’t critical to the mission, so it’s best keep your resources focused on those who are.

Beyond the work I do with my team, I also serve on the CARSTAR Advisory Board for the U.S., which gives me the opportunity to work with many CARSTAR owners around the country on the challenges they’re facing and how they can move forward. I also get emails and calls from many independent owners who are seeking advice – peer to peer. I’m honored to be able to be a resource for them and help support our industry.

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I do have one quote of my own to offer, since General Patton had a bit larger budget than I do: “Watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

Tom Martin is the owner of three CARSTAR locations in Ohio – CARSTAR Sidney, CARSTAR Troy and CARSTAR Piqua. He started working in a collision repair shop at 15, then went on to purchase the business. He joined CARSTAR in 2003 with his first location. He opened his second CARSTAR location in 2014 and a third in 2019. He has long been a champion of advanced technology and also training for his team. He also donates his time to a variety of volunteer organizations, veterans in need, the homeless and youth sports. He can be reached at [email protected].

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