Building a Winning Team - BodyShop Business

Building a Winning Team

Are the people who help you run your shop first-string or just benchwarmers? Choosing trustworthy and hard-working managers can make or break your shop's progress and success. Does your team have what it takes to win in the competitive game of collision repair?

Are your managers “starting line-up” quality? They should be. As leaders in your business and as potential candidates to one day take your place at the helm of your shop, making sure your management team is prepared to tackle any problem is crucial to the success of your business.

I serve as president and CEO of Three-C Body Shops, Inc. and consider myself an entrepreneur who knows the importance of building and training strong managers. Heading up a business that grew from a Mom-and-Pop shop pulling in little more than $100,000 a year in 1984 to a $15 million body shop empire certainly takes some guts and determination – but it also takes the support of a good management team.

I committed myself to building a management team that would be more than just backup. I wanted my associates to be an integral component of Three-C’s success, so I spent countless hours and a significant amount of money cultivating managers I could trust. And I’m well aware of the challenges entrepreneurs face in training talented managers. My first obstacle is the very definition of entrepreneurship.

Know When to Say When
The word “entrepreneurship” essentially means “doing it yourself.” So when expansion and growth make it necessary to share responsibility and authority, some of the most successful entrepreneurs find it very hard to let go. However, the only way to grow is to choose and empower managers who can lead your company to loftier heights. As an entrepreneur, you need to pass on some of your responsibilities to these managers, which will improve the productivity of your business. The less often an owner deals with everyday operations, the more he can concentrate on strategic planning for the company’s future.

The decision to let go of a responsibility is a milestone, but handing that responsibility off to the right people is crucial. Three-C currently has a 10-person senior management team composed of carefully drafted professionals. I needed people who could bring a vast and diversified background into all aspects of their work. I also looked for people who could implement change quickly and effectively.

Invest in Your Employees
With the right people on staff, you’ve made the first step toward strong management. But don’t let your savvy selection efforts go to waste. Even a highly qualified staff has much to learn from their business owner; you must invest the time to make your good managers great. Like most entrepreneurs, I’m very busy and my schedule is quite full. But I still make time to mentor my team and pass on the valuable information and skills I’ve developed over the years in the industry. I also make it a point to constantly review basic business and industry cornerstones with my managers. By continually repeating the tried and true rules of business, you condition your staff and give them a solid foundation on which to make business decisions.

I also invest a hefty sum of money in a formal training program – a quarter of a million dollars a year to be exact. Managers and technicians participate in the rigorous training. While the price tag is considerable, I want an exceptional management staff to lead my company in the future, so I believe it’s well worth the cost.

Keep ‘Em Loyal
My management team is the product of a significant investment of time and money. Keeping a staff for the long haul is a key aspect. Three-C was the first to implement the Golden Handcuff Plan in the collision repair industry as a way of convincing employees to remain with the shop. It’s a deferred-compensation program resembling a 401K retirement plan that makes payments to employees who work at Three-C until they retire.

I’ve also selected a few top managers to join an ownership program. I offer a 50 percent ownership opportunity in three of the companies five production facilities located in Hebron, Lancaster and Chillicothe, Ohio. I carefully select partners I think will strengthen and bring a new dimension to Three-C. It also frees up my time so I can plan for the future.

Choosing Your Line-Up
Here are some tips to get a high-scoring starting line-up in your shop:

  • Give it up. Make a conscious commitment to relinquish some of your responsibilities. After all, that’s what managers are for.
  • Don’t settle for second best. When it comes to your managers, search for the right people to fill these important positions. Don’t hire anyone until you have the perfect fit.
  • Double your value. Valuable managers make you more valuable as well. The more you trust your manager, the more time you have to plan your business’ growth.
  • Learn something new, but remember the old. Offer ongoing mentoring and training opportunities, so your managers will stay current and enthusiastic about the industry and the future. Also remember to reinforce industry basics so your managers will have a strong foundation to grow from.
  • Don’t let the good ones get away. Benefits and incentives will help keep your top associates on staff.
  • If at first you don’t succeed … try, try again. If you find an employee who exhibits strong management traits but doesn’t excel in the first management position you assign him, allow him to manage a different department or division. People excel at different areas, so give him a chance to become first string.

Writer Bob Juniper is president and CEO of Three-C Body Shops, a $15 million body shop network located throughout central Ohio.

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