Prepare well. Go fast. Keep it in a straight line. Focus on the finish. And have the will to win. These words of wisdom have guided Chris Homrich throughout his career in racing in the O.S.D.R.A. (Outlaw Sled Drag Racing Association) to podium finishes and big wins.
That guidance has also steered him from a high school student who took auto shop classes in order to get his car painted, to working in several Detroit-area collision repair facilities, to owning his own successful location and ultimately joining the CARSTAR network as CARSTAR of Hamlin in 2018.
“Winning, whether on the track or in business, is all about determination and reliability,” Homrich said. “You have to have a will to win, and abide by the mantra that ‘I will never fail’. Then you have to back that with quality repair work and great customer service.”
After high school, Homrich worked in a number of high-end collision repair shops as a painter also at an OEM painting parts and then returned to the collision shop as a body tech. He founded his own collision repair facility in 2012.
“We were growing and doing good work, but I knew I needed the front-office support if we were going to continue to succeed,” he said. “We joined CARSTAR in 2018 and have seen great benefits in terms of streamlining and improving our operating practices, increasing quality control and adding direct repair programs with insurance carriers, which we never had.”
A Detroit Double-Whammy
While his business was growing as part of the CARSTAR family, the Detroit area delivered a one-two punch, first with the GM strike in August 2019 – which kept thousands of workers at home and not on the roads – followed by the city being hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were just seeing the positive impact of the CARSTAR partnership when this hit,” Homrich said. “But they were great in providing support with vendors, getting us the PPE we needed and helping us navigate the federal loan program. We are coming back, and our sales are up 15% to 20%. I’m optimistic for the future, but we need to get people driving again.”
During the downtime, Homrich revamped his parts operation, adding parts carts and bins, new inventory and invoicing procedures, mirror matching and a parts return process, all of which helps ensure there are no delays in cycle time.
Advice for Students
Homrich, who is looking to hire new technicians, recommended that any high school student considering their career opportunities give thought to a vocational education.
“It’s a great avenue for an 18-year-old,” he said. “You graduate ready to go to work. You have a positive income. If you aren’t suited for college, you can spend a lot of money and have to dig out afterward, particularly if don’t pursue a career in the field you studied.”
Homrich said young adults should be willing to look themselves in the mirror and be honest with themselves about whether four-year college is for them, or if they’re just trying to please their parents.
Homrich puts his money where his advice is, supporting the Oakland Schools Technical Campuses with funding, product donations and internships. He also has hired a number of technicians from the school.
As he looks to the future, Homrich is exploring adding aluminum and structural steel capabilities as business improves, then pursuing OEM certifications.
“You have to create your customer base and protect that, then balance all of the new items and offerings you need for success. It’s all about your will to win. Just like in racing, you have to think big and manage your big projects yourself. This hands-on approach is what makes you successful.”