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DRPs, Here We Come?

Taking on DRPs will mean making loyal employees fit our new business model. And that doesn’t happen overnight. Part 9 of a series.

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For other installments in this 12-part series, click on the corresponding number: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12.

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About a year ago, a tech came in unannounced for a job. I liked him immediately. He had a detailed, two-page employment application, but hiring for our small shop usually comes down to a gut feeling. He was polite, had a firm handshake and could answer questions without looking up and to the right. Even though we weren’t looking to hire, after a short interview he became the newest member of the CollisionWorks team.

Our gut instinct didn’t fail us. He was a nice guy who did his best to get his work out. The problem was his best was rarely good enough. Turtle, as we dubbed him, didn’t make money for the shop. Ask him to assemble a radiator support job and it could take all day into the next morning before he peeped his head out of his shell. Sure, he can disassemble, but we’ve blown through many deadlines while he drowned in a routine assembly.

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But because of his positive attitude, we didn’t want to throw him away like used sandpaper. He had value; it was just up to us in management to utilize his strengths. Unless an employee is stealing supplies from the cabinet, there are few “bad traits” an employee can have. More likely, they’re liable to be a “bad fit” based on what’s needed for the particular job.

We identified Turtle’s personality traits and matched them to the traits necessary for the positions in the shop. Turtle overthinks a job when it comes to assembly, but he’s detail-oriented, accurate and surprisingly fast at disassembly. He tells us exactly what a car needs; identifies the damages, marks bolts and records parts that our estimator missed. A change in job description was in order, including helping him get his estimator license. If he keeps up the good work, we might have to change his nickname.

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Even when there’s a benefit, people are naturally resistant to change. Fear of the unknown can cause apprehension in the most positive employee. Not long ago, companies would reorganize all the time. But the companies also offered employment security, which meant that an employee might be asked to change locations or move to a different part of
the organization but kept his job and salary.

Today’s companies aren’t as inclined to protect their employees. Restructuring doesn’t have to be negative as long as management has a clear-eyed perception of what the company’s capabilities are and how readily employees can be developed. For us, restructuring means creating a faster, more streamlined process for cheaper ticket prices with higher volume to work in our favor. That means switching around the pieces of the puzzle, from having Turtle blueprint the cars to giving the receptionist larger administrative responsibilities to pulling one of the regular office guys to run errands and pick up tows. With the players in the right places, goals can be reached with the same core group.

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Of course, as much as we want a genie to nod her head and make it happen overnight, change takes time. While it was possible for our shop to make loyal people fit the new model or design, unfortunately it also meant firing a few people who refused to accept change. Negativity, when unchecked, is contagious, destructive and habitual. So when the painter decided he didn’t want to be a team player (and started leaving for the day with his backpack bulging), we let the door slap him in the heinie. Sometimes you need an example to show you’re serious about change.

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Of course, the majority of the crew was on board, but they did have some anxiety. The change itself can trigger an employee’s fear of a loss of control, competence and community. A worker used to the guys in his area isn’t gung ho about being told to move his station and fill a position he hasn’t done before. To reduce anxiety, we explained why the reorganization was taking place, what the goal was and how it would change their jobs. In other words, we let them understand we were aiming at something bigger – DRPs, fleet accounts, etc. And we made sure they understood how it was positive for them – free certification, higher pay and less stress. It’s often easier for employees to accept the change when it comes in smaller pieces. So we announced the changes in advance to give them a chance to ask questions and adjust.

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Thankfully, our gut was right regarding the majority of the folks we hired on our team. They have a lot of knowledge and pride about the jobs they perform and were able to identify issues we had previously overlooked that we’ve now incorporated into the changes.
Restructuring can be scary for everyone involved, but a few key changes can make all the difference. The smoother an operation runs, the more an owner or manager can respond to changes in the industry and create and execute new goals. And best of all, we can make it happen and still sleep at night.

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Writer Monica Dorsey is a partner at Classic CollisionWorks in Philadelphia, Pa. You can reach her at [email protected].

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