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Finding Your Body Shop’s Competitive Advantage in a Changing Industry

Our business philosophy and strategy has taken us from the one 5,500-square-foot shop Dad started to the 17 locations we currently serve throughout New York.

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Joe Carubba is owner, president and CEO of Carubba Collision Corp., a multi-shop operation in Western New York that has grown to four main offices, a dealer satellite office and six production facilities. He has worked in the auto body industry for 35 years, starting out with his father part-time in the 1970s sweeping floors and cleaning cars. He was named the BodyShop Business Executive of the Year in 2013. His philanthropic efforts have included Make-A-Wish, the Food Bank of WNY, and many others. He can be reached at [email protected]

When Dad started Carubba Collision back in 1955, competitive advantage was the result of quality workmanship. Auto body and collision repair was a craft, and technicians were craftsmen. The vehicle owner was the customer, and the mantra at the time was, “Quality is job No. 1.” In the 1960s, word of mouth, repeat customers and customer referrals were our primary source of business and growth.

Big Change

In Ben Franklin’s quote, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes,” he suggests that everything else is subject to change. And wow did the auto body business and industry begin to see more drastic change.

The 1970s brought more change as the unibody, front-wheel drive and lightweight high-strength steel started to become new realities, enabling the downsizing of vehicles that promised better gas mileage and structural integrity to better protect passengers during a collision.

Like many progressive auto body and collision repair shops, we still focused on quality, differentiating our shop by promoting equipment, tooling and facilities as the proof of our commitment to quality. Our advertising communicated our ability to deliver the best quality due to our modern facility and our investment in the most modern tooling: “We match the manufacturers’ paint quality by investing in our dedicated paint room and cross-flow spraybooth. Our unibody repair bench will restore your vehicle to its pre-damaged condition, and our trained technicians have over 300 collective years of experience.”

The 1980s

The 1980s brought about the most significant changes of the last three decades. The fax machine, IBM’s introduction of the personal computer, and software helped us become more business savvy, improve our estimating skills and understand key performance indicators, all of which were critical to our continued success. Computer-assisted estimating gave insurers the ability to develop and manage the DRP process, which had been introduced at a much smaller level nearly 20 years earlier.

Armed with a better understanding of the business, we expanded our focus to include the quality of our customer’s experience and improve our business efficiencies.

The Year 2000

Insurance companies continued to strengthen their DRPs in the early 2000s. We didn’t think of insurance-driven DRPs as a challenge; we saw them as an opportunity for continued growth and profitability. We recognized that critical to the insurer’s success was their ability to keep customers from leaving due to a poor claims (repair) experience, reduce cost by working with strategic business partners to lower cycle time and the cost of rental, and finally to deliver the best quality, speed and cost while delivering the highest-quality workmanship, the best customer (policyholder) experience, and the best length of rental – all at competitive price points.

Creating and maintaining the best quality, speed and cost is a win for the customer as well as the shop and the shop’s mutual customer, the vehicle owner.

Theory of Constraints

The theory of constraints (TOC) helped us develop a solid understanding of workflow and production scheduling and where we needed to focus our efforts. This understanding led us to the development of our A+ blueprinting and repair planning system.

Today

We believe our competitive advantage today is quality workmanship and the customer experience resulting from our investment in both technical and business training. We’re proud of our competitive advantage of speed and the fact that our average cycle time is better than the industry average.

And the only true competitive advantage is profit, because without profit, we could never make the commitment and investment in our ability to outperform our competitors. While we will not divulge how our bottom line is doing, suffice it to say that we’re doing OK.

Our business philosophy and strategy has taken us from the one 5,500-square-foot shop Dad started to the 17 locations we currently serve throughout New York.

We view employees, insurers and vehicle owners as customers and stakeholders. And we believe the root cause of our success, today and in the future, is understanding that:

  • Continuous growth has to be our goal.
  • Growing in today’s market requires us to increase market share.
  • Repeat, customer referrals, insurance referrals, DRP and OE certifications are strategic to own the position as repairer of choice in the markets we serve.
  • Creating and delivering the best quality, speed and cost is critical to owning the position of repairer of choice.
  • The best performance is the result of our teamwork and the best systems and processes.
  • The best systems and processes are the result of the best stakeholders (employees, insurers, suppliers).
  • The best stakeholders are the result of the culture we created.
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