From Paralegal to Three-Store Owner

From Paralegal to Three-Store Owner

I didn't plan on being in the collision repair business, but now with three shops, there's no looking back.

I didn’t plan on being in the collision repair business. In 1997, I was working as a paralegal in Denver when my brother Jeff asked me to help with accounting at his growing collision repair shop. When he decided to build a ground-up location across town, I was pressed into full-time duty and left my paralegal job behind.

My legal background was helpful in negotiating real estate and building the new location, but with no body shop experience, I had to teach myself the collision repair business day by day. When that location opened in 2001, I became part of the leadership team.

A Crazy Journey

Today, as the co-owner of three collision repair locations in Denver — CARSTAR Ideal Northglenn, CARSTAR Ideal Arvada and CARSTAR Ideal Littleton — I manage all aspects of the business, from the technical side of collision repairs to customer service, estimating and bookkeeping. It’s been one heck of a journey, complete with a few bumps and wrong turns on the road to success.


Our business was greatly impacted by 9/11, and we were faced with the challenge of owning a new 20,000-square-foot building and experiencing a decline in business. Because I lacked experience in the industry, I knew I needed help to survive. CARSTAR became the solution. My brother and I embraced everything that was offered to us through CARSTAR and learned to run our business by the numbers. It took time and a willingness to relearn everything we were doing in order to survive the economic environment in 2007 and 2008.

Once we had a solid foundation in place, I was able to work with my brother to start growing the business. We set goals and worked with CARSTAR and our peers in the industry to map out our plans. We learned to adapt to the constant changes within our industry and never stop trying to learn.
Lessons Learned

One critical thing I’ve learned is the importance of the numbers. I think we have a very strong understanding of our numbers. We make sure our data every month is clean and concise. You cannot measure your business without having reliable numbers.

A second critical thing I learned is the value of networking. I’ve developed many relationships with CARSTAR owners around the country, as well as non-CARSTAR owners and vendor partners. Their input and experience are tremendously valuable, because any challenge I run into, they may have already faced.

A third thing I learned is that our team is our biggest asset. My brother and I have surrounded ourselves with very talented staff, including several family members. Quite frankly, we could not do what we do without them. They truly are our key to success.


The bottom line is that anyone can succeed in the collision repair industry. Working in this business has turned into an exciting and rewarding career for me. Now, I want to do what I can to inspire future generations and get them excited about this industry.

You May Also Like

Planning a Buyout of Your Auto Body Shop

You’re looking to retire and your partner wants to buy you out.
What is the first step in this planning process?

I recently received an email from a shop owner who wanted to discuss a business situation and see if I might be able to give him some advice. 

Frank (as I will call him) was in his early 60s and had a partner who wanted to retire and have Frank buy him out. Frank was more than willing to do this yet was looking to exit himself at some point and have his son take over. While he and his partner had worked out a deal for their buyout, he was unsure on how to proceed. Given the complexities in creating a vision and plan for their future, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the first — and most important — step in this planningprocess.

Consolidation Update: The Big Merger

The Service King-Crash Champions merger is a great indicator that financial interest in the collision industry remains strong.

Removing Insurers from the Collision Repair Process

Who is the customer? Is the vehicle owner’s angry uncle the customer? Is the vehicle owner the customer? The insurer? Let’s find out.

Auto Body Shop Management: Silo or Synergy?

If you had a boardroom of trusted advisors, who would have a seat at the table?

Do You Have a True Team at Your Auto Body Shop?

Are you proud of the team you’re on at work? Would you call it a team? Does it have chemistry?

Other Posts

Auto Glass Now Colonial Heights Opens in Virginia

Derek Merriweather, manager of Auto Glass Now Colonial Heights, joins the growing auto glass family with 14 years of industry experience.

Crash Champions Donates Recycled Ride to Charlotte Veteran

Crash Champions, NABC and GEICO donated a refurbished vehicle to Cyril Smith, a Charlotte, N.C., Army veteran. 

Maaco Celebrates Women Leaders

On the heels of International Women’s Day and in light of Women’s History Month, Maaco is highlighting a few of the many women who have helped it succeed.

Consolidator Report

Consolidation news from the week of March 20.