News: Consolidator Report
Congratulations to our 30th collision repair professional to be honored with this prestigious award!
Joseph Carubba, owner, president and CEO of Carubba Collision Corp., became the 30th collision repair professional to be honored with BodyShop Business’s prestigious Collision Repair Shop Executive of the Year award when he was recognized on Oct. 17, 2013, at NACE. BodyShop Business began handing out the award in 1984 to recognize true collision repair “visionaries” who have experienced great success through innovative thinking, overcoming challenges and persevering.
Carubba’s collision career spans more than 33 years. He now leads a seven-store, family-owned and operated business based in Buffalo, N.Y.
The main reason for the BodyShop Business staff selecting Carubba over dozens of other qualified candidates is his dedication to giving back to the industry. Not only has he grown his own business into a thriving, state-of-the-art operation, he has put in the time and resources to lift up the entire industry and be an example for his colleagues to follow. His industry-related activities are numerous:
- Participant in the Collision Industry Conference
- Advisory board member and past chairman for the Western New York Board of Cooperative Educational Services
- Member of the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers
- Advisory board member and past chairman of the Erie Community College Repair Program
- Member of the Collision Repair Council of the Theory of Constraints
- Board of directors, Western New York Better Business Bureau
Carubba has also made numerous donations of time and money to charitable activities in his community, including:
- The New York State Golden Gloves
- University of Buffalo
- U.S. military defensive driving class
- Tonawanda Police Department K-9 unit and SWAT team
- North Tonawanda SWAT team
- Niagara County Sheriff’s K-9 unit
- Western New York food bank
We talked with Carubba to get his own personal take on why he and his organization have been so successful.
BSB: If you could name one single reason for your success, what would it be?
Carubba: We have great people. I know that has probably been said too often by other company leaders, but I truly believe it’s the people who work for us who have made us successful. The other factor is working harder and smarter – all those 12-hour days for 30-plus years pursuing a better way to do things. That’s what brought me to the Theory of Constraints (TOC) production system years ago.
BSB: Consistency and quality are valued by both vehicle owners and insurers. How do you ensure this at your operation?
Carubba: We have written standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are continually being taught by our in-house corporate trainer. He uses job instruction training, a method we picked up from industry expert Rich Alteri. Our trainer, Randy Pinkowski, and our managers are constantly doing audits on our SOPs and re-training when we see any failures.
BSB: What operational system do you follow?
Carubba: We’ve been using TOC for more than 12 years now. It was another thing that was suggested to me by Rich Alteri. We also had a great implementer, John Thompson. Besides my father, I learned tons from those two guys. We depend on the system to run the shop; it’s brought us to a new level. Each job goes through the process, and we break up the shop into separate departments that all work for a global goal.
It all starts with the damage discovery. An accurate and complete estimate is the key to good shop flow. Then, the job goes to the parts procurement process. During disassembly, each part that comes off the car is analyzed for damage, tagged and listed for repair, R & I or replacement. Photos are taken so that when the electronic parts order goes in, the photo accompanies the order. When parts are received, we double check each part upon delivery for damage and correctness. We use parts carts for all take-off parts and new parts. We know that when we can hand over a job to our production departments and all the damage is identified and all the correct parts are there, the job will flow through the shop seamlessly.
We dedicate a lot of square footage and staff members to the front end, but it pays off with good flow. It’s the reason we’re successful giving the proper price and promised date. We take in a lot of work, so we have to be sure that we aren’t clogging the shop with dysfunctional jobs. After the front end work is done, the production departments are very good at pulling the work through. Once in a while, we have a bottleneck in paint, but when that happens we dedicate more staff and hours to the paint shop.
BSB: Comment on the sophistication of modern-day vehicles and how Carubba Collision Corp. is equipped and trained to handle them.
Carubba: We’re continually upgrading our equipment, and we have some great alliances with vendors that are keeping us abreast of the new technology available to us. We’re also keeping current with I-CAR and manufacturer training and repair methods.
BSB: What about the trend of consolidation? Are you looking to expand, and how quickly?
Carubba: I am continually looking for good opportunities, but the deal has to be really right these days. But more of my focus the last two years has been on our SOPs so that when the right deal comes along, we’re ready to transition our system into the new acquisition. I say “acquisition” because, through experience, I’ve found it’s much easier than a startup.
BSB: Being a smaller multi-shop operator, do you have a strategy to compete with the mega-sized MSOs?
Carubba: If mega-sized MSOs come to Buffalo, we’ll have our hands full I’m sure, but if we continue to make quality, speed, cost and customer convenience our top priorities, I think we’ll do fine. I think you have to go head to head with each individual shop that is in your market area and not get distracted by the entirety of their organizations. Plus, I feel good about our customer loyalty. We’ve been repairing three generations of customers’ vehicles, and they keep coming back for a reason. I trust that will continue as long as we keep them happy and safe.
BSB: Collision shops are having a tough time finding qualified technicians. What are you doing to ensure your operation has a good stable of qualified techs now and in the future?
Carubba: We’re always growing from within. We have a mentorship program. On the production side, we’ve turned a lot of entry-level disassemblers into great A techs, on the paint side we’ve turned a lot of prep techs into phenomenal painters, and on the administration side we’ve turned a lot of guest services people into solid estimators. If we see the right work ethic and character, we work hard with people to move them up. That’s not to say we don’t have great career disassemblers, preppers and guest services people; we do, and they’re worth their weight in gold. But some people use those positions to springboard to other positions, and we encourage that when the circumstances are right.
We also have an alliance with area colleges and vocational programs and do apprentice programs with them. Last but not least, I don’t burn bridges. When employees want to leave for what they think are greener pastures, I wish them well but also make sure they know to call me if things don’t work out for them. More often than not, we get them back.
BSB: What do you think about the DRP/non-DRP rift in the industry?
Carubba: I believe in DRP programs 100 percent. I’m very fortunate to be aligned with great insurance carriers. The carriers that view DRP shops as partners are fantastic to work with. The ones we’re aligned with share the same goals as us (quality, speed, cost, customer care and convenience). We go through stringent testing and auditing to stay on these programs, and we’ve earned their respect by taking care of our mutual customers. It’s a seamless process when we get a job that’s a DRP. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
BSB: What are your thoughts on electronic parts procurement?
Carubba: We use CollisionLink and electronic parts ordering. It’s great – why fight technology? The days of calling in parts orders are gone. There are too many chances that things could get lost in translation. The shop has to take the responsibility of ordering the proper parts, and electronic parts ordering is the first step. As far as insurers having a role in the parts process, I’m okay with it. I’ll try anything that our insurance partner wants me to as long as it has our mutual customers’ best interests in mind. And I trust that it will because that has always been the case for me in my 33 years in the business.
BSB: Crashes have been declining since the late ’80s-early ’90s for many reasons, one being better technology. With a decreasing repair pool, have you explored other business ventures?
Carubba: We stick to what we know best and we give it our all. I’ve tried in the past to branch off to various add-on businesses, but they became a distraction to our core business. My plan has always been to grow our market share, and we’ve been doing just that. There has been a decrease in accidents, and more vehicles are being totaled, but if we grow our customer base through great performance, the repeats and referrals will continue and thus we should be able to continually increase our sales and profits.
BSB: What will the average shop look like in 10 to 15 years?
Carubba: It will have more electronic equipment and be more industrialized. I see even more defined work areas for certain operations, and more specialists. The front office will have insurers, rental agencies and customer conveniences. It will probably be like walking into a doctor’s office or hospital.
BSB: What have you done that other shops can mimic to improve their own business?
Carubba: Implement TOC (we were the first in the area); have a rental car agency in your shop; offer defensive driving classes to your customers for free; have a separate area for customer reception, car rental and repair planning that’s away from the production area; heavily advertise; and recycle everything you take off that is recyclable.
At a Glance
Location: Buffalo, N.Y.
Established: 1955; Carubba Collision Corp. in 1981
No. Of Shops: 7
Square Footage: 13,000 (avg.)
Owners: Joe Carubba and John Carubba
No. Of Employees: 115 (16 estimators, 4 production managers, 45 body/paint techs, 10 disassembly techs, 14 detailers, 1 IT person, 25 administrators)
Gross Sales: $19 million
Repair Volume/No. Of Cars Per Month: 900
Average Repair Cost: $1,800
Behind the Bays
Estimating System: CCC1
Management System: CCC1
Spraybooths: Nova Verta
Lifts: Hunter, Rotary
Measuring/Dimensioning System: Car-O-Tronic
Welding Equipment: Car-O-Liner, Miller, Hobart, USC Nitrogen Plastic Welder
Paint Mixing System: Dedoes, PPG Paint Manager