Mistaken Identity - BodyShop Business

Mistaken Identity

Attributing the ownership of 17 collision-repair facilities with more than $22 million in annual sales to a mistake is a bit hard to swallow. But for Bruce Mackie, president of Mackie Enterprises, Inc., it's the true story of his success.

From department manager to merchandise manager
to controller and, finally, operating manager, Mackie worked his
way through the employee ranks of Montgomery Ward. Passed up for
further promotion because he was too young, he realized that unless
he became his own boss, unless he opened his own business, he
would face the same problem again.

"I knew I wanted to own my own business,"
he says. "I just felt that was the way to go."

Well aware that starting his own business
would take some time, he left Montgomery Ward and started working
as a bookkeeper for a friend who owned an autobody shop. It was
this accidental involvement in the collision-repair industry that
lead to Mackie’s eventual start-up and acquisition of 17 facilities,
as well as his No. 1 ranking on Dun & Bradstreet’s list of
the "Top 100" independent collision-repair facilities
in the nation.

"I didn’t realize how similar running
multiple shops was to being a merchandise manager in a department
store that had 50 departments that were all basically independent
businesses," says Mackie. "You learn how to work through
a manager and how to get people to work as a team. I’ve taken
that same philosophy out into my business. The only difference
now is that everyone’s under different roofs."

Like the millions of other professionals who
balance careers and family life, Mackie tries to spend as much
time with his family as he can. A husband and a father of two,
he tries to adhere to an 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. work schedule. Even
after the time clock has been punched and dinner is on the table,
Mackie finds it hard to completely escape the business world.

"My seven-year-old daughter has an interest
in opening a toy factory with three locations," he says.
"She’s going to hire her 10-year-old brother."

In his professional life, one of Mackie’s
strongest skills is listening to others and not assuming he knows
everything because of his position. When making business decisions,
he considers input from anyone giving it. And with 270 people
employed at Mackie Enterprises, that can be a lot of input.

"I think I learned through my career
at Montgomery Ward – where I had 27 department managers reporting
to me and 410 employees – how to delegate and streamline the information-collecting
process," he says.

Mackie enjoys bringing all the components
of a business together, but admits he relies on his staff to help
reach the company’s goals. "If you give [people] responsibility,"
he says, "they tend to do a better job."

The corporate staff he relies on consists
of two marketing people, a DRP coordinator, an operations manager
and area managers who oversee five or six stores each. Mackie
is looking to increase the size of his staff by adding a chief
financial officer and someone who can take the company multistate
and public.

"I want to concentrate on the core business
and let them take us to our ultimate goal – to the public market
– and then beyond that into a national chain," he says.

Concentrating on the core business includes
taking care of employees. As a former Montgomery Ward employee
whose career was, well, a dead end, Mackie considers a career
path in his company to be the No. 1 employee benefit. Insisting
there are no barriers for a detailer who wants to become a regional
or district manager, Mackie looks to promote current employees
before hiring new ones.

Another benefit he takes pride in offering
his employees is ongoing training. At Mackie Enterprises, a company-specific
training center – set up like a retail store – has been designed
to train both current and new employees – from receptionist to
detailer. Mackie believes it’s those kind of benefits that foster
loyal employees.

"Loyalty is everything to me," he
says. "If I have [people who are] loyal, I can usually get
them to achieve as much as they’re capable of achieving, maybe

Since opening his first three shops in Northern
California in 1992, Mackie, now in his early 40s, has adjusted
his business goals.

"Every year, I sit down on New Year’s
Eve and set one-, three-, five- and 10-year goals, both personally
and professionally," he says. "It’s been an evolution,
but the goal presently is to build [the business] into a public
company and to try it on the stock exchange."

Describing himself as someone who follows
through on what he says, Mackie plans to take Mackie Enterprises
public in one or two years.

"More than anything else, I enjoy the
business," he says. "I enjoy building it. It’s not a
dollars-and-cents issue. It’s just trying to – I hate to sound
arrogant about it – but to be the industry leader."

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