Running a Family Collision Business: Stay in Your Lane - BodyShop Business
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Running a Family Collision Business: Stay in Your Lane

In a family business, it’s important to divide the duties and respect each other’s lanes.

Sheila Samuel-Lefor owns three collision repair locations with her brother Jeff Samuel in Denver — CARSTAR Ideal Northglenn, CARSTAR Ideal Arvada and CARSTAR Ideal Littleton. She is the 2020 recipient of the NABC Changing and Saving Lives Award. Sheila and Jeff also earned the 2019 CARSTAR President’s Award.

Co-owning three collision repair locations in Denver with my brother — CARSTAR Ideal Northglenn, CARSTAR Ideal Arvada and CARSTAR Ideal Littleton — I’ve had an opportunity to learn and grow with him and create a business for the next generations of our family.

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No Plan

I didn’t plan on being in an automotive business with my brother Jeff. I was working as a paralegal for an oil-and-gas attorney. I also did Jeff’s books and saw their growth year over year, which opened my eyes to the potential. 

Jeff started his career in a two-car garage more than 30 years ago. He and his partner at the time moved up to a small 4,500-square-foot repair facility and needed assistance with the accounting. I started helping them out, and by 1999, Jeff outgrew his location. That’s when we decided to move forward and build our flagship repair facility. The rest, as they say, is history.

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But going into business with a family member requires careful consideration. Do you share the same vision? Do you approach work with the same passion and commitment? Do you have skill sets that complement each other?

Staying in Our Lanes

There are certainly some dynamics involved in a brother-sister team running the business. Jeff and I complement each other — he has his strengths and so do I, so we fill each other’s gaps. We’ve learned over the years that communication is the key. We both have respect for one another in every aspect of our lives, whether it’s business or personal. We’re both very committed, and each of us work equally hard to ensure our businesses are successful.  

It’s important to divide the duties and respect each other’s lanes. There is no time in a busy collision repair business for second-guessing each other or doing tasks twice. Jeff handles everything on the production side of our business. His early years were spent working on cars, from body work to painting. He has a very strong knowledge of the repair process and is truly the “go-to guy” for most of our technicians when they have a problem. I, on the other hand, handle the financial side of our business as well as all of the front office processes and procedures. Through our growth, we’ve transitioned our roles as our responsibilities have expanded. We’ve added two strong operation managers as well as very knowledgeable general managers at each store. This has provided an additional layer of support, but we’re still very involved in our stores and work in them every day.

Over the more than 20 years Jeff and I have worked together, we’ve evolved and come to understand each of our strengths and weaknesses. We really stay out of each other’s lanes and do what we know how to do best. Large decisions are never independently decided — we talk about everything. It’s not very often that we’re not on the same page. Believe me when I say there have been times when we’ve driven each other crazy, but because of our mutual respect, we get through everything.  

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My Person

There are great benefits to working with your family. I’ve always referred to Jeff as “my person,” as he knows how to be the voice of reason and supports me even when he doesn’t agree with some of my ideas. We afford each other flexibility and truly understand what the other person may need even before we ourselves know what we need. It hasn’t always been easy, but with every passing year, our businesses grow and thrive because of our teamwork.  

We are truly a family business with many layers of family working within our organization. We often laugh that we cannot buy another store because we’re out of family members to run them. The fact is that our family dynamic works because we all love and respect one another. We know at the end of the day that we may not always agree, but we’re all committed to the success of our stores. 

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We all work equally hard, and I would not want to be in this crazy business without the family that works with us every day. Jeff and I truly know that every family member who works in our stores is a large part of our success, and we truly appreciate each and every one of them. We also have many loyal team members who have been with us for years and truly consider them family as well. It truly takes a village to do what we do — and we have one heck of an amazing village!

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