Seeds of Success: Redfield Collision Center - BodyShop Business
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Seeds of Success: Redfield Collision Center

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Name:

Redfield Collision Center

Location:

Festus, Mo.

Owner:

Greg Redfield

Established:

1976

Square Footage:

18,200

Number of Employees:

27

Repair Volume:

116 cars per month

Average Repair Cost:

$1,640

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The first Harley-Davidson motorcycle was made entirely by hand
by four men in a backyard shed. Although it started out simple,
the now-mass-produced Iron Horse ended up a huge success, symbolizing
things such as American freedom and rebelry.

But as with any success, it has to start somewhere and it usually
starts out small. Take Redfield Collision Center in Festus, Mo.
The shop may not be an internationally known name or an American
hallmark, but – like the Harley – it’s grown from humble beginnings
into a big success.

Owner Greg Redfield started the company 20 years ago with his
brother in a 60-foot x 60-foot building at the edge of town with
very little money. "Everything we’d buy," says Redfield,
"we put up for collateral."

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Now, Redfield and his wife, Collette, own a new 18,200-square-foot
facility in a high-traffic, fast-growing area of Festus. In addition
to the St. Louis and Flat River customers, his main flow of work
comes from Festus and Crystal City – which are home to about 15,000
people – and from six DRP insurance companies.

Building Loyalty and Reputation

The shop’s customers are mainly repeat patrons and referrals,
and many live up to 40 miles away. As for the DRPs, Redfield credits
his integrity with attracting the business: It’s public knowledge
Redfield Collision writes fair estimates, never charges for anything
customers don’t get and will refund money for unneeded parts.
"I think integrity in this business right now is almost more
important than quality repairs," he says.

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Redfield says his shop doesn’t have a labor-rate problem or a
problem with charging for work the shop performs. "It’s all
a matter of negotiation," he says. Insurance companies don’t
get additional discounts beyond that of the regular marketplace,
and Redfield charges the prevailing rate. "Other shops complain
because they don’t know their true cost of doing business,"
he says. "If they know the true cost of doing business and
explain to the adjuster or agent what it will cost to get the
car back in preaccident condition, they have to pay for it."

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In situations where companies refuse to pay for repairs, Redfield
will notify customers that it’s up to them to convince the companies
the repairs are accident related. Redfield tries, however, to
avoid taking this problem to his customers because he likes to
make collision repair as hassle free as possible.

Competition and Service

The four other shops in town keep Redfield hopping. "They’re
all competition," he says. "Each time you have another
shop come into town, the pie is getting smaller."

To better compete, Redfield uses various types of advertising.
Positive word of mouth – which is the result of excellent customer
service – is the shop’s strongest and best form of advertising.
Redfield also offers lifetime warranties and fixes for free rock
chips and other such types of damage. "I consider it direct
advertising costs," Redfield says, "because if customers
come back and we take care of a marginal thing, they’ll be pleased.
That spreads to good will all the way around."

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Realizing the collision-repair business is also a service business,
Redfield Collision tries to make the unfortunate collision experience
as pleasant as possible for customers, including helping to file
claims, writing and faxing estimates, taking photos, and arranging
convenient pick-up and delivery times and rides or car rentals.

In addition, production people receive monthly satisfaction reports.
Redfield is big on prompt repair time. To make sure customers’
cars are finished on time – or that customers know it won’t be
on time – daily meetings are held by managers to keep customers
informed on the progress of their cars.

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In order to help production run smoothly, Redfield implemented
an in-process sign-off sheet that every estimator, tech and painter
must sign before sending the car on down the line. If a tech needs
a part or has any other problem, he sticks a magnetic hat on the
vehicle so quality control knows to visit that tech sometime during
the day. This procedure ensures individual responsibility and
helps the cars come in and go out faster. Everything is constantly
being checked for correctness. No wrong or missing parts, etc.
Since implementing the process, Redfield says rework has dropped
by 60 percent.

To make production run even more smoothly, Redfield plans to purchase
a floor pot system for lighter pulls so the heavy pulling equipment
isn’t tied up with minor pulls.

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Managing Success

Another aspect that makes Redfield Collision exceptional is its
management staff, described as having a straightforward style.
Redfield management understands how to run a business and stresses
communication with all members of the team. Honesty and integrity
is also stressed to everyone – employees and customers alike.

The management has been with Redfield for 14 to 17 years. "I
consider that excellent since the company is only 20 years old,"
Redfield says. "And [the managers] understand the importance
of exceeding our customers every expectation, which is reflected
well by our customer-satisfaction-index [CSI] rating."

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Receiving a compliment letter from a customer before shop CSI
follow-up letters go out is Redfield’s greatest satisfaction –
along with being at a town function and hearing, "We’ve heard
nothing but good things about your company."

To track customer satisfaction, Redfield Collision utilizes the
DuPont Profit Net Management System, through which customers receive
customized thank-you letters and CSI follow-up phone calls.

Using Technology

The shop utilizes two Chief Easy Liner frame machines, two Rotary
above-ground lifts, two Saico downdraft drive-through spraybooths,
one Saico double-downdraft prep station, a computerized Hunter
four-wheel alignment system, an ADP electronic estimating program
and an in-house Peachtree accounting package. "I don’t know
how a company can function without it," says Redfield about
computer technology.

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The shop’s management system was computerized in 1988, which saved
the company according to Redfield, because it opened his eyes
to the job-costing function. "It gave us the tools needed
to measure how we were doing," he says. "The main function
of any computer software is job costing. It’s most important for
any business to know whether it’s losing or winning on the dollars
it’s dealing with."

Through using the computerized management system, Redfield discovered
that things he thought he was losing money on, he was making money
on, and things he thought he was making a profit on, he was actually
losing money on. Given this knowledge, Redfield did away with
a few services. He now sublets glass and upholstery work and has
no profit centers.

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"We found the need to devote our strict attention to late-model
collision repair only," he says. This type of work has become
the shop’s specialty – 75 percent of its jobs is usually the three
current model years – ’94s, ’95s and ’96s, for example. This,
Redfield says, is where the money’s at.

Techs and Training

To best repair those current models and best utilize the shop’s
equipment, Redfield’s technicians (seven metal techs and six painters)
are all I-CAR certified and receive updated training on their
Chief and Hunter equipment and DuPont paint system. And the same
goes for the shop’s estimators and management: ADP classes and
management seminars are attended. Redfield, a Greer Technical
Institute graduate, believes training gives techs better confidence
and makes them more efficient in their production.

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Finding the techs – serious, dedicated individuals who understand
it truly takes a complete team effort to make their own position
successful – is difficult. "The qualified techs are out there,"
he says, "but their attitudes are inferior. We look for dependable,
trustworthy people who have a desire to learn and improve themselves
– the rest of it will come naturally."

Once Redfield finds his techs, he tries his best to keep them
by offering them "a good life." They work only 40 hours
a week and no late nights or weekends. Having had this shop schedule
for years, Redfield believes it’s important for his employees
to raise their families and have some fun in life. The schedule
works because his managers keep track of the cars coming and going,
trying to schedule from five to 10 cars a day and not having 15
cars going out on Friday night, when everyone would be stressed
and "going crazy."

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The employees are reviewed twice a year – a practice Redfield
has found works. Effort is monitored, performance is graded, and
a written policy manual lets techs know exactly what’s expected
of them.

Hands Off

Since his shop is running so smoothly – and since restructuring
the company to have the other managers in place – Redfield now
has time to focus on other things, such as real-estate development.
After 20 years, he’s graduated from hands-on tasks and doesn’t
handle estimates or shop problems anymore. He doesn’t miss it,
but letting go of the reins was one of the most difficult things
Redfield has ever done – due to the worry that things wouldn’t
be done the way he’d always done them.

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Although Redfield has rid himself of the reins, it doesn’t mean
he’s finished. In the next couple of years, after the new shop
has been fine tuned, he plans to open another one.

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