Happiness can be contagious, and Kumler Collision & Automotive owner Dean DeRolph takes this philosophy to the bank every day, investing heavily in employee satisfaction to reap the resultant customer satisfaction.
Kumler, located in Lancaster, Ohio, and founded in 1928, recently was recognized as the Large Business of the Year by the Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes businesses with records of community service, sound business practices and innovative approaches to service.
|At a Glance: Kumler Collision & Automotive
Owner: Dean DeRolph
Location: Lancaster, Ohio
2009 Sales: $5.5 million ($4.5 million collision; $1 million mechanical)
Shop size: 21,000 square feet
The 21,000-square-foot collision and mechanical shop employs 33 people, and DeRolph credits those employees many of whom have been with the company for decades with his success. He believes that investing in training and providing generous employee incentives and benefits helps his staff members take pride in their work.
“You always hear business owners say, ‘It’s about the people,’ when they win an award,” DeRolph said. “It is about the people, but it’s about having the right people.”
DeRolph’s business is on the rebound after taking a big hit in 2008, when it had sales of around $4.1 million in collision and $750,000 in mechanical.
“We certainly had the capacity for more, but the work just simply was not there in a local economy hit very hard by $4-per-gallon gasoline and a loss of a couple major employers in our town,” DeRolph said. “And at the same time, we had some strong lean initiatives in progress, which made the down year seem more exaggerated.”
But rather than sit idle, DeRolph invested in employee training Kumler is I-CAR Gold Class certified and geared up for a transition to using waterborne paints.
“That is the time to embrace new technology,” DeRolph said. “What can we do smarter to put out a better product? We are always on the cutting edge, and you have to have people that embrace that.”
In 2009, Kumler’s collision sales rebounded to $4.5 million, with mechanical sales at $1 million. DeRolph says he’s especially proud of the comeback since the shop made its full waterborne transition in 2009, “which was a great move, but certainly an adjustment,” he said.
DeRolph says the key to his success is employee retention, which is buoyed by an array of incentives, including:
A four-year apprenticeship program for techs provided through the Ohio Apprenticeship Council, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training.
A benefits package that includes “generous” paid vacations, flexible hours, 401(k), paid sick days and health insurance.
Paid training and CSI bonuses.
Company-owned air tools, tool boxes and other equipment.
Employees who have at least 20 years of service receive a company car: “We have a number of individuals at that mark now, and they’re still in their late 30s or very early 40s,” DeRolph noted.
DeRolph says he’s equipping his staff to give customers the best repair experience possible.
“We, as most good employers, empower all our employees to give outstanding customer service, from the guy washing cars to team leaders,” he said. “We show them great respect, as our philosophy is that ‘happy people make people happy.’”
Kumler Collision & Automotive
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