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The Tale of One Shop Continues…

…..with Paul and Teresa Slate

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In the second chapter of our tale, Paul and
Teresa Slate struggle with insurance decisions, solve their computer
problems and search for a new technician.

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In June, we introduced you to Paul and Teresa
Slate, new body shop owners in Tennessee who agreed to share their
experiences – both positive and negative – with us. The first
chapter took us through their first year in business; in this
second chapter, we’ll read from Teresa and Paul’s April, May and
June journal entries:

Sincerely, Teresa

April 1996

– Attended my first Society of Collision Repair Specialists meeting
in Nashville. Our assistant manager and I learned a lot of good
information regarding our industry’s concerns and changes. Although
we had become SCRS members last year, we were reassured of the
value of SCRS membership and strongly encourage other shops to
become active members.

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– We’ve finally made a breakthrough with our estimating- and shop-management-software
supplier. We did have to purchase an additional Pentium 133-mhz
computer to perform as a file server and install Novell software
to the network, and we’re presently waiting to have the multiuser
estimating and management software installed.

– Business has been very good for us ever since day one. This
has challenged us in many ways because the customer has to be
satisfied with quality, as well as time-span performance. It’s
also challenged us in scheduling and staffing. We’ve implemented
the use of a magnetic, dry-erase board for listing each vehicle,
owner, description, R.O. number, status and projected completion,
along with comments regarding each job. This has provided a quick,
visual picture of the status of each job in an organized format.
It’s also served to help us organize and visualize our production
flow.

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– We’ve begun to investigate the purchase of a new paint booth.
The proposal is to relocate one of our frame machines and install
a booth much closer to our present paint-mix room. This would
provide greater efficiency in product and personnel movement.
The biggest improvement would be in providing a controlled temperature
and a pressurized environment, resulting in paint-quality and
paint-cost improvements. We have gathered literature through magazine
inquiry forms and through the exhibits at NACE, and we’ve invited
three booth suppliers to the shop.

– When we bought Lyk-Nu, so many challenges and decisions faced
us that we felt continuing with all of the previous owner’s insurance
policies (liability, workman’s compensation, health) would be
one less hurdle to tackle. But with reaching our one-year anniversary
this month, we decided it was time to re-evaluate. Now I would
guess we’re like most shop owners: Insurance is the last thing
we’re interested in talking about. But, when you consider that
your insurance decisions not only affect you and your family,
but your employees’ families, as well as the fate of your shop,
you’re humbled and considerate in these decisions.

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Because we’ve doubled our number of employees this first year,
workman’s compensation had to go up. Our volume has increased,
as well as the value of the cars repaired; therefore, we felt
a responsibility to increase our garage-keeper’s liability to
ensure protection for our customers’ property. Those two choices
were pretty clear-cut, but health insurance has been a different
ballgame. We were told our premiums would go up, so we felt it
best to inquire about other policies with different benefits and
more options. All the information you receive is totally overwhelming
and confusing. That, coupled with the fact that you want to make
the best decision for your employees, serves to make the insurance
question mind boggling.

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After the daily pressures of a day, you don’t want to think about
insurance. Nor can you concentrate on it during the day. This
dilemma has served to be the most stressful part of this month,
and at this writing, we still have not made a final decision on
health insurance. Thank goodness renewals come only once a year.
Perhaps after we work through this for several years, the decisions
about what is best for our shop and our employees will become
a lot easier. As relatively new owners, we’re still somewhat overwhelmed
about doing the right things, and that can certainly bog down
your decision-making process.

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May 1996

– One of the good events this month has been that our two sons,
ages 16 and 18, are out of school and working with us full time.
It’s always enjoyable to have them at the shop. Not only are they
helpful, but they’re learning a lot about running the business
and how their parents handle customers, employees and difficult
decisions. Our oldest son graduated and will start college in
the fall. This summer, we’ll begin our plan for him to learn to
run the shop.

– Our biggest struggle this month has been searching for another
qualified body technician. We hired a former autobody teacher
– who has proven to be an asset to our team – from a local technical
school. He’s a great worker, understands the importance of customer
satisfaction and offers new ideas and techniques for improvement.

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– We also hired a student from the Nashville Auto Diesel College
to work with us part time. This allows the student to apply practical
experience with his education and allows us to possibly train
a new body technician for the shop.

– We finally got our computer-network hardware set up and working,
but we’re still waiting for the multiuser software to be installed
and for us to be trained on the updated system. This should all
occur in June. We’ll then be able to perform estimates from more
than one computer, and all the data will be in a single data-storage
file. The shop-management system can also be fully implemented
and reduces some of our manual paperwork.

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June 1996

– One of the highlights this month has been the response to our
article in BodyShop Business. A pleasant surprise has been people
from all over the country calling just to say congratulations.

– We made our reservations for NACE. Last year’s experience served
to affirm our pride in being a part of the collision-repair industry,
so we’re planning to have our two sons and assistant manager fly
to Orlando on Friday to participate in the weekend’s events.

Sincerely, Paul

June 1996

– Our computer problems were pretty much solved this month. We
plan to implement our shop- management software network on July
1, which will mean our process of ordering and returning parts,
shop orders, job costing and daily paper-work routine will change
significantly.

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– All in one day, our detail technician decided to quit without
notice just before lunch, and just after lunch, our main painter’s
house burned down. We all pitched in to get the vehicles ready
for delivery, and I got into the paint booth and painted some
cars.

– We’ve been contemplating the purchase of a new paint booth for
some time and June was the month for the decision. After visiting
several shops in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, we decided on
a make and model, as well as the particular features we wanted
-such as variable-frequency speed drivers on the exhaust fan,
inside accessible lights and a 26-foot-long booth. We’ll relocate
our frame machines to better utilize our shop layout and to improve
efficiency. The new booth should be delivered mid-July.

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  • Next time, the Slates write about the problems encountered
    when installing a new spraybooth and when "friends"
    become employees.

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