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Working Smarter Not Harder

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Name: Jerry’s Body Shop

Location: DeLand, Fla.

Owner: Jerry Doyle

Established: 1976

Square Footage: 10,000

Number of Employees: 11

Repair Volume: 60 cars per month

Average Repair Cost: $1,500

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After 40 years in the collision-repair industry, you’d think a
bright guy like Jerry Doyle would’ve learned not to help his competitors.
Yet, several evenings a month, you’re likely to find Doyle – owner
of Jerry’s Body Shop in DeLand, Fla. – hard at work promoting
causes that are sure to benefit rival shops in the Central Florida
area.

With that information, you might guess that Doyle’s just a darned
nice guy who’s also a bit naive. Guess again. A shrewd and successful
businessman, Doyle believes that a prosperous industry benefits
everyone – competitor or not.

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Knowing the Business

While many shop owners speak in vague terms about productivity
and profitability, Doyle offers specifics – he can tell you exactly
how profitable his week was, where his shop experienced problems
and where gains were made.

Always ready with the numbers, Doyle says one quarter of his business
comes from within 15 miles. "We do get customers from as
far as Orlando, but typically 25 miles is our maximum radius,"
he says. Most customers come from DeLand and Deltona (with a total
population of approximately 40,000), which straddle Interstate
4 midway between Daytona Beach and Orlando.

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Because tracking and improving profits is as important as generating
them, "we have almost as many computers and office personnel
as we do production workers," Doyle says.

Personnel at Jerry’s Body Shop includes Doyle’s wife and partner,
Margie, who manages the office with the help of an assistant/receptionist
and handles all the advertising. Doyle’s son, Tom, does most of
the estimating, and a shop foreman, four body technicians, two
painters and a parts manager handle the rest of the shop duties.

Once a shop technician himself, Doyle is now more than a numbers-crunching
business owner totaling the receipts at the end of the day. His
industry involvement includes founding the Volusia County chapter
of I-CAR and sitting on the advisory board for the collision-repair
program at Daytona Beach Community College. Before opening Jerry’s
Body Shop, Doyle operated a repair shop in South Florida for six
years.

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Secrets to Success

Competing for business with several independents, including a
shop nearly as large as theirs and four dealership operations,
Doyle has established systems that encourage both quality and
efficiency.

"We have a separate 480-square-foot parts building that may
be jammed with parts," Doyle says, "but we can easily
track each component needed for each job."

The building, he says, is divided into individual bins, each labeled
for clarity. Every job ticket contains the bin reference for that
vehicle, allowing the parts manager to track jobs in and out and
making the technicians more efficient. Because of the system,
nobody wastes time looking for missing parts.

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The parts system is only one of many Doyle and his employees follow
to get the job done. When a new job is scheduled, the foreman
provides the assigned technician the bin number and estimate,
and the car is then dismantled in search of hidden damage. If
any is found, it’s logged and forwarded to the insurance company
for a supplement. Upon approval by the insurer, the technician
continues with the job.

"Even though 90 percent of our business is insurance collision
work, we’ve run into very few problems," Doyle says. "We’ve
had to make few concessions to the insurers. It takes a lot of
negotiating, but we usually get what we need. And because customers
are more critical when they are directed to a shop by their insurers,
it forces us to be very conscious of our quality control.

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"… Even with our years in business and reputation for quality,
without our links to the insurance companies, we wouldn’t have
the volume of business we now have."

Getting the Job Done Right

In the past year, a lot has changed at the body shop.

Participating in management training sessions offered by NAPA/Martin-Senour,
Doyle and his wife decided to overhaul the shop’s infrastructure
and amenities to ensure the most customer-friendly environment
possible. A complete shop redesign enabled them to turn the building’s
customer waiting and administration areas into more inviting and
efficient space. At the same time, they renovated the exterior
of the shop to complement the historic nature of DeLand’s downtown
area.

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In addition to the existing equipment, the paint shop was outfitted
with a new Air Filtration heated downdraft spraybooth and steel
paint-mixing room, and the paint-room scales were linked by fiber-optic
cable to the network computer system for precise product measurement
and control. Depending on the products sprayed, the paint technicians
use HVLP guns from Binks, DeVilbiss or Sharpe.

To bring damaged steel back into specs, Doyle’s four body technicians
use a Kansas Jack Magna Rack, a Chart portable unibody bench and
195 in-floor tie-downs for use with two power posts. Various measuring
systems – from electronic to hang-on – are also utilized.

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The prep area is surrounded by a 16-inch-diameter duct system
connected to a huge exhaust fan outside the building. Trap doors
can be opened to vent sanding dust and fumes.

The shop also is equipped to dispose of hazardous waste. "We
use a gun washer and rely on the services of a recycler who produces
a ‘patty’ out of the used paints and solvents," Doyle says.
"We also recycle the damaged sheet-metal parts. We’re on
top of our responsibilities."

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Although new equipment, a redesigned shop and qualified employees
give Jerry’s Body Shop a competitive edge, meeting the demands
of customers remains a challenge.

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Keeping the customers happy following the job is as high a priority
for Doyle and his crew as satisfying them initially. When the
job is complete, every car leaves the shop equipped with personalized
scratch pads, matches and a "Technician Report Card,"
which lists the names of the technicians and shop foreman who
worked on the repair. Customer satisfaction is tracked using a
mail-back card.

"We get 15 percent of the cards back right away," Doyle
says, "but if we don’t get a response, we get on the phone
to the customer to find out how the job turned out for them."

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This dedication to good business helps Doyle remain successful.
And though his goals for 1996 are to top $1 million in sales,
plans are in the works to get better – not just bigger.

Tip of the Trade:

The parts building at Jerry’s (separate from the shop) is divided
into individual bins, each labeled for clarity. Every job ticket
contains the bin reference for that vehicle, allowing the parts
manager to track jobs in and out and making the technicians more
efficient.

Hiring Hurdles

For Doyle, finding qualified technicians is an industry obstacle.

When he needs a new technician to supplement his experienced,
I-CAR-certified staff, he runs ads in the local papers and looks
to the collision-repair program at Daytona Beach Community College.

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Serving on the program’s advisory board, Doyle still finds it
difficult to find employees willing to work hard and get the necessary
real-world experience before getting the high salaries.

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