Shop Profile - Collision Repair

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Maria Carrillo builds thriving family business with grace, gratitude and grit

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - 07:00
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Maria Carrillo’s unwavering faith, a commitment to helping others in need and a willingness to reach out for assistance are core operational components at San Diego’s Carrillo & Sons Collision Center.

Loyalty to family and her employees are other qualities that Maria relies on to overcome the assorted trials and tribulations that come with heading a woman-owned body shop and the challenges of overall life in general.

At a Glance:
Carrillo & Sons Collision Center
San Diego
Location
Maria Carrillo
Owner
1
No. of shops
36
Years in business
18
No. of employees
9
No. of DRPs
15,000
Square footage of shop
16
No. of bays
3.5 days
Cycle time
$62,500
Average weekly volume
25-30
Vehicles per week
$2.8 million
Annual gross revenue
PPG
Paint supplier
Chief EZ Liner
Frame machine used
CCC, Mitchell
Estimating systems used
www.carrilloandsonsonline.com

Working alongside her three adult sons – Tony Jr., David and Daniel – who perform key functions as members of the 18-man staff, Maria explains that “one of my daily goals is to do anything within my power to help people, especially in my business. If my team and I can make a difference in their collision damage, I am all about that.”

Maria’s self-penned company mission statement elaborates: At Carrillo & Sons our number one priority is the relationship we develop with each one of our customers. We recognize the inconvenience and stress involved when your regular daily routine is interrupted by the necessity for collision repairs; we are committed to making the process easier on you.

As a company, we strive to give you high quality, cost-effective auto body repair and to take care of your needs with caring and kindness. We believe in conducting our business the same way we live our lives – with honesty, integrity and fairness.

Not only do we affirm the unique worth of each one of our customers, but we also recognize each Carrillo & Sons employee as a valuable member of our team and strive to treat each other with the same loyalty, respect and dignity we give to you.

Maria’s ascent to sole ownership of a successful business has not come easily, having originated through a sad divorce after having assisted her former husband with administrative tasks for 30 years. “I had been an owner, but not responsible for everything.”

The couple had two shops. Maria’s purchase of the current Carrillo & Sons enterprise on Old Cliffs Road emerged from the divorce settlement as her three sons joined her. The trio was “basically raised in the shop from cradle to washing cars – to now production, office, and estimating. They have so much knowledge and love for our industry, especially our customers. It’s so great to now see all of the boys running the business and taking care of our customers.”

Working with her sons brings great joy. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Maria Carrillo's sons Tony Jr. (front), David (middle), and Daniel (back) working in the office.

The immediate aftermath of the divorce, though, was “like having the carpet pulled out from under your feet,” says Maria as she recounts being thrust into a sole ownership role.

“It was very difficult to go into a leadership/president position. All of a sudden I did not have anybody to review decisions I needed to make; it was all on my shoulders, it was no longer shared. That took some getting used to.”

Accepting to herself and coming to terms with the reality that “whatever I say goes for all of the shop was kind of like a dip in cold water. Being married since I was 16, it was a learning process for me to be okay with making major decisions on my own, without having to consult my husband at the time. (She has since remarried.) All of a sudden I was the one knocking on doors for business referrals. It was an eye-opener.”

Financials were in disarray, important accounts and direct repair program (DRP) affiliations were gone, sales dropped drastically during the first year and the business was in trouble. “My lack of leadership skills did not help. It was a very hard place to be.”

Maria simply refused to bail on herself, her sons or the business.

 
Maria Carrillo, owner of Carrillo & Sons Collision Center, and her husband Ken Thayer, manager.

“There were times when I would cry and feel anxious because my guys in the shop had no work, and I had nothing to give them. I pursued and tried and tried different avenues, different people, but I never gave up on my family. As busy as we are today, I value each and every one of my customers. I am grateful for them, and as I tell my team, ‘We exist because of our customers, so please value them and take care of them like they were your own family.’”

Maria recalls how “I kept on patching my ‘sinking ship,’ as some have called it. My financial advisor at the time would say ‘get rid of it.’ I persisted because I believed in God and his faithfulness, and my sons. By the grace of God and lots of hard work, loyalty from my employees and my family, and help and advice from friends, we are where we are today.”

Some of the wisdom Maria received was quite unexpected – and most welcome. “There was a gentleman from State Farm that I spoke to, just one time when I was trying to get into their DRP, who said to me, ‘Right now we do not need anybody in your area, but I just want to share something with you…’ It was a bible verse: ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ I have held on to that through all these years.” (State Farm did eventually join the shop’s roster of nine DRPs.)

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