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Collision repairers share shop-tested ideas that have improved their business

Monday, July 2, 2018 - 06:00
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Looking for an idea to spark some improvement in some aspect of your business? Chances are, another shop owner somewhere in the country has implemented just the idea that will work for your shop as well. Here’s a collection of concepts that might inspire the solution you’re looking for.

Interacting with potential customers

Lefler Collision, which operates four shops in Indiana and Kentucky, hosts “Ladies Night Out” at its shops, free events that promise to share “what every woman should know about vehicle care, repair and maintenance.” The events include dinner and give-aways, and cover what to do if you’re in a crash and information on why vehicle maintenance is so important.

Lefler Collision's “Ladies Night Out” logo

The company also racks up some impressive social media interaction. A “cutest pet contest” on Facebook solicited nearly 2,600 posts and comments (and 455 “shares”) in less than a week, with entrants vying for a $50 gas card. Give-aways of St. Louis Cardinal game tickets also result in hundreds of comments and shares.

Thinking big in a small town

With a population of about 13,000, St Marys, Pa., may be fairly small as far as markets go, not large enough even to break into the list of the Top 50 cities in the state. But that hasn’t kept Sandy Buerk and her team at St. Marys Auto Body from thinking big. Since 2010, the shop has brought big names in country music to town for concerts that have become both a marketing opportunity for the shop as well as a way to give back to the community.

This year’s concert featured Joe Diffie, who has had five No. 1 songs on Billboard Hot Country charts, including “Pickup Man” and “Bigger Than the Beatles.” Headliners at previous concerts have included Merle Haggard, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Sawyer Brown and Montgomery Gentry.

The shop sells tickets though its website, and the annual event regularly fills the 1,300-seat high school auditorium. Though costs generally exceed revenue, Buerk said it’s designed not as a money-maker but a way to celebrate and bring the community together. A portion of the proceeds are always donated to a local cause, generally one connected with the local school district or senior citizens.

Don’t get mired in the day to day

Like other shop owners Cris Kuhnhausen of Fix Auto Springfield in Oregon knows there’s value in developing and maintaining relationships with local insurance agents in the shop’s market. That’s why he and his business partner John Kimpton conduct regular continuing education classes for them.

Cris Kuhnhausen

But Kuhnhausen also knows how easy it is to get so involved in the day-to-day demands at the shop to put off making regularly visits to insurance agents.

“The hardest thing to do is get yourself in the frame of mind to leave the shop,” he said.

That’s why he now stops in to see 8-10 agents each week right after another weekly morning meeting he attends away from the shop, before he ever gets to the shop that day.

“You’re in a different frame of mind, before you get here and get involved with things here, so you can focus out there on working on the business, not just in the business,” Kuhnhausen said.

Post the reminders your team needs

Tony Arbisi, vice president of Crash1 Collision Center in Rockford, Ill., last year started taking the quarterly “Who Pays for What?” surveys conducted by Collision Advice and CRASH Network, and realized he needed to keep the information from those surveys in front of his 20-employee team.

Each of the surveys ask about 25 not-included labor operations or other estimate line items, asking shops how regularly they bill – and are paid by insurers – for those items when they are necessary as part of the repair.

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