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Shop owners share X-factors that transformed their businesses

Friday, February 1, 2019 - 08:00
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Several years ago, ABRN profiled Warrensburg Collision and the steps manager Casey Lund took to turn around the fortunes of the once-foundering business. Lund took the reins of the Warrensburg, Mo. shop when his father fell ill. He quickly came up to speed on all the reasons his father warned him away from a career in collision repair. Money was difficult to make, and industry challenges created a bleak future.

In short, he woke up to the reality most shops face every day. For several years, he struggled mightily, and in 2012 realized he had to either make drastic changes. He poured over books on business improvement (he already possessed an MBA) and decided lean was the way to go for himself and his entire team. In fact, he focused his entire organization on continuous improvement. Fixing processes became just as important as fixing cars. A turnaround began. In three years, the shops managed to triple its revenue.

(Photo courtesy of Valet Auto Body) Put your entire staff to work speaking to and helping customers when they’re on-site. You’ll build the kind of satisfaction that pays off in loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising.

The collision industry is full of many such stories. Many thriving shops have been born out of failing ones. Unfortunately, there are still many more stories of repairers who are more content to tread water or make minor changes that keep their doors open for the time being (maybe until a consolidator makes an offer). That’s a shame since there are so many good obtainable and available solutions that can revive a business. There also are many repairers who want to share their own success stories of how an “X-factor”, a change or series of changes, transformed their fortunes and keeps them riding high.

Here are three such examples from members of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS). Consider how their stories could be rewriting your own.

X-Factor: Join industry groups and learn from your colleagues

Bruce Halcro, owner of Capital Collision Center in Helena, Mont., was already a successful shop owner with two decades of experience when he made a career- and life-changing decision 20 years ago. He became active in his local bodyshop association, the Montana Collision Repair Association, and then went nationwide with the SCRS.

His motivation: “I decided I needed to get outside my shop and start training myself on the things I didn’t know,” he says.

The associations provided just that training, along with a network of shops and shop owners Halcro could consult with. The great takeaway from this experience was the need to get more training for his shop.

“At the local level, Montana isn’t exactly a big area, but they still managed to bring in someone like Mike Anderson who could speak to what we need to be doing in our shops,” Halcro explains.

At the national level, Halcro says SCRS gave him access to a clearer view of what changes the industry would be experiencing along with the opportunity to speak with some of the best brains in the collision repair industry.

These experiences helped Halcro redirect his business with a greater focus on training, which today includes annual training requirements. It also gave him a better perspective of what was going on in the industry and ways to address change. “Before I wasn’t sure how to handle what was going on, but now with so many folks I can consult with, I know I can do it,” he says.

That sort of confidence and change in thinking might be most important transformations at the business. Halcro explains, “I remember my wife asking me what the value of SCRS was. I had to think about it. I couldn’t put a number on it since you can’t quantify it that way. I told her, ‘I know I’m better at what I do.’”

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