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Alaska collision center heats up Anchorage market with teamwork-based production strategy

Monday, June 3, 2019 - 07:00
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Anchored in Anchorage, dealing with Alaska’s rugged climate conditions is a constant operational challenge at the three Midtown, Downtown and Southside Able Body Shop locations in the state’s largest city.

“It impacts every aspect of the business – you name it,” according to owner Ryan Cropper. “We have snow from October to April,” with temperatures averaging in the teens to low 20s.

At a Glance:
Able Body Shop
Anchorage, Alaska (in Midtown)
Main location
Ryan Cropper
No. of shops
Years in business
No. of employees
No. of DRPs
Midtown, 13,000; Downtown, 8,000; Southside, 20,000
Square footage of shops
Average repair order
10 days
Average cycle time
Average weekly volume
Vehicles per week, combined
$13 million
Annual gross revenue
Paint supplier
Frame machines used
Estimating system used

The cold and snow routinely results in non-starting vehicles with dead batteries, melting snow that drips onto the technicians and down their wet and chilly backs as cars sit atop the racks, plus the deeply snow-covered parking lots make pushing a major drag.

Huge mounds of snow can accumulate despite frequent plowing. “At times we have to rent equipment to pile it up even higher so we don’t take up too many parking spaces,” says Cropper.

“But the darkness affects us just as much as anything,” he adds. Lack of sun prevails throughout much of the year. Dec. 21, for example, brings just 4 hours of daylight; June 21, in contrast, stays sunny for 24 hours.

“As a kid we lived in staid Utah, and my father was looking for an adventure. He wanted to go hunting and fishing.” And so north to Alaska they did go.

“I can’t say I adopted right away, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else – in the winter, maybe – but no, I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” says Cropper.

Among the shops in the area, though, “nobody has enough employees,” making recruiting a constant endeavor.

“We focus on the culture of the shop and creating a team atmosphere. Our goal is to recruit entry level individuals who want to be a part of something bigger. We look for up and coming people in the industry with positive attitudes who are looking for longevity in the collision industry,” he explains.

“Team members thrive at Able because they are empowered to make their own decisions. Working on a team gives them the freedom to make their own choices while being held accountable by their teammates. We also like to reward them with fun, team building activities such as company cook-offs, barbecues and parties.”

Cropper notes that “balancing high-performance with quality of life” is a key goal. “We complete a high volume of work while still maintaining a healthy work environment. We have found that the shop thrives when employees are happy and feel important.”

He continues by pointing out how “we are committed to safe and proper repairs while not caving to the pressures of the industry. We care about our community; we value giving back and encourage our employees to give back as well.”

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