“As we got into more OE-certified work, 3M has been with us hand-in-hand doing demos on the proper foams and adhesives to use for the repairs,” he says. “All-in-all I am very fortunate to have the relationship I have with 3M in helping me grow my company.”
“Vendor relationships are huge to me,” adds O’Neill, looking back to his life-threatening battle with cancer. “When I was going through my tough times it was certain vendors that stood with me the whole way and others that didn’t. You need vendors that understand the pressure we are under and are willing to go the extra mile to help alleviate it,” he says.
“One of the key lean principals is to have everyone involved in the repair in sync with each other,” he elaborates. “My vendors know when I need them to deliver, and they do so more often than not. That is why I am not in love with programs that put parts out to bid. Where is the loyalty in that? And on top of it, who cares if something is cheaper but can’t be delivered on time?”
A cooperative stance is applied to insurance carriers as well, and Joe has little use for the negativity that is often expressed throughout the industry. “I never once thought that the insurance companies were the enemies of the collision business. To me, greedy people are the enemy to the collision business,” he asserts.
“As shop owners we all have the right to not fix the car. If we feel that we can’t do the right repair for what they are willing to pay we have the right to refuse to fix the car. I have developed that philosophy for everyone who works for me,” O’Neill continues. “This has allowed me to have an outstanding relationship with every insurance company that I have come in contact with. I will never fault an insurance company for not paying us for something we didn’t have the proper evidence for.”
Several of the staff members have been with the company for more than 20 years, always keeping current with the latest techniques. “We have former employees that learned the business at Benner’s and now have gone on to work for insurance companies or open a shop for themselves,” he says.
“That is why education is key to running a profitable auto body shop. Resources such as ALLDATA are great for proving what it takes to fix a car.” Employees, appraisers and discerning customers “have the confidence that we are using the most up-to-date equipment. They are more likely to believe our position when they are able to see it in front of their eyes.”
Leveraging lean and green
Environmental consciousness is a top priority along with maintaining a high level of production efficiencies.
“We were one of the first shops to use (the 3M) CRIMP tool to measure and properly bill for consumables,” O’Neill reports. “After being extensively trained in lean process I turned to 3M to help my technicians be more productive. In between every two techs we have a 3M cabinet to store all their consumables and a full Total Automotive Sanding System. This allows them to stay more productive without having to walk back and forth to a centralized cabinet. We monitor what they use and the techs have to come to parts with an empty container to get a new container.
Sitting on the National Auto Body Council’s Board of Directors, O’Neill is an enthusiastic proponent of giving back to the nation’s military veterans and encouraging every shop owner to support the less fortunate in their respective markets through charitable contributions.
“Customers should also be proud to get their car fixed by a shop that gives over $50K a year back to the community,” he says. “We work with a lot of local and national charities, but our biggest relationship is with NABC. With our partnership with NABC we have committed to give two cars away every year to veterans.”
Serving the public is mission-critical throughout the company. “Customers should feel comfortable about dealing with us from the first phone call to the delivery of the car. Everyone who works for Benner’s is committed to delivering the total customer experience. They also aren’t only incentivized to produce more hours, but are also graded on how they interact with both our insurance partners and customers,” says O’Neill.