Shop Profile - Collision Repair

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Illinois’ Zara’s Collision thrives with team-based repair structure

Friday, December 1, 2017 - 09:00
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In addition to ongoing technical training, team-building and “self-improvement resources,” staffing continuity is enhanced by a strong employee benefits program that includes profit-sharing incentives, retirement plans and an assortment of health insurance policies.

When an opening does become available, recruitment methods include referrals generated by current employees and candidates originating from the Capital Area Career Center, a local technical training institution for high school juniors and seniors.

“We have developed apprenticeship programs for the paint prep and body technician positions, which provide structured learning for our apprentices and new team members,” Brad reports; the assortment of employee-centric packages makes good business sense while reducing staff turnover.

Top-level performers

“I feel we are strong in all areas of collision repair, because that is our one and only focus. We have dabbled in and chosen not to dilute our focus by offering other services such as detailing, general mechanical, glass, towing, etc.,” he says.

Morning production meeting

The same glass vendor, Auto Glass Systems, has been patronized for nearly 25 years with Akzo-Nobel’s Sikkens paint being applied for 28 years, illustrating the shop’s loyalty to its suppliers. “We have never changed vendors over price alone; we value timely delivery and accuracy over discount, and we have always paid our bills on time,” says Brad.

“Having my brother Mike as our parts manager for 28 years is a huge factor,” he continues. “Our repair planning process has allowed us to achieve 90 percent accuracy, meaning that we only have one parts order on 90 percent of our jobs. That is unheard of for most parts vendors.”

The emphasis on treating their suppliers with integrity, respect and consistency is also utilized for fostering positive relationships with insurance carriers. “While we are certainly not the low-cost providers in our market, we strive to be the best at customer service, repair quality and cycle time, which all benefit the insurance provider as well,” says Brad.

“We recognize that each insurance provider has their hot buttons, which are always moving targets that they think we should try to hit. While we don’t totally dismiss these hot buttons, we don’t make them our primary focus. We have found that sticking to our solid process, which yields consistent results, tends to satisfy the overall needs of the insurance providers.”

Operational consistency is further augmented by the presence of relatives on the employment roster. Along with Brad’s brother Mike on duty as the parts manager, Julie’s sister Kim Woolard has been the production manager and customer care specialist for more than two decades.

“We have had several other family members working in the business throughout the years, including my dad Jim, who served as our bookkeeper for 13 years before his retirement. The benefits of working with family members have far, far outweighed the difficulties,” according to Brad. “I believe this has been possible because the expectations are no different for family members than non-family members. Mike and Kim are commonly recognized as being top-level performers in their positions. Other shops frequently send people to job-shadow Mike and Kim to learn their processes and techniques.

“We have a very tight-knit family on both Julie’s and my side of the family, so we spend quite a bit of time together. We had to establish early on that we would not talk about, or address, any business-related issues during family get-togethers,” he says. “General conversation or funny stories about things that have happened at the business are fine.”

Bucking the trend

HIP Advertising assists in developing and delivering a steady array of marketing strategies. “Our most effective form of advertising has been our billboards. We have had the same three billboard locations around Springfield for nearly 10 years, and the message is always clever/humorous, and they switch-out quarterly.

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