The Larger Picture

The Larger Picture
Group participation and training are essential to shop productivity. (Photo: Huw Evans)

Whether you’re a small collision shop or MSO, your employees want to feel like they are a part of something bigger.

When you invest in staff training, it’s a sign to employees that you care about their growth and development. This goes a long way towards improving and maintaining employee morale. Whether you are small collision shop or own multiple locations, your employees want to feel like they are a part of something bigger and are contributing towards a common goal. As an independent business owner, you can be more hands-on with employees; making sure your staff understands how they contribute to the overall success of your growing business.

Specific methods

“We train our staff in what we call the ‘Craftsman Way,” which covers everything from how to handle incoming claims to how to move vehicles efficiently through the facility. We are always looking for efficiencies and increasing the customer service,” explains Mark Greenberg, General Manager, Business Development, Craftsman Collision.

“Because we have 42 stores, we have our own built-in focus group. We have monthly manager meetings in regions and quarterly, we have a meeting where all of our managers get together. We used to hold them at the head office, but we have grown so much—over 50 people in one room—so we now book locations off-site. We will look at various issues like the different technologies that are coming out,” says Greenberg.

Open forum

At Craftsman’s last group meeting they took six of their top performers and had an open forum

“It’s really no different than a seminar with a focus group only we do it with our own people,” adds Greenberg. “At that last quarterly meeting, we looked at scanning technology. We have added this as part of our process now. Everything gets pre and post scanned regardless of whether we are dealing with the insurance company or not. We do this as part of our process to ensure our customer’s vehicles are healthy when they leave the stores.”

“We own and operate five collision shops, and we work with our store managers to make them better, so they can run their store on their own,” explains Dave Stretz, Chief of Operations, CMD CARSTAR Group.

“We don’t want to micro-manage our store managers; we want to make their daily operations better. One thing you don’t want to do is come in and step on the manager’s toes; then everybody feels they have to report to you directly and the manager feels like he is just a pawn.

We don’t want that. We want them to be independent. We will train them if they need something. In our network, we have a wealth of knowledge, so we want to focus on the bigger picture, but we are still hands on, so we can go in and run a shop if we have to,” adds Stretz.

CMD runs all of its shops with the same processes and equipment even if the shops themselves maybe of different sizes and configurations.

“We utilize the same equipment in every shop. We use the same frame machines, the same welders, the same paint materials, and the same processes so if we need to move a technician from shop A to shop B, it’s not a problem.

“It’s more consistent and easier to control, and we know what products we are using. We have tried lots of things and the more we can control with fewer products, the more efficient we become” explains Stretz.

Mentoring system

At Budds’ Collision Services in Oakville, Ont., the emphasis is on creating a mentoring system.

“Our office staff are all educated in the fundamentals of aluminum repair and mixed materials,” says General Manager J.R. Martino.

“Our estimators are also trained in various materials, so they understand the complexity of the materials used today. This way they understand why a panel has to be replaced rather than repaired because it can’t be brought back to original condition.”

Martino sends his technicians all over the world for training.  “We have 17 technicians, and we will send four to five of our top techs to international OE training facilities, and they will come back and advise the other techs and staff on what they have learned.”

“For example, when we send techs to Germany to an OE facility for training it’s a significant investment, so we send our head technicians, and it is their responsibility to come back and teach the younger technicians,” says Martino.

He notes that quarterly meetings are all about reinforcing the importance of understanding the technology and how it benefits the customer by providing them a safe vehicle. “We want to make sure that if unfortunately, they have another accident, we want it to crash the way it was designed to crash,” he says.

Mark Greenberg notes that often, “it comes down to continual support and continual training. It has become part of your process. We make a significant investment in time to keep staff up to date with monthly regional meeting and quarterly national meetings.”

Craftsman recently purchased Provincial Autobody in Regina, Saskatchewan. “We would like to expand more in Saskatchewan, how quickly, we are not sure. We are always looking for more locations,” adds Greenberg.

Specialty stores

Craftsman has moved into the speciality store realm and currently has four different store brands. “They have Craftsman Collision, Distinctive Autoworks, which is their luxury brand, and their store in Edmonton is BMW, Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover and Audi certified.

“Our Distinctive Autoworks on Vancouver Island is BMW and Porsche certified, and we have a new brand called MB Autoworks, in Alberta which is a Mercedes Benz certified store,” adds Greenberg.

Craftsman is about to open a store in North Vancouver called MB Autoworks Van. It will work exclusively on the Mercedes Benz Vans—Sprinter and Metris.

“MB certified shops can repair the vans, but it is a challenge because of their size, they take two or three car spaces, and the paint booth has to be bigger, as does the frame equipment. We are looking forward to seeing how that brand works for us,” adds Greenberg.

For CMD, management training is always a work in progress. “We have tried a lot of things and the more we can control with fewer products, the more efficient we become,” adds Dave Stretz.

“At the monthly manager’s meetings, we review financials; what worked what didn’t work. We talk about best practices. For instance, shop A did well on gross profits, so they will tell the group, what they did to achieve that. Someone might say, they had a challenge with this, and someone else may say how they resolved a similar issue,” explains Stretz. “During the course of their day, they can call anybody. We have a VOIP phone system that dials their extension automatically, so you can get a hold of someone quickly.

CMD’s Smallest shop is 325 sq m (3,500 sq. ft.) and the largest is 1579 sq m (17,000 sq. ft.) There’s also a second green build currently underway that will be 1300 sq m (14,000 sq. ft.) once it’s completed.

“We learned a lot building our head office location, and this building will reflect that,” he said. This new location in NW Calgary is scheduled for completion by October.

When it comes to finding qualified staff in Alberta, the competition is tough says Stetz.

“There are not a lot of new people available to choose from, but lots of recycled people, so we filled a couple of positions with people that are new to the business. This way we had fewer bad habits to work on,” explains Stretz. “Most of our managers have been with us for quite a while, and it did take us some time to find the right people for those positions.”

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