A SHOP CAN GROW IN NUMBERS WHEN IT FOCUSES ON CULTIVATING A POSITIVE CULTURE

To be the best, Jonathon Best, had to work his way up through the ranks of the body shop. Today, he’s CEO of Fender Mender Collision Centers but he began his career as a detailer.
 As CEO of a team of more than 200 employees across nine locations in South Carolina, Best spends his days bouncing back and forth between shop locations and communicating with his corporate team of five.
 In his time as CEO, he’s been instrumental in preparing the shop for the future of repairing vehicles. He has also helped to instill a company-wide culture focused not just on the staff as a team but on the customer.
 At each weekly meeting, Best will make a point of asking, “What did you do to wow your customers this week?” This has helped the team’s thinking wheels start churning, the group inevitably reflects on what they’ve done that week to go above and beyond for clients.
 “It wasn’t anything really big, but by asking that a few times, it caught on and I realized it was an area we could all be passionate about,” Best says.
 By changing the culture of his shop to one that recognizes the mutual benefits of working as a team, Best discovered that one way to also keep the shop poised for expansion was to focus on showcasing the staff’s customer service efforts to potential hires.

AS TOLD TO MELISSA STEINKEN

My typical day usually starts with a phone call. The first thing I have on my agenda when I wake up is to have a call with all the locations. This is a time when I talk about the basic business flow with them and check in on what is on the schedule for the day.
Then I try to visit every store during that week. My maximum visit per day are two stores because if I go to more and try to help out, the quality suffers. I can easily get to most of the stores because they’re all close to each other except for two that are located down south in the state.

When I get into each shop, I start collecting data. When I visit a shop, I keep a data log of that. Each day, I’ll keep a log of my interactions and what took place. This is not only physical data, but I also like to gather data by observing our teams interacting with customers, insurance companies and with each other. We keep our KPI metrics as our initial drivers but numbers tell the truth with no emotion.

We like to separate ourselves from other collision groups by spending an equal amount of time on culture. We believe our culture is truly our primary focus.
We do collect P&Ls and monitor KPIs to maintain margins, but we also have ways of grading our teams on the more emotional chemistry they share with people and themselves.

I’m basically a constant watchdog. The way the profiles of the stores are set up, we’re about 80 percent DRP. This means that we often have to implement a new procedure at the shops and with that comes a learning curve. We have to train the team on the new process.
This process can take two days or two months depending on the size. Last year, in 2018, we had to implement diagnostic scans in every shop location. That process took about two months to complete. We worked with a lot of consultants and followed a lot of OEM procedures to make sure the process was implemented correctly. Now, we have a diagnostic technician that’s trained at each shop.

We are very fortunate to have created a culture of understanding the mutual benefits from each other when we work as a team. When I first got into the industry, there were parts all over the office, messy store fronts and general sense of anti-conformity.
I’ve always taught them that we can’t complete jobs without each other. The body man needs the writer, the writer needs the body man, the parts manager needs estimates to be written and the manager needs his team.

Communication is important to keep schedules flowing smoothly. I use texting a lot with my team and customers because nowadays most customers prefer to text. I like to have my team text because it is an easy way to send a short update without spending 10 minutes on a phone call.
We use scheduling apps across the facilities. We use CCC ONE and that also has a task list that helps us keep track of what needs to be done for the day.

I also often attend large industry events. I always attend SEMA with some of my employees. As a team, a group of us will visit material suppliers to check out new supplies and equipment on the market. I personally attend digital marketing seminars so I can stay fresh on that information.

I spend a majority of my time on digital marketing for the business. Each day, I receive a daily report on our digital marketing efforts and then, each month, I go over more extensively a monthly marketing report. A large portion of my job responsibilities is reputation management for Fender Mender.
I’ve given our individual shops and teams criteria on how to handle marketing and respond to digital comments, reviews or complaints. However, if something really gets out of hand, I’ll step in and respond to the customer directly.

Recently, we’ve found that staffing is very difficult, especially if a shop’s growing. I decided we needed to focus on customer service. That’s when we started attracting more employees to the company. We started taking the team out to company lunches and lake outings.
Our message to the team is that we focus on providing quality for the customer but do that while having fun. Right now, our team morale is fantastic.
We push our team to be personable with customers. We ask them to take time to ask a few questions to the customer. Ask questions like, “Where are you from?” When we’re more personable, we’re able to make those connections and form meaningful relationships with the customer. I always say that it’s ok to be friends with a customer because word-of-mouth is key to our marketing success.

For the last half hour of my day, I create an end of the day report for myself. I’ll compile the data logs I made earlier in the day and then form a complete report of the day. At the end of each week, I’ll take another half hour or so to assess what I did this week, what the schedule looks like for the next week and I’ll plan out my schedule for Monday morning.
I also make sure to go through my emails one last time at the end of the day. I reply to emails I didn’t have time to get to earlier or go through and discard promotional emails.

Originally published in Fender Bender Magazine as part of The MSO Project in October 2019.