Sharon Ashley says that she was very glad to fall into the collision repair industry.
I ’d just graduated with a degree in computer programming and a minor in business accounting,” she says. “I was racing motorcycles and enjoying life.” Getting to know people in the dealership and collision repair business she frequented, well, that was it. “I took a job and the rest is history!”
Since then, Ashley has worked in a number of different collision centres and in a variety of different positions. Doing so has provided her with a great deal of experience in what shop owners, managers, estimators and production staff need, whether they operate a single location or work as MSOs.
With an emphasis on clear organization and process, Ashley has been able to apply these traits throughout her career and in many ways was ahead of the curve in terms of keeping shop customers informed of the repair process, vehicle teardowns and repair methods.
Pioneering a process
Today, these are aspects the industry is familiar with but back in the early 1980s, the idea of fully disassembling and analyzing a vehicle before beginning collision repairs was almost unheard of, as was actually informing the customer of how the repairs on their vehicle were progressing.
“I’ve always felt that it’s important to treat every customer like family and take care of them as though we’re related,” says Ashley. That means ensuring the vehicle gets repaired correctly and as quickly as possible. Ashley feels the biggest benefit of taking this approach is when she hands the customer the keys back and sees they are happy again. “Seeing them have a smile on their face is very rewarding,” she says.
Add subhead here: IT role
After working hands-on in numerous collision centres, Ashley wanted to try something different and decided to get back into the world of Information Technology. “I was initially planning to do something completely different,” she says, “but my love for the collision industry and the people within it, I just couldn’t leave it behind.” As if perhaps by fate, she came in contact with IT management and digital marketing guru Frank Terlep. “I met Frank and had a huge amount of respect for him,” says Ashley. “I liked what he was working on represented him for 10 years and in the Canadian market, training and working with shops to become more process driven and remove inefficiencies from their business.”
From her experience on the consultation side as well as her time working in collision centres, Ashley felt there was a need to create a software system that provided shops with the tools needed to run their business efficiently and at the same time remove wasteful aspects of their operations.
This led to Bodyshop Connect, a complete software platform designed to connect all the dots of the collision repair process, from estimates and supplements to production management, technician tracking, AR management, scheduling, reports, KPIs and even communications and media management. “Software has really become the vital part of collision repair business today,” says Ashley. “Moving forward it is essential for shops to look at their software providers as partners as well as which ones have real life industry experience and truly want to help. I wouldn’t even think about running a collision shop without a good management system!”