This content is sponsored by CARSTAR.
According to the Collision Repair Education Foundation Snapshot of the Collision Repair Industry report from 2016, the number of collision repair businesses continue to decrease year after year. Ironically the repair centers that are lasting, have been in business for 30+ years. So how can young owners become a lasting business?
Successful owner of CARSTAR Hamlin Collision Center, Chris Homrich, is one of these young independent owners who is making his facility last, as he opened at around age 30 and still going strong today almost 10 years later.
“I job jumped a lot from when I first entered the field,” says Homrich. “I worked in the shop, did sales for a bit and eventually I found my way to a facility where I made great money, but did not enjoy going to work every day. I worked there for eight years though, because I was making almost a six figure salary. I wanted to save every penny I could to branch out, work for myself and run a place I would want to go to every morning.”
Raised by his grandparents, Homrich was taught the importance of saving and not living outside of his means, which he cites as the best advice he ever received as a young business owner.
“My grandparents taught me to live off half of what I make so I do not have to rely on others money. This means if I made $80,000, I acted like I made $40,000, so that I could save the rest. This is really how I was able to save up and buy my current facility.”
The first years of owning his repair center were difficult for Chris, because although he was able to save enough to buy the equipment and space, he did not have enough to cover the day-to-day operating costs. Closing down his center for weeks to earn labor money elsewhere or flipping cars on the side were just a few things he did in his early days
“The financial hurdle was one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when I first opened my doors as I knew the failure rate for small business owners is about 80%,” continued Homrich. “I never wanted to compromise on repair quality or cut corners to save a dollar, because firstly, that’s not who I am, but secondly I also knew I would never get a referral on bad work – it’s just not a way to build a business.”
Now, Chris enjoys going to work every day and prioritizes time above all else. He has built a facility that he is proud of and defines this success in the corporate culture, the attitude of his employees and being able to give everyone in his shop time to enjoy their lives outside of the repair center.
Advice to Owners Looking to Make their Business Last
Are you an owner looking to make your business stand the test of time? Homrich offers the below advice to others owners like himself.
- Before you open a repair center: Write a pros and cons list of all of the benefits of becoming an owner. Realistically look at your finances and if you can afford to enter into a business. If this is your only con, be sure to start saving.
- Review your strengths and weaknesses: Take an honest look in the mirror to identify the things you excel in and plan to spend money hiring in the places you are not good at. For example, if you get frustrated with customers, be sure you budget to hire a quality customer service representative for your front desk.
- Hire right: People can be trained, but attitude is hard to fake. If you come in and are eager to scrub our bathrooms and shop floors with an energy to learn more, that is what I want. Hire employees who have a positive attitude, are willing to learn, open-minded, reliable – and your success in inevitable.
- Stay grounded: No matter how big we get or how busy our business is; we are never too big to make our customer the priority. I’ve worked in other places where they would trip over a customer to pick up a dollar so to speak, and that’s just not how you should operate.
- Prioritize communication: Keeping our customer informed through every step of the repair process is absolutely essential. Whether it is a car enthusiast or someone who does not know a thing about vehicles, we use the same talk path with the same open line of communication for each repair.
- Get support when needed: I did not want to sell out, but I knew I would need additional support with my insurance relationships to compete with the big national chains to keep my business going. Joining CARSTAR made sense for me because of their premier reputation and focus on customer service, which aligns with my values – plus I could retain ownership, which was important to me.
Becoming a small business that has that 30+ year staying power is no easy accomplishment and independent owners should be taking advantage of every opportunity available to help their repair center succeed.
CARSTAR has insurance, operations, marketing and customer service support available to its franchise family to help independent owners thrive in their communities. To bring additional support to your facility or find more information on joining the CARSTAR family as a local owner and operator, call 844-906-9764 or visit CARSTARFranchise.ca.