Adding new shop revenues through innovative culture

Nov. 1, 2020
It was culture, more than a specific intent, that led the company to bring it’s glass work in-house. 

In last month’s column, I shared shop owner DeLee Powell’s idea that adding mechanical repair to the offerings at Baker’s Collision Repair in Mansfield, Ohio, gives the company a shot at thousands of dollars more revenue from a customer in the years between their need for body repairs and paint work. 

But that’s only part of the company’s strategy to develop new sources of revenue, a strategy made possible because Powell has built a team and a culture that fosters innovation. It was that culture, for example, more than a specific intent that led the company to bring it’s glass work in-house. 

“As we grew, the guy from [outside glass provider] was at our place about four hours a day,” DeLee said. “Unbeknownst to me, he was checking out our culture. He said to me one day: ‘I know your people. I’d really like to come work at your company.’” 

DeLee knew the shop had enough glass work to keep him busy 50 percent of his time. So they just needed to find a way to use the remainder of the time as they built up the glass portion of their business. 

“We found he had a lot of good skills we could use in our blueprint department, disassembling cars, distributing parts, etc.” DeLee said. 

As the company began promoting glass work, DeLee said they found that also brought in more collision work, just as it did when they began promoting mechanical services. 

“People might just hear ‘Baker’s Collision Repair’ and not really hear the rest of the ad,” she surmises.  

Back before any of us knew the term “COVID-19,” DeLee looked around her business and knew there wasn’t space to add any more employees. So she started considering ways to add revenue to the business beyond the shop’s walls. The answer: becoming part of the AAA light-duty roadside assistance program. 

“If someone runs out of gas, we take some out to them. If they lock their keys in the car, we get them in. We do tire changes and take new batteries out to them,” DeLee said. “A lot of times we’ll go out to their home because they think their car needs to be jump-started, but we’ll discover it needs a starter or fuel pump. Since we’re the ones right there, we usually get that job.” 

The program doesn’t involve towing, but the truck they use has both the AAA and Baker’s name on it. 

“It’s great marketing, like a drivable billboard,” DeLee said. 

Another smart investment that has paid off in terms of adding revenue has been automaker certification. But it might surprise you which of the programs has worked out the best for Baker’s. After spending about $75,000 to get certified to repair aluminum Ford F-150 trucks, DeLee said she thought getting certified to repair the Cadillac CT6 made sense. But her sons who work with her in the business thought the shop would never see a return on that investment. 

“I’m so thankful that most other shops thought that same thing. We have done more CT6s than we have Ford F-150s” DeLee said, noting that restrictions by GM on the sale of some structural parts for the CT6 makes the difference. “We’ve had them come in from Kentucky, Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania. In some of those cases there had to be a certified shop that was closer. But insurance companies have learned we fix the CT6 and are reasonable to work with. They pay us a higher rate for those jobs because they know we’ve invested in a lot of special equipment for it.” 

Customers also see it as more of a “Cadillac certification” than just a certification for the CT6 model, DeLee said. The increase in their repair of other Cadillacs has also helped make the CT6 certification pay off. 

I’ve highlighted what DeLee and her team at Baker’s have done not because what’s worked for them will necessarily pay off for you. The key take-away is this: Now more than ever, collision shops need to develop new sources of revenue. As I explained in these columns, Baker’s has done that because of the team and culture DeLee has cultivated within the business. 

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