Dale Francis says if anyone in his shop isn’t contributing to the team with a one-for-all work ethic, they’ll be “voted off island.” As a result, employee pay is up, annual revenues are growing and cycle times have improved.The shop is one of Red Noland Cadillac Parts Manager Stew Harding’s primary customers.From left: Blueprint Adjuster William Duran and A-tech Sunny Tran, along with Assistant General Manager Andrew Kurth, have been success stories since they graduated from trade school and began working at the shop. Kurth will become general manager when Francis retires in five years.Painter Jerry Lujan, spraying Axalta, has been with Red Noland Collision Center for 30 years. “My best ideas for improving operations come from my guys on the floor,” Francis says.

Work ethic is everything

Red Noland Collision Center adopts no-nonsense team approach to boost productivity, employee camaraderie and pay

Colorado Springs, Colo.—Six-figure incomes are becoming standard fare for staff members at Red Noland Collision Center, who have experienced 20 percent increases in pay since the shop adopted a team system.

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At a Glance

• Facility size: 25,000 square feet
• Total employees: 30
• Monthly car count: 240
• Annual revenues: $7.2 million
• Management software: CCC ONE
• Paint: Axalta

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How did they do it?

Collision Service Center Manager Dale Francis, a 26-year veteran of the dealership, changed the game on his shop floor with new processes and a new culture when he moved to a team-concept management program three years ago. In the past, Francis would assign work, conduct follow up and find himself buried up to his elbows chasing elusive productivity and efficiency goals.

“It was a nightmare,” he said. “I couldn’t get anything done administratively.”

By creating a team environment, Francis also created accountability and empowerment. If an employee isn’t routinely carrying their weight on the floor, for example, then it will now be brought to Francis’ attention.

“They’ll get ‘voted off the island’ because teammates didn’t believe in their work ethic,” he says.

Previously, each individual worked like a subcontractor.

“Now, if someone’s loafing or not performing to expectations, they get called on it by their team. It’s made my job so much easier because the teams are checking each other’s work and it creates camaraderie on the floor.”

There are four teams: blueprint, body, reassembly and paint. Francis, who is also a wrestling and football coach for The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, said at first he saw “bad handoffs and people not holding their blocks” when he first implemented the team concept.

“And it adversely created a ripple effect throughout the entire workflow.”

As a result, Francis decided that no one would get paid until a vehicle was finished and returned to the customer.

“It creates a sense of urgency, motivation and accountability to get the work done,” he said.

The shop also uses terms such as “WIN” (What I Need) to encapsulate the reasons why employees are working hard in the first place: to obtain money to support their lifestyle and needs (sending the message, “So you better be on board with the team”); and “MAD” (Make a Difference), a daily mantra to help out a fellow teammate if they are struggling and “let them know they aren’t alone and are part of the team.”

With increased productivity and efficiency, the team concept translated into higher paychecks. Annual sales have also risen, from between $5.5 and $6 million to $7.2 million in the three years since the team program was adopted.

Hailstorms have also helped.

“We had nine storms last year that hit 62,000 cars in Colorado Springs, of which half were totaled. We’re booked into July and August just to write an estimate for people.”

Cycles have improved, too, from 15.3 days to 10.9.

 

Value of certifications

Red Noland Collision Center is factory-certified for Acura, Honda, Nissan, Infiniti, and Cadillac. And Subaru was expected to be added at the time of Parts & People’s interview.

“Certifications are so important in order to get vehicles back to pre-loss condition. I’ve come across work from other shops where cars were improperly repaired, and it just about brings me to tears that someone’s family was in that car unaware of the safety concerns.

“If your business is moving forward with certifications, training, technology, and knowing what’s coming down the pipeline in the next five years, then you’ll be successful because you’ll be prepared when change comes.”

Its two DRPs include USAA and State Farm, which is down from the eight is used to have. More and more shops, he said, are going to drop DRPs because of the discounts, free storage and administrative costs related to total losses.

“They’re tired of it because they don’t get reimbursed. It’s costing them money. Some shops are turning away hail jobs, which can have up to $2,000 in materials that they’re not getting paid for.

“The industry is going to change in a big way. And, eventually, particularly in this area, I think insurance companies will have separate hail policies because they’re taking such a large hit, as well as having a OEM parts policy that will cost more, but will ensure that factory parts are installed. As consumers become more educated on the value of OEM parts, they’ll want them installed for safety considerations.”

 

The next generation

Francis has a calendar date inked in to retire in five years, when his assistant general manager, Andrew Kurth, will take the reins, though he says his fingerprint on the business will remain for years to come. He has a passion for the industry and shining a light on the opportunities it presents to the next generation.

“Not everyone needs to go to college. There are kids who are gifted with their hands, but have no direction or identity, so I speak to them about industry opportunities and that there’s money to be made if you know what you’re doing and commit to it through a foundation of strong work ethic.”

Francis interacts with students from the local Doherty High School, Lincoln Tech and Pikes Peak Community College and provides tours and the facility. For someone who began washing cars at a hometown dealership when he was 12, he has a message for them all.

“You can be successful without a four-year degree.”

 

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.