Second-generation Redfield to take reins
Festus, Mo. — At the tender age of 18, Greg Redfield, owner of Redfield Collision Center, with locations in Festus and Farmington, Mo., had his sights set on owning and running a collision repair business, realizing that goal only three years later.
Now, 41 years down the road, the “school of hard knocks” has taught him much of what he’s learned to succeed, he said.
“I’ve lost enough money over the years to pay for three Harvard educations,” he said with a laugh. “When you learn it the hard way, you don’t forget it.”
So when Amy Redfield, the youngest of his three daughters, expressed an interest about five years ago in one day taking over the business, with annual revenue approaching $8 million, Redfield said he was sure to remind her it’s not an easy business to learn quickly.
“I said, ‘Amy, this is a heavy load. I make this look easy. But you’re dealing with a lot of skilled technicians, the insurance industry, and a lot of issues,’” he said. “She said, ‘I don’t care, Dad, I believe I can do it. What are you going to do with this place?’ I said, ‘I’m going to run it until I croak and let you guys deal with it.’ She said, ‘Let’s make a better plan.’”
Amy Redfield, who as a teen started from the bottom, operating a buffer in the detail department, had later gone to cosmetology school in Chicago, then worked there before moving closer to home to work in a salon in Clayton, Greg Redfield said. But with Mondays and Tuesdays off, she started filling in, helping fill in for vacations in each department, later learning the family business “is where her heart is.”
“In August, she came to me and said, ‘Dad, I’ve made a decision,’” Redfield said. “‘I’m getting out of the hair business and I’m going to take over this company.’”
So the two started discussing how to plan for the future.
As the daughter of the company’s owner, expectations would be for her to be the “best employee,” a burden she understood from the start. And knowing how difficult it can sometimes be for family members to work together, each understood the risks, Amy Redfield said.
“We agreed that, ‘If it doesn’t work for you, or it doesn’t work for me, we will have to call it quits,’ and I said, OK,’” she said. “So far, we’ve been able to handle working together really well.”
Leaving business matters open to discussion only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, has been key to maintaining a happy family life, she said. “For us, I think that’s the only way we’ve been able to work together. And it keeps a mutual respect for each other.”
Amy Redfield has had extensive on-the-job training, made possible by the large number of employees who have been with the company for more than 20 years, some of them as long as 38 years.
“They’ve been my No. 1 go-tos for everyday questions that will arise in working with customers or systems, or in general with the collision repair industry,” she said. “Everybody in our management teams has been my biggest support group.”
The two locations have the same standard operating procedures (SOPs). So standardized, that Greg Redfield had the Farmington location copy the design of the Festus shop, from the layout, to the color scheme, on down to the finest details such as the coffee pot being the same.
If one location finds a way to do something better, it’s shared with the other, but both shops do it the same way, Greg Redfield said.
Each location is also similarly equipped, with a new 3,000-square-foot detail shop and a Global Finishing Solutions XP1 spray booth (bought from Automotive Technology Inc.) at the Festus location, soon to be replicated at the Farmington location.
“This Global system is a Cadillac,” Redfield said. “What we like best about it is everything is made in America, and it’s smooth-running. We’ve bought every bit of our equipment from (ATI CEO) Gene Slattery since he’s been in business, and the main reasons are quality products and superior service. They’re dependable; I don’t care if it’s a Hunter alignment machine or Rotary lifts, he and his team get it done. We are proud to do business with them.”
Redfield said that SOPs aid in implementing a mentorship program, designed to train each employee in his or her position and to grow with the company, which helped make for a natural introduction for Amy Redfield to learn the ropes, with her current focus on computer systems, payroll, health insurance, advertising, and any other administrative duties handled by Office Manager Tina Cashion. Operations Manager Chuck Sevick helps train her on Axalta’s ProfitNet, Audatex, and CCC programs, and their various reporting functions.
The experience has shown her just how much the company’s employees contribute to its success.
“‘Where did you find so many good people? Everybody is so friendly and helpful,’ Greg Redfield recalled his daughter saying. “I said, ‘It’s just a lot of hard work; we always try to hire people who are dependable, trustworthy, and honest — things you can’t teach people. And we’ve done that successfully for many years.’”