Blueprint for success
Orange, Calif.— Hai Cao, who began his career at Seidner’s Collision as an estimator and became a general manager, drew on that experience before opening Diamond Hills Collision Center in upscale Diamond Bar in 2011. And, he already had a long-range growth plan in mind.
“I wanted to position the shop to serve all generations including Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials, by carefully selecting the right candidates for the right jobs and having the required equipment to perform repairs to OEM specifications,” he said.
The shop has Chief EZ-Liner frame machines, Celette Evolution benches and electronic measuring systems, four Blowtherm spray booths, and Pro Spot and Tecna resistance welders. It also has I-CAR Gold Class technicians and sprays BASF Glasurit paint, as required by many OEMs.
Diamond Bar is an OEM-certified repair shop for Tesla, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda/Acura, Porsche/VW, Nissan/Infiniti, MOPAR, Fiat, Hyundai, Ford, GM, and are seeking more certifications. “Having certifications has allowed our marketing team to have a competitive edge over other shops and build quality relationships with the dealerships,” Cao said. “And our estimators explain our certifications to help customers make the decision on why we should be fixing their vehicle.”
Once Diamond Bar was established and running smoothly, including earning a perfect five-star Yelp rating, Cao implemented phase two of his growth plan in 2016.
He opened a second shop in Orange, equipped it like Diamond Bar, except for using an eXtreme spray booth instead of Blowtherm, and in 2018, hired the right person to oversee operations so he could focus on growing the business.
“I am constantly looking for talented professional candidates to expand our business,” he said. “That’s why I hired Henry Oviedo as operations director a few months ago after being introduced to him by Greg Oglesby, our paint rep from Industrial Finishes. I got to know Henry personally for almost a year, and found we have the same goals.”
Oviedo said he started his career in the industry more than 35 years ago as a driver for Keystone in the Hollywood area, picking up bumpers to be re-chromed and delivering them.
“I was delivering a bumper to Auto Craft Collision in Redondo Beach and Greg Poss hired me because he said I would be much more useful in the collision end,” Oviedo said. “I started as a receptionist, then junior estimator, then senior estimator and manager.”
After that, Oviedo worked for several dealerships including Santa Monica Ford as director of collision, and other body shops such as True2Form Collision, and the Holmes Group, and was eventually hired by Randy Stabler, owner of Pride Auto Body, which is what Oviedo said is the real key to his collision industry success.
“Randy Stabler is my winning lottery ticket,” he said. “He sent me to financial school, educated me on lean practices, KPIs, efficiencies, how to coach employees, and really got me into the technical part of how to run a business.”
Since joining the team, Oviedo has interfaced with the shop’s two full-time marketing people who regularly visit insurance agents, dealerships, and businesses, as well as planning and creating marketing events such as barbeques, car shows, and holiday parties.
“Both locations have also grown due to the BASF APS training program, which teaches lean practices and helps eliminate the chaos and duplication that often exists, and training from our other vendors including 3M, Kent, Pro Spot, Industrial Finishes, and Norton.”
In 2018 the Diamond Bar store adjusted its hours of operation and now stays open until 9 p.m. so customers can drop off and pick up vehicles. Production has also extended into a night shift to increase productivity.
“Insurance companies are always demanding more efficiency and shorter cycle times, and we as a company have the same objectives to grow our sales and generate more profit,” Oviedo said. “But we will not allow that to cloud our number one priority, which is to restore the vehicle to OEM standards and ensure that our customers vehicles are safely repaired.”
“The industry will continue to change and evolve and trends will come and go,” Cao said. “The key is to continue to educate ourselves and share that information with our staff by continuous education, certification, and training.”
Oviedo said the No. 1 issue that concerns him is the dwindling talent pool in the collision industry.
“Recruiting trained personal is becoming difficult as the Baby Boomers are retiring, so finding new and young talent is critical,” he said. “Having a training plan and career path is very important to keeping new people loyal. Technology in vehicles is developing rapidly and we as a company are committed to keeping pace by educating and training our staff.”