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Letter to the Editor
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This article originally appeared in the July 2000 Issue of INSIGHT

July 2000
Gus's Garage

This month we start a new series feature, the idea for which came from a series by the same title in Popular Science magazine in the �s and �s. As a kid in high school, starting with an interest in cars and building up a street rod (a � Ford coupe), I thoroughly enjoyed the series. Each month Gus ran into problems with customers� cars, and he and his sidekick would figure out the solution. Gus would ultimately present it as a lesson, either in demonstrating diagnostics, repair procedure or just customer relations.

With this series we are going to explore an ongoing business improvement process with Gus, a fictional bodyshop owner and JJ, an industry consultant, working together to examine issues and overcome obstacles faced by a collision repair facility owner. We welcome your comments and look forward to JJ抯 continuation of the series.

The basic setup is: JJ is an automotive industry consultant who has recently been introduced to the central character of our ongoing scenario, Gus. The series will be written in the style of a narration by JJ.

Gus抯 Garage, The First Meeting

Gus is owner of a mid-sized, family-owned body shop located in the Midwestern state of Ohio. In our monthly series, you will become introduced to the complexities of this operation known as Gus抯 Garage: the dynamics of Gus抯 relationships with employees as well as the complexities of bringing his son into the business.

See how closely you relate with Gus抯 business style, philosophy, and how JJ and Gus build a working relationship in which JJ抯 "INSIGHT" provides Gus抯 business the ongoing assistance in facing and succeeding in today抯 automotive climate.

In this first installment, I arrive at Gus抯 Garage, where I抳e been invited by Gus to "have a look at this operation of mine. I抣l show you the books, we抣l tour the shop, meet some of my employees, so you can get a feel of the place."

Gus knows he抯 doing a lot right. Sales have grown significantly in the last two years (He made an addition to the shop six months ago.), but he抯 feeling overwhelmed and out of control. "So I need to know what I抦 just not seeing," Gus said. "Let me see my business through your eyes, JJ."

Here抯 the spec sheet JJ received on the initial visit: Operations

  • 15,000 sq.ft. shop
  • $125k monthly sales
  • 7,000 sq.ft. were just added six months ago

Gus had identified three goals he wanted to meet: Initial Goals

  • Reduce the stress that has developed lately
  • Reach $2.5 million yearly sales in 2 years
  • Fred's son takes over management in 2 years

But there were complications, Gus felt, which he realized were impacting his successes:

  • Higher sales are causing more headaches
  • The operation is getting out of control
  • Feels too much pressure to keep growing.

When Gus and I spoke on the telephone last week, I was impressed how he grew the business in the past two years and that he has projected a 100 percent sales growth in the next two years. I did recall that Gus appeared a little uncertain of his abilities to manage the shop as it got bigger.

I spent four hours with Gus that first day, and, as I found a quiet corner in Charlie抯 Caf� for a late lunch, I drew up an initial game plan based on the preliminary data Gus provided as well as some gut-level reactions to what I saw (Chart 1).

Next month: After reviewing Gus抯 shop layout and workflow, along with his equipment inventory, JJ gets into some specific recommendations on non-structural layout changes and potential improvements impacting flow and cycle times.

(Publisher抯 note: JJ is the nom de plume of Jake Snyder, an industry consultant with over sixteen years of practical experience in autobody repair, as a successful collision repair shop manager, in insurance claims, and as an analyst in the New Business Strategy Division of Allstate Insurance. Jake specializes in organizational and process development.)




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