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Body shop owners pound away at their inefficiencies

John Seelmeyer

A few years back, Paramount Auto Body won recognition from an industry group as the best body shop in the nation.

Not satisfied, the Reno company’s owners the next year turned to a management consultant to learn how to run their business even better.

The results are found in matters great and small.

Small matters such as color-coded shovels and tools so that employees know exactly where everything goes. Small matters such as five fast questions to qualify potential customers before the company spends money on an estimate.

And great matters such as this: Paramount Auto Body’s production per square foot runs double the national average.

It’s all a matter of reducing friction, say Steve and Tim Waldren, the twins who operate the business with their father, Phil.

Friction, Tim Waldren explains, is anything that slows down the production of repaired cars even by a minute or two the minute or two, for instance, that a worker looks for a misplaced tool.

That’s why the Waldrens have put a lot of time into making sure that the place for every tool is clearly marked often through color-coding and signage.

And even more important, they’ve limited the number of locations that a tool can be misplaced. Few of the cabinets on the walls of the 8,800-square-foot shop, for instance, have flat tops. Instead, the tops are angled much like the roof of a house so nothing can be left on them.

They’ve devoted the same sort of deep thought to the company’s customer service operations.

Like most of the 60 body shops in the area, Paramount advertises that it provides free estimates. But the estimates, Steve Waldren says, are anything but free to the company.

Industry figures place the cost of an estimate at somewhere around $160, placing a premium on the body shop’s ability to convert an estimate into a closed sale.

By carefully but quickly pre-qualifying potential customers who walk in the door, Paramount converts more than 90 percent of its estimates into sales. The national average is a bit over 65 percent.

Converting prospects into sales is a big deal in an industry in which the insurance companies that pay most of the tab keep a brake on the growth of body shops’ revenue.

For all the progress they’ve made, Steve Waldren still snaps awake in the wee hours of the morning, his mind racing with another idea to streamline the operation and make better use of its space.

“There always are refinements,” he says.

And Phil Waldren, the company’s founder, joins with his sons in scouring industry publications and trade shows for the best ideas they can find.

“You’ve got to have an open mind,” the elder Waldren says.

Still, the family recognized a few months ago that it was wringing about all the revenue it could from its original shop at 2570 Tacchino St., down in the southeast corner of the Spaghetti Bowl interchange.

The business whose owners also include Phil Waldren’s wife, Sharon, and their daughter, Anissa bought another 6,000 square foot building just down the street.

With the purchase, Paramount Auto Body added six employees, boosting its employment to 45.


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