How to Run an Auto Body Shop

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Running an auto body shop can be a rewarding and lucrative adventure. You'll be given the opportunity to make a difference for customers who have experienced trauma in an accident. Your services will be in demand as people hang on to their vehicles longer with the advanced technology that allows cars and trucks to run for decades. You'll be able to provide jobs in your community while building your own success. In addition to basic business practices you've developed in setting up the company, consider a few specific details as you learn how to run an auto body shop.

Things You'll Need

  • Environmental guidelines
  • Safe work areas
  • Certified repairers

Follow state and federal environmental guidelines. Check with the Coordinated Committee for Automotive Repair (CCAR) for updated environmental regulations. The CCAR is the National Automotive Environmental Compliance Assistance Center for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You can find forms and registrations through its website called Greenlink.

Utilize your environmental compliance ratings and any other voluntary "green" measures that you take in your shop in your marketing material. Consumers often make buying decisions based on the environmental awareness of a business.

Keep your shop clean and well ventilated to provide a safe working environment for employees. Enforce strict safety practices to avoid accidents and insurance claims that will impact your insurance rates.

Hire auto body repairers who have completed formal training classes so they can be more productive on the job. Contact local technical schools and community colleges when you are recruiting to find qualified candidates that won't need a lot of on-the-job training.

Build relationships with local towing companies, insurance agents and auto service shops to develop regular referrals. Join local business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce to meet other business owners with whom you can partner.

Set up agreements with finance companies and local banks to refer customers for payment plans. Make sure you understand and agree with the conclusions in the contracts when you agree to a settlement of payment with an insurance company.

Invest in auto body shop software specifically designed to streamline cost estimates, reporting procedures, billing, customer files and all other paperwork that can overwhelm any small-business owner.

Tips & Warnings

  • Provide customers with realistic estimates and timeframes to avoid complaints. Keep customers informed when a delay seems imminent to prepare them for a longer wait. Customers appreciate honest and upfront communication and will tell others about your forthrightness.
  • Institute regular inventories of parts that you keep on hand to avoid losses that can eat into your profits.

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