At Smith Bros Collision Center and Truck Accessories, brothers Chad and Adam Smith work hard to ensure every repair is a positive experience for their customers.
“We believe our customers come first and great service is something they deserve,” said Chad, co-owner of the Mississippi-based business. “Through continuing education and process improvement, we empower our team with knowledge to serve our customers and exceed their expectations.”
In 2000, the brothers acquired a dealership shop in Brookhaven, MS, that was shutting down. Adam was 21 years old at the time and had a few years of experience in the body shop industry, while Chad was 28 and had a background in finance and accounting.
The Smith brothers rented the building from the owner of the dealership, kept the same team of employees in place and named the shop Smith Bros Collision Center and Truck Accessories. Four years later, they acquired a second location in McComb. A third location was added in September 2015 in Hattiesburg.
Autobody News talked to Chad about the family-run business and how the brothers operate three locations while focusing on excellent customer service and staying active in the industry.
Q: As a family-owned business, how have you and your brother divided responsibilities?
A: When we first started and grew from one to two shops, it made sense that one of us primarily stayed at one of the locations. At the time, we had to manage the individual shops, which prevented us from expanding the business.
When we opened the third location, we realized that we couldn’t be in three places at the same time. We promoted someone from within the organization and hired general managers who could handle day-to-day operations. It also enabled us to focus on growing the business. We are now able to manage operations from any of the three locations. Neither of us just put our feet up and work from home. Adam or I are always at one of the shops, although we’re not necessarily on the same schedule. Sometimes we’re both at the same place, depending on what is going on at a certain time.
Q: Working in a family company can often be challenging. Can you share any advice with those in a similar situation?
A: It has been a good experience for us. Fortunately, we haven’t had any issues working together. I think one of the main things is having a good understanding that family comes first. It’s so important to always put family above anything business-related. Make sure you are on the same page knowing what your end goal is as far as where you want your business to go.
Ask the tough questions. Do you want to have a business that relies on insurance relationships and profitability in order to be sustainable and not necessarily focus on the customer? I’m not saying the two are exclusive to one another. Or do you want to have a business that focuses on customer relations and still be profitable? It’s critical to make sure you both have the same idea about the business model you want to run and what you want to achieve.
Q: How has offering additional services to collision repair benefited Smith Bros?
In addition to collision repair work, we have a full-service car and truck mechanical repair shop. We also provide a great selection of truck accessories at each of our three locations. In our part of the country, trucks are very prevalent. We might have a customer who has purchased a new or used truck and he/she wants to add certain things to it, such as a bed cover or step bar.
By selling truck accessories, we potentially have an up sale. We try to stock items that make someone’s ride “one-of-a-kind.” This includes access to a complete line of coolers and freezers. In addition to making a retail sale, it gives us an opportunity to build long-term relationships with our customers.
Q: What is the importance of having OEM certifications?
A: One of our goals is to be a best-in-class collision repair business. We make every effort to repair our customers’ vehicles in the proper manner according to manufacturers’ specifications. Over the past few years, we put a lot of effort into obtaining our OEM certifications and are currently certified with most of the major players. I believe only one in 10 shops will exceed or meet the standards for these certifications.
We are also working on becoming I-CAR Gold Class and are on track to be Honda ProFirst certified.
On average, accidents occur every 10-12 years, and some reports say 15-17 years. Although it’s not a normal occurrence for most customers to get into an accident, the industry tends to see repeat customers. It’s important to build a relationship with them so they are educated on the repair process and feel comfortable doing business with your shop. Part of this is having OEM certifications to provide another level of comfort to customers.
Being OEM certified gives you another feather in your cap with your customers showing them that you’ve taken the initiative to make sure your employees are trained through the proper channels. It’s also something else you can market and something your competitors might not have.