On a typical day at Pacific Elite Collision Centers, Cortney Arthur might run through the shop’s production list, help write estimates, order parts or even detail cars. As the general manager of the company’s Downey East location in California, Arthur also spends time taking care of the insurance side of the business, keeping up with KPIs and ensuring the facility is compliant.
“I’m a busy girl,” said Arthur, who was hired as a writer for Pacific Elite’s corporate facility a year and a half ago and then promoted to general manager just nine months later. “Numerous people told me that I wasn’t going to want the added pressure and it’s less stressful to be a writer. Since I took on the role as GM, there has only been one day when I thought, ‘What did I do?’ One day—not bad odds.”
The family-owned and operated company is a 16-shop MSO with locations throughout Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties. The company is owned by Tim Mullahey and Mike Salyards.
Autobody News reached out to the busy mom of two to find out how Arthur juggles work and home life while managing a successful body shop.
Q: How did your background in the industry prepare you to work as a GM at Pacific Elite?
A: I started in collision repair in the early 2000s working for my family’s body shop in Lancaster—California Collision Center. After a few years, I decided I wanted to learn more. I wanted to be exposed to more cars and more repair processes and realized that the best way for me to do that was to work on the insurance side and become a field appraiser.
I went to work for a large insurance carrier for five years and it was awesome. I had the time of my life! You write eight claims a day and visit so many shops and see different shop order processes. You travel from MSOs to mom-and-pop shops and are able to experience how shops are being run everywhere. I had a lot of exposure and met great people. I saw a lot of things I wouldn’t want to do and a lot of great things that I would want to do if I ever ran my own shop.
After five years with the company, I wasn’t being challenged enough. I missed the rush of collision repair. I went back and worked for a large MSO for four years. Meanwhile, I became the single mom of a 4-year-old and 6-year-old.
During that time, I became really burned out. I was working 11- and 12-hour days. It felt like it had turned into a numbers game and you were only as good as your last month and your sales. Eventually, I quit and took three months off. Then about a year and a half ago, I received a call from a friend from Pacific Elite who recommended I meet with the managers there.
They were so excited and enthusiastic, and they reminded me of home. I was a little leery at first, but I got onboard and they brought me into their corporate store, which is great exposure because you get to meet so many wonderful people.
I remember on my third day of training I was in Covina and the COO, Bob Benjamin, drove to meet me as a new hire. I thought, ‘That’s rare, that’s really rare.’ I knew right then this was going to be different. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, which is bad because you should never think something is going to happen, but I just kept wondering ‘When is it going to turn into how everything else has been?’ A year and a half later, it still hasn’t.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working as a GM in this industry?
A: My favorite part is getting to be part of everybody’s lives. I try to have a conversation with every employee at least once a day to make sure they have everything they need. I want to find out if there is anything going on in their lives that I need to be aware of. I have a great rapport with all my staff.
I also make it a priority to understand what they want out of their life and help them reach their goals. I’ve helped fast-track a couple of people already who felt stagnant in their positions and were not happy at the time that I came on board. Since then, we’ve moved them into better positions and they are learning more and growing, and you can see them evolving as people. They’re happier now and sometimes a spouse will come in and say, ‘They’ve changed so much.’ I enjoy getting to see that.