Thursday, 07 January 2021 19:54

Making All the Wright Moves for All the Right Reasons

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It’s a family business with Adrian Wright's husband Derek, left, and father Harold, right, all working together at Wright One & Paint in Augusta, GA. It’s a family business with Adrian Wright's husband Derek, left, and father Harold, right, all working together at Wright One & Paint in Augusta, GA.


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By continually learning everything she can about the collision repair industry and leading with compassion for both her customers and employees, Adrian Wright is making all the right moves as the owner of Wright One Paint and Body Shop in Augusta, GA.

Wright never imagined she would end up in the collision repair industry. She was working for corporations such as AT&T, Bell South and Frigidaire in customer service and making some serious money for someone in her 20s.


“I loved my career and was advancing quickly,” she said. “At one point, I realized that I was making more money than most of my friends. I never thought that I would work for a body shop, let alone run one.”


Wright’s plans were redirected in 2007 when Harold, her dad, decided to buy a body shop.


“He started looking around for someone to answer the phones and run the front office,” she said. “I thought, I’m right here! I asked him why not me and he said let’s try it, so I started working there the next day.”


With Dad still involved in the business, Wright’s husband, Derrick, as the company’s GM and her youngest brother, Taylor, working there, Wright One Paint and Body Shop is truly a family business.


As a former estimator and manager for more than 30 years working at other shops, Harold Wright was an excellent teacher.


“My dad would take me out to do estimates, and tell me don’t speak, so I just watched," Adrian Wright said. "It was the best way to learn the business, and once I knew a little more about the vehicles, I tapped into my customer service experience and it worked.”


When Wright One Paint and Body Shop opened its doors, father and daughter didn’t hit the market running, so to speak.


“The first two years were tough, and yes, I was scared---I quit a good job to do this and we don’t have any cars here,” she said. “There was one week I remember where we made 100 bucks.”


Luckily, Harold had built a strong following by...

...performing quality work at other shops. It took a little while, but pretty soon the phones started ringing.


“It just took some time to establish ourselves and so people could find us,” Wright said. “We did some billboards and some television commercials at the beginning, but most of our work comes from word-of-mouth and referrals.”


The shop now employs 14 people and was repairing 80 to 150 vehicles monthly prior to the pandemic. In April, Wright had to make a series of lifechanging decisions on the fly.


“When we found out, my first impression was this is crazy,” she said. “I kept telling myself that we were going to be OK, but yes---I was definitely worried.”


Luckily, Wright hasn’t had to furlough or lay off any of her people because of the pandemic.


“We are a family here and we want to keep it that way,” she said. “The Collision Industry Foundation gave all of my employees a nice check for $500 and in went right into their pockets without any strings attached as part of its emergency relief program. It was a blessing and much needed at the time.”


While many body shop owners and managers reluctantly take classes and go to shows like SEMA or NACE, Wright aggressively pursues knowledge about new equipment and products with a passion.


“When I first started, I relied on trade magazines to keep me informed---that’s where I learned a lot,” she said. “I also love going to SEMA because that’s where I can take classes, meet reps and see new things that I can use to be a better shop. This industry is changing all the time with aluminum vehicles, ADAS systems and diagnostics, so there is more training required than ever.”


As a non-DRP shop, Wright has to rely on...

...great online reviews and referrals from satisfied customers, she said.


“We have never had a DRP because we want to work for our customers, not the insurance companies. We looked at a few of them but realized that when you sign up, it provides you with volume, but they can tie your hands about how to fix the cars. I don’t want to skimp or cut corners to save money by compromising our work.”


A source for new talent is badly needed, and finding top-notch collision repair professionals has become problematic, Wright said.


“I have come to the conclusion that not many people can do these jobs," she said. "We have difficulty finding good painters and techs, and it’s a little scary because our crew is getting older and some of them will be retiring eventually.”


Wright knows the value of a skilled and experienced estimator, tech or painter, she said.


“I have some people who are a huge part of our team and if we lost any of them, it would affect us in a big way. That’s why we keep them happy and hopefully busy.


"It’s a fine balance because I am their friend and I know their families, but at the end of the day, I’m their boss. We have fun and we love to laugh and eat and it all works because there’s a lot of respect and love there.”


As a woman owner/operator, Wright used to run into a little sexism now and again, but now people know who’s in charge and holding the reins.


“When I first started here, customers, mostly male, would come in here and ask for my father, like I wasn’t even there,” she said. “It was frustrating and eventually it stopped when people saw that I was running the business.”


Wright has a bright future in the body shop business because she’s only 37. Her father, 63, wants to work another 10 years, but Wright realized a while back he has no plans to ever retire.


“Starting this shop was his lifelong dream and I know he’s proud of what we have done here. I’m continually learning and working to improve the shop in order to provide a good service to our customers and solid careers for our employees.”


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