One Happy Family
How looking for positives helps Louisiana shop owner provide customers quality service & repairs.
Elissa Larremore, owner of CBS 1 Collision’s three shops in Shreveport and Bossier City, La., has a simple philosophy for business success. Well, executing the philosophy is not that simple. In fact, it takes a special outlook on work life to make it happen.
“I do not give up,” Larremore says. “Persistence. I will find a way, whether I have to climb the mountain or move it. And I want my team to do the same.”
Her persistence pays off because, as anyone knows who owns auto repair shops in today’s rapidly evolving environment, the business requires dealing with some enormous challenges, including the cost of new technology, new equipment and new training, as well as a climate that’s these days offering stagnant revenue growth. And then there’s the issue of managing multiple shops.
Larremore, who was sworn in as a General Director to the board of directors at ASA’s recent Annual Business Meeting in Orlando, Fla., notes that though each of her shops has its own personality, she still uses a standardized system to keep up with the people, the invoicing and the training. “I use CCC One management system,” she says. “I can track a lot of information from my laptop, but I need to stay engaged with my staff at each location, too. But I like the challenge of figuring it all out.
“Some people think owning your own collision repair business is glamorous or easy. It’s not, but we have fun. Most days.”
Larremore likes a happy shop. And though she admits some days aren’t as happy as others, she, like Scarlett in “Gone with the Wind,” takes the attitude that “tomorrow is another day.” In fact, her employees often call Larremore The Cheerleader because she’s always looking for the positives in people.
“You spend the majority of your life with your work family,” she says. “I don’t want to come to work with a bunch of miserable people, and neither do they. We have fun. But I want my technicians and staff to perform safe repairs and get customers back in their vehicles, without a huge disruption in their lives.”
That’s why Larremore aggressively trains her techs and staff. She wants to give them an edge in providing top-notch customer service and quality repairs. But she also wants to help them respond to changes taking place in the industry, changes that include a shrinking technician pool, legal liabilities created by advancements in technology and the challenges of keeping pace with the amount of education and equipment necessary to perform safe, correct repairs.
“The question,” she says, “that I continually ask my technicians is, ‘Would you put your family in this repair and stand by its quality and safety?’”
Maybe that’s because Larremore is one shop owner who fully understands the issue of legal liabilities associated with the advanced technology. She’s a non-practicing attorney, with a Juris Doctor Degree from Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas. She got involved in the collision repair business in 2003.
At the time, the shop was a small location that recorded sales of only $650,000 the first year her family owned it. However, they eventually relocated, built up the business and opened a second location. She began running the shop’s daily operations in 2015 and became the sole owner in 2016.
“I didn’t choose this profession,” she says. “It chose me. And I love it!”
So what does she love about it?
“There’s something new every day,” she says. “I love seeing what’s coming, and I love figuring out how to solve the problems. And I love the people. Most successful people in this industry want to see other shops be successful. Everyone I ask for information, or help, they’re available. And if they can’t find an answer, they’ll put me in touch with someone who can. It’s very different from the legal world. LOL!”
Going forward, she expresses a desire to expand the size of her current locations. And she admits to being somewhat of a cheerleader for ASA. Although she hasn’t had the opportunity to recruit new members and join the Chairman’s Club, she plans to get more involved when “I get my feet under me in my own area. In fact, I’d like to start a local affiliate.”
To launch an ASA-Louisiana affiliate would qualify as one of Larremore’s “mountains.” But people that work with her, as well as the peers she’s met in ASA, probably know she’ll climb it. Or move it. Happily.
NAME OF SHOP: CBS 1 Collision
LOCATIONS: Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana
Square footage of business: 12,000 at the 70th St. and 6,000 at Watts Rd. locations in Shreveport;
13,000 at the E. Texas St. location in Bossier City
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 15, two years as sole owner
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 42
NUMBER OF REPAIRS WEEKLY: 150 to 200 at the three locations
PROJECTED ANNUAL SALES: $7.5 million
WHY CBS 1 Collision is an ASA member shop:
“I’ve had some incredibly wonderful mentors. I’ve only been deeply involved in the industry for three years, so I’m the baby of the group. But so many people involved in ASA really care about the industry and the future of the industry. I learn so much from them, especially Tony Molla, Jim Keller and Bob Redding. And I love the legal aspect of it, as well. Bob, in the Washington, D.C., office does a great job keeping up with everything happening nationally and across the states.”