Running a family collision business: stay in your lane

As co-owner of three collision repair shops in Denver with my brother – CARSTAR Ideal Northglenn, CARSTAR Ideal Arvada and CARSTAR Ideal Littleton – I had the opportunity to learn and grow with him and build a business for the next generations of our family.

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No plan

I had no intention of working in an auto shop with my brother Jeff. I was working as a paralegal for an oil and gas attorney. I’ve also done Jeff’s books and seen her growth year over year which opened my eyes to the potential.

Jeff started his career more than 30 years ago in a two car garage. He and his then-partner moved into a small 4,500-square-foot repair shop and needed help with bookkeeping. I started helping them and by 1999 Jeff was outgrowing his hometown. That’s when we decided to go ahead and build our flagship repair facility. The rest, as they say, is history.

But doing business with a family member requires careful thought. Do you share the same vision? Do you approach work with the same passion and commitment? Do you have skills that complement each other?

Follow in our footsteps

There is certainly a certain dynamic in a brother and sister team running the business. Jeff and I complement each other – he has his strengths and so do I, so we fill in each other’s gaps. We’ve learned over the years that communication is key. We both respect each other in every aspect of our lives, be it business or personal. We are both very dedicated and each of us works equally hard to ensure our businesses are successful.

It’s important to split up the duties and respect each other’s lanes. In a busy collision repair business, there is no time to question each other or do tasks twice. Jeff takes care of everything on the production side of our company. He spent his early years working on cars, from body to paint. He has a very good knowledge of the repair process and is really the go-to person for most of our technicians when they have an issue. I, on the other hand, take care of the financial side of our business as well as all front office processes and procedures. As we have grown, we have changed our roles as our responsibilities have expanded. We have hired two strong operations managers in each store, as well as very knowledgeable directors. This has added an extra layer of support, but we are still very committed to our stores and work in them every day.

In the 20+ years that Jeff and I have worked together, we have evolved and understood our strengths and weaknesses. We really step out of the way and do what we do best. Big decisions are never decided independently – we talk about everything. It’s not often that we don’t agree. Believe me when I say there have been times when we’ve driven each other insane, but because of our mutual respect, we get through it all.

My person

Working with your family has great benefits. I have always referred to Jeff as “my person” as he knows how to be the voice of reason and supports me even when he disagrees with some of my ideas. We allow each other flexibility and really understand what the other needs even before we know what we need ourselves. It hasn’t always been easy, but every year our businesses grow and prosper because of our teamwork.

We are truly a family business with many layers of families working within our organization. We often laugh about not being able to buy another business because we no longer have family members to run it. The fact of the matter is that our family dynamic works because we all love and respect each other. We know, at the end of the day, that we may not always agree, but we are all committed to the success of our businesses.

We all work equally hard and I don’t want to be in this crazy business without the family that works with us every day. Jeff and I truly know that every family member who works in our businesses is a huge part of our success and we truly appreciate each and every one of them. We also have many loyal team members who have been with us for years and really consider them family too. It really takes a village to do what we do – and we’ve got one hell of a village!



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