At Rick’s Paint and Body, collision repair is a family affair. Assured Performance was able to connect with owners, Katie and Tyler Smith, and discuss their Augusta, Georgia based Certified body shop. Forefront on their minds was how they maximize their shop’s Certifications and prioritize using the best tools and technologies. Their emphasis on high quality, safe repairs allows their shop to provide each customer with excellent service. Processing an impressive number of vehicles each month, the secret of their success may be tied to a motto that their shop management considers foundational— provide every employee with an enjoyable, family style work environment and stay ahead of the curve!
The History of Rick’s Paint and Body
Katie Smith grew up in the Collision Care industry. In the early 1990’s, her father, Rusty Campbell, bought Rick’s Paint and Body from the original owner, Rick Huff— who had opened the shop in 1976. Her father had been employed by Rick for several years and knew the shop was something special. This torch recently passed to Katie and her husband, Tyler Smith, who purchased the shop from her father in January, 2020. Rick’s Paint and Body is Certified by Assured Performance, Nissan, INFINITI, Ford, Ford- Aluminum, Kia, Hyundai, Fiat Chrysler, GM and Subaru… with more Certifications in the works. In Katie’s words, “Our Certifications help set our shop apart from other body shops. We consistently train our front staff to educate customers about our training and the advanced tools required to fix their vehicle.”
How Rick’s Paint and Body Has Navigated Recent Changes
Running a busy, successful collision repair shop is no small venture. Rick’s Paint and Body currently employees about 48 people, most of whom have worked for the shop for over 15 years. Not only do Katie and Tyler work at the shop full-time – in addition to being parents – but Katie’s cousin Murphy is the shop’s head estimator. Meanwhile, Murphy’s teenage brother has worked at the shop since he learned how to drive and aspires to become a body technician after high school. As further proof that a love of collision care is a lifelong journey, Katie’s father still participates in the shop and her mother handles payroll.
Being a family oriented business means that Rick’s Paint and Body cares for their customers’ vehicles the same way that they would want their own repaired. “We treat every person like a member of the family. After all, no one plans on getting into an accident!” This standard has helped the shop bring in new business through social media platforms, word of mouth, and insurance referrals. “We run a local commercial and advertise in two magazines.” Not surprisingly, their marketing advertisements announce that they are their community’s “Local Certified Choice”.
Katie elaborates, “We also launched the Assured Performance Economic Booster Program at the beginning of April and WOW! It could not have come at a better time. Tyler and I also attended Assured Performance’s conference at Disney, in 2018 and 2019. Each time, we walked away with valuable information.”
While COVID-19 changed their shop operations for the short term, Katie believes that the changes they’ve implemented will help them in the future. “We have spent a small fortune on cleaning supplies to help keep our staff and customers safe. We even had our front window painted with directions for customers to stay inside their vehicle and call us, so a Rick’s representative could provide curbside vehicle service. We also offer a pickup and delivery option for repairs.”
To Katie, the important lesson is that these sanitary precautions are a good practice for everyone, “We all know a person’s vehicle is a ‘germ paradise’, so we now take an extra few minutes to wipe everything down and apply disinfectant.” Katie feels that all shops should continue to ensure this high level of safety, through a detailed cleaning protocol, “We will continue to use seat, steering wheel, handle, and gear shift covers along with applying a disinfectant spray.”
Despite how seamlessly Rick’s Paint and Body implemented these changes, Katie and Tyler admit that they miss one thing— face-to-face interaction with the community members they’ve grown to know so well. However, their hard work has paid off. “Our customers have been extremely grateful for the extra measures we’ve taken and everyone has complimented our curbside service.”
Going forward, Katie sees her shop continuing to grow and evolve in their approach. “There’s one motto that my dad drilled into my head since before I was born… When you start a project, never stop until it is done, big or small. That advice is true in all aspects of life and Tyler and I teach our two boys the same thing.”
Katie is looking forward to her shop receiving ongoing Certifications and is even considering offering customers Certified Repairs, “Any time you can give someone a piece of paper that says ‘Certified” I feel like it makes them feel good… as they know they made the right choice.”
For collision repair shops that are just starting the Certification process, Katie’s advice is simple, “Since each manufacturer has their own required tools and training requirements, the easiest way to obtain and maintain our Certifications is through a binder for each Manufacturer, with everything labelled. When auditors arrive, they really appreciate that we have everything in one place and aren’t scrambling to find numbers or scans.”
Rick’s Paint and Body keeps their team empowered with weekly meetings, file audits, and ongoing staff training. In Katie’s words, “Inspect what you expect!”