Dave Rabatin, owner of the Holmesville and Wooster collision centers, said simply, “It all starts with the customer.”
Sounding the same note is Aaron Fox, assistant manager of the Wooster shop. “The most important thing is who walks through the front door.”
“Our first concern with a damaged car is the well-being of the owner, to know if the people are okay,” said Fox. “If something happens to it, we’re like the critical care center. After that, “we bring in the car, give it a bath, and examine it to see what it needs.” In all of this they strive to make the owners feel welcome and comfortable.
When asked about business in the midst of a recession, Rabatin is almost nonchalant. “We’re fortunate to have friends who keep coming in to have their cars repaired, and our friends tell their friends about us.” He doesn’t talk about customers; he talks about friends. This philosophy has served the company well in the 12 years since he took ownership.
With a well-established business in Holmesville, and a new shop in Wooster that opened in June 2009, Rabatin expects significant growth in 2010. He anticipates a turnaround in car sales, leading to more cars on the road, and more cars in the body shop.
A one-man rustproofing shop established in 1976 evolved into the full-service body shop that is now AutoWorks. Rabatin joined the company in 1990, moving quickly through the ranks to the manager’s position, and bought the business from his employer in 1998. When his building was destroyed by fire four years later, he felt a responsibility to rebuild, saying, “I really don’t like to let people down.”
Relocating to Holmesville, AutoWorks grew to an 18,000-square-foot facility, complete with state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Fox, who’s been doing body work as long as he can remember, said it’s not just styles that have changed. The material and the technology in new cars are far more sophisticated than the ones he grew up with. For example, the new high strength alloy steels in new cars require new welders, new techniques, and new approaches in the restoration process.
“I’m excited about the new technology in cars,” Fox said. “Cars are being made safer and better than ever.” This embracing of change shows in their approach at the collision center. AutoWorks does not shy from new methods and tools, but prefers to be on the leading edge of the collision industry. This includes constantly updating training and equipment. With guidance systems, suspension systems, steering sensors and more, it’s vital to stay abreast of technology in order to be able to return a vehicle to its owner in pristine condition and impeccable working order.
Their Wooster shop was designed from the ground up to be an efficient working environment for collision repairs. Their staff of experts at both facilities has the training, the years of experience, and commitment to excellence that is the company’s culture. “We like to do everything in-house,” said Fox, including diagnostics and repairs by their ASE-certified technicians. This allows them to maintain higher quality control standards and return the car to its owner quickly.
AutoWorks has paint bake booths to cure fresh paint within an hour, rather than 12 hours or so otherwise. Their technicians take the extra step of buffing and polishing a newly painted surface. It’s indicative of the approach at AutoWorks, where a little more time and work pays off in a superior finished product.
Understanding how important a car is to its owner, Fox likes to let the owner know what is being done with the car. Seeing the facility where the work is done lets them know their vehicle will be given the best of care.
While the vehicle owner is the focus of AutoWorks efforts, there’s a bigger picture to what makes them successful. Since most of their work is done through insurance companies, AutoWorks cultivates good relationships with the agents and adjusters. According to Fox, the insurance industry has been instrumental in safety improvements in automobiles. The insurance representatives work at staying current with the collision industry. AutoWorks steps in by providing on-site state mandated training for the agents’ continuing education.
Rabatin sums up his philosophy, “It makes us happy to make people happy.”
Published: March 4, 2010