Carlsbad, CA, October 31, 2017 (PRESS RELEASE JET) –
Since its humble beginnings in 1956, Heppner’s Auto Body in St. Paul, MN, has grown from one location to six.
“The original owner, Elmer, sold Heppner’s to my father-in-law in 1985, who made it into a multi-shop operation (MSO),” said co-vice president Jesse Jacobson. His wife, Laura, is also vice president, while his mother-in-law, Linda Klatt, took over ownership after her husband, Bill Klatt, passed away five and a half years ago.
“We are proud to have quite a few employees who have been with the company over 20 years, and three who have been with us for over 30 years,” said Jacobson. “It’s clear that we’ve been able to build a twoway loyalty and trust with employees to have them stick with us for that long.”
We recently upgraded to 3M’s PPS 2.0 system with a quarter-turn locking lid. I asked the painters about it, and they had great feedback: It’s easier to use, has fewer moving parts, takes up less shelf space, and the clean-up is much easier compared to the original.
He added that Heppner’s loves to promote employees from within.
“Many of our top painters and estimators started out as detailers; sometimes that takes five years, sometimes it takes 20,” Jacobson explained. “It’s nice to know they’re not jumping around the city to different employers—they like working for us.”
He added that when employees have considered leaving in the past, one of the veterans is there to tell him or her that “the grass may not be greener on the other side.”
“They have those conversations on our behalf so we don’t have to,” Jacobson said. “It’s nice to have that support and loyalty.” When it comes to finding quality employees, he said it “ebbs and flows.”
“Sometimes you can’t find anybody, and other times your inbox is overflowing with applicants,” Jacobson said.
He added that everyone is aware that the technical schools are having trouble recruiting people, but they’re finding ways to deal with it.
“It’s a different generation,” Jacobson said. “We’re just trying to stay connected with the local technical schools and have great relationships with the instructors, so we can have some influence on the really good kids coming out of these schools.”
He added that another big challenge is keeping up with technology advancement, especially as an MSO.
“We have to constantly educate our employees, from estimators to technicians to painters, on what you can and can’t do to these vehicles,” Jacobson said. “It happens so fast, and a lot of the time we don’t get the support from the OEMs on manufacturer standards, and then insurance companies will say it has to be done one way, but there’s no documentation from the OEMs yet. It’s a huge effort to keep up with it all.”
He added that it’s very important to make sure every location is on the same page.
Training and building a quality team go hand in hand with providing employees with the most efficient equipment.
“We recently upgraded to 3M’s PPS 2.0 system with a quarter-turn locking lid,” said Jacobson. “I asked the painters about it, and they had great feedback: It’s easier to use, has fewer moving parts, takes up less shelf space, and the clean-up is much easier compared to the original. It generates less paint build-up, is easier to clean up and easier to use. It doesn’t accumulate as much overspray, which prevents the contamination of other jobs.”
He said that the MSO’s productivity has improved in the last several months thanks to these product advancements.
“The handling of the new 3M PPS Series 2.0 Spray Cup System is much better,” Jacobson explained. “This version only requires a quarter turn, versus two full turns, to get the collar on. The improved preciseness prevents the painters from losing track of how many times they’ve turned it. Because my painters know the quarter-turn locking lid is securely fastened, they’re able to focus more on the job at hand. They said the more control they have over the gun, the more confidence they have in their work.”
Advertising is another big factor that contributes to Heppner’s Auto Body’s success.
“We use a diverse mix of traditional media and digital media,” said Jacobson. “We rely heavily on social media and Google Ads, as well as billboards and radio.”
He said when a good advertising opportunity presents itself, he and Laura will take advantage.
“We also have strong relationships with insurance agents, which helps with referrals,” Jacobson added.
Jacobson and his team also reach out to the community by sponsoring sports teams and being involved with five local chambers of commerce.
“We are always attending networking and training events,” he added.
Relatively new to the industry, Jacobson said he’s been “pleasantly surprised” by how friendly other shops in the area are.
“I’ve been active with AASP-MN and am currently a member of the collision advisory and legacy committees,” he said. “There are quite a few shop owners who talk and get together, whether it’s for a trade show or other event. We’re not fierce competitors who can’t say hi, have a conversation and see how business is going. It’s a very friendly environment.”
Heppner’s Auto Body
St. Paul, MN
Company At A Glance…
Type: Collision Repair
Facility Employees: 80
In Business Since: 1956
Number of Locations: Six
DRP Programs: Three
Combined Production Space: 70,000 square feet
3M Automotive Aftermarket Division
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Source: Autobody News
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