Wano accepted the mantle of responsibility as chairman of SCRS last April. In his opening remarks, Wano stated, “There are a lot of issues we intend to address throughout the year. Although some repairers are pessimistic about the general climate of the collision repair industry, we are optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead. SCRS’ job is to identify those opportunities and ensure our members are successful and profitable.”
Wano’s sense of humor is still intact as he noted “I am finding out how much work it takes to keep this thing going.
“Thankfully, the growing varieties of electronic communication allow us to respond more quickly to repairer needs, and mobilize faster than before. We recognize our strength is derived from our members and state affiliate associations. SCRS will continue to focus on strengthening and leveraging those relationships, as the need for unity has never been more prevalent.
“SCRS is positioned to assist the industry in change,” Wano stated. “We have excellent input from a diversified board of directors to begin these processes. What we have found is that often there is a disconnect between what the insurer’s home office has set as policy and what is implemented in the field by local management. In the process of being passed down, the intent and spirit of the policy is often lost, sometimes resulting in negotiations at the shop level that are heated, unproductive, and certainly not market-driven.
“We are meeting with four major carriers to find out what is really going on and to see what we can do to change our business climate. Our meetings have gone remarkably well, and may have opened the level of dialog between our industries. The concept of these meetings is to provide takeaways for both industries,” said a cautiously optimistic Wano. “Turning the ship around does take some time.”
SCRS is one of many collision industry groups to benefit from Wano’s gentle leadership. He is a true advocate for the industry from painters to shop owners. His passion and efforts have been recognized by the industry as he was awarded the 2008 Collision Repair Shop Executive of the Year by Body Shop Business Magazine. He is also the National Auto Body Council PRIDE Chairman and former NABC director-at-large; Collision Industry Elecronic Commerce Association Repair Ad- visory Panel; ASA past president Oklahoma Chapter; and Oklahoma Auto Body Association past president.
The seed germinates
Wano comes to the industry from the family business established by his father Gary Wano, Sr. His father managed a Ford dealership body shop in Oklahoma City, where Gary Jr. began working as a painter while he was still in high school. When the Ford dealership was sold out from under them, the Wanos didn’t look back. They leased a 4,500 square foot building across the street and started G.W. and Son Auto Body. In 2008, the shop is about 4 miles away from that original location and is 32,000 square feet of high-end, state-of-the-art Mercedes Benz and Jaguar certified collision repair.
This successful father and son team are both actively engaged in the business. When calling the shop to ask for Gary Wano, they always ask Jr. or Sr?
A defining moment took place in 1985 when a local 3M representative suggested he take a 3-day management class. “He told us that if we were going to last in the collision repair business, we needed to put certain systems in place. This was the 3M ARMS class, costing $585.00. 3M promised us our money back if the system didn’t work for us.”
After the 3-day class, Wano Jr. came home with the manual job costing system. Job costing really worked for them, but it took a lot of time. Wano Jr. moved into the office and his mother came in just to help keep up with the manual job costing process. They worked overtime on this paperwork and saw the tremendous value it brought to them. They subsequently purchased the ARMS Management System. “It paid for itself after 3 months”
Wano spends many days away from home. When asked how he balances all this with his family, he proudly points to his wife, Julie. “This has everything to do with my wife. She understands the passion that I have for this industry. Plus, she can see with the climate change of business, that it will make a difference if we don’t stay involved. She sees that so much of our home life is impacted based on what happens in these meetings.” The children, Hagen 11, Kamen 9, Jaden 5 and Ralen (daddy’s little princess), 3 will have the option to come in the business if they so desire.
Gary Wano stands apart from the crowd in many ways. He is Native American from the Citizen Potawatomie people. His appearance bears out his heritage and his long black pony tail is his signature. Citizen Potawatomie—“Keepers of the Fire—are originally from the Great Lakes region.
Seven generations back, his grandfather was able to position his tribe by building a trading post to trade with the white people. This made the way for their tribe to be prosperous and wealthy. He was “sly as a panther.” Nobody could see how this happened, yet his paws were seen all over the place. At age 35, Gary Wano went through the sweat ceremony and received his Citizen Potawatomie name from the tribal elders: Pe Um Skweet Ship Shewano —One Who Turns Them Around By The Panther of the Spirit World.
Wano Jr. is now in an industry leadership position and “his paws are seen all over the place.” His dedication fuels his passion. “I cannot forsake doing this. Whether I am here in Oklahoma or not, this stuff has to happen. I don’t know why, I feel like I have to be part of this.”