“We’ve been blessed,” said Mueller. “First year I was in business, we made $105,000; last year, we passed $3 million.”
Kurt's Collision Center
Type: Collision Repair
DRP Programs: 20
With the recent hailstorm that hit Maryville, IL, he predicts that they will do $4 million in 2017.
“We’ve always been an hourly shop,” said Mueller. “With piece work, everybody thinks the other person is getting a better job than they are, which causes fighting amongst employees instead of working together.”
He’s always treated his employees the way he wants to be treated: fairly and with respect.
“I’ve never had a problem getting employees,” said Kurt. “We had two employees in 1980 and added four employees in the last three years.”
CARSTAR Kurt’s Collision Center now has 18 employees and an additional 6,000 square feet of work space after expanding their facility in April 2016.
Another way the shop owner maintains a profitable business is by utilizing a host of products from 3M’s collision repair line: Platinum Select Body Filler, Platinum Plus glaze, Cubitron II abrasives, Dirt Trap for booth protection, buffing pads, compounds, polishes, headlight restoration, masking paper and plastic sheeting to cover vehicles, PPS cups, belt sanders and grinders, as well as bumper stands and door stands for paint work.
The 3M masking process with plastic sheeting and high-quality green tape provides painters with optimum results.
“We’ve used their two-part adhesives since they came out, as well as their sandpaper and car wash detailing system,” Mueller’s son Nathan added. Nathan will be taking over the shop when his father retires.
Mueller said that the Meguiars Car Wash Detailing System is very efficient and easy to use.
“You just push a button and it puts the soap into the water and measures everything for you,” he said. “And it never over-mixes the solution.”
“About six months ago, we started using the Total Automotive Sanding System from 3M and Festool, which makes the sandpaper last twice as long,” Kurt continued. “I was a little hesitant to invest in it, but just in savings on sandpaper, we’ve already made the money back.”
Nathan and Kurt both agree that the mobile sanding system is a “fantastic” addition to 3M’s product line and that it has made a huge improvement in their shop.
“If I told my guys we were taking it away from them, they’d tackle the guy trying to take it,” Kurt added.
Nathan and Kurt have also established a great relationship with their 3M reps. “They’re here at least twice a quarter checking in,” added Nathan.
Mueller said he prides himself in being “as cutting edge as he can afford” when it comes to keeping up with the latest technology.
However, the Illinois shop has held off on becoming aluminum certified.
“We’ve been first in doing a lot of things, and sometimes [these advancements] end up going away, and we don’t get a return on the money we’ve spent,” explained Kurt. “So we’re a little bit cautious this time.”
CARSTAR Kurt’s Collision Center has come a long way since its humble start in a two-car garage in 1980.
He added that his shop is capable of repairing small hits on aluminum vehicles, and that they haven’t had to turn a job away yet.
Besides word of mouth, Kurt said the employee’s involvement in the community has helped direct customers to the collision center.
“Our office manager is on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, which encompasses five small towns,” Kurt explained. “We sponsor children’s baseball, soccer and softball teams; up to 35 teams a year.”
He continued, “It’s a roundabout way of using social media for your business because it’s through other people [who are posting about their child’s team.]” Mueller also speaks at the Women’s Industry Network (WIN) Conference every year.
“Not trying to toot my own horn, but word has gotten out that I’m likable and when I talk to people, they listen,” said Kurt. “I try to make it fun, and when you get people in a comfortable environment like that, they tend to remember you more than if you put an ad in the paper.”
As for his top concerns as a shop owner, he said communication is number one.
“Making sure the process and systems work is probably my number one concern,” he explained. “It’s important for the employees, owner, everybody involved to know what they’re supposed to be doing and for everything to be working in an orderly manner.”
As far as keeping up with the latest technology and the future of collision repair as a whole, Mueller remains “cautiously optimistic.”
“There’s going to be more changes in the next 20 years than have been in the last 40, and that’s really saying something,” said Mueller. “Who knows, we could be working on cars that fly in the next 10 years.”
3M Corporate Headquarters
St. Paul, MN 55144
To read more auto body shop profiles from the June 2017 Shop & Product Showcase, click here.