- photo by Anthony Jinson
In 1982, Carol Miller opened Central Missouri Auto Body with her husband. In the ensuing years, Carol found her passion for the automotive repair industry, even through their separation. “The business had become my passion,” she says. “It had been our livelihood for close to 30 years at the time we were deciding its fate. I knew with the right people in place, we could provide this service to the Mid-Mo area for years to come.”
Central Missouri Auto Body is an independent repair shop that specializes in collision repair (including hail damage). Much of the shop’s business comes from insurance companies recommending them after claims are filed, and client retention and testimonials keep repeat business high.
Reclaiming a Passion
Initially starting the business in Boonville, Carol began her path to owning Central Missouri Auto Body as a passenger. “I didn’t really grow up with the dream of owning a body shop,” says Carol. “I didn’t know much about body shops prior to meeting my ex-husband. He was working on cars, I was working the front, and we grew from there.”
After her divorce, Carol knew she wanted to continue in the business she helped create. She began the journey by purchasing the shop from her ex-husband, with a few speedbumps along the way. “After the fact, a friend asked, ‘When the banks kept turning you down, did you ever think of quitting?’” Carol says. “My answer was an emphatic ‘no,’ because it never crossed my mind. . . . This is what I’ve been doing for the past 30 years. My heart, blood, sweat, and tears were already in it. So it was very exciting to have the opportunity to come back and do what I love.”
While any period of transition can be rocky, Carol never let that deter her, nor did she let it affect the day-to-day operations of the business. She told her employees that their roles and positions weren’t going to change, so they went about their business providing exceptional service to their clients. “I honestly feel my job is to give you the job, and your job is to do your job,” says Carol. “I don’t micromanage. I let them do their thing.”
When listening to Carol talk about her Central Missouri Auto Body team, her trust and pride in her employees shines through. She knows what makes her company successful. While everyone has their specific roles, the team’s ability and willingness to help out in all areas helps keep things efficient. “It takes teamwork,” she says. “When we need help, we need help. We are a team that helps each other.”
Her team of 12 includes Jason Long, production manager; Chris Vaughn, shop manager; Ed Eibel, customer service; Kevin Meeks, collision advisor; Randy Shadwick, painter; Scott Tiffany, body tech; Jay March, body tech; Jay Gerling, body tech; Jake Pollard, body tech; Antoine Brown, detail manager; Hunter Smith, refinish tech; and Jerry Malone, refinish tech. “Every one of them is important,” says Carol. “This place cannot go without every one of them doing their job. You really have to be a family.”
Rebuilding a Foundation
“Number one is the customers,” Carol says. “We work hard to make sure we are satisfied so that our customers are satisfied.”
With that mindset, Carol and her team decided to expand their shop. “When I very first took over solely in 2014, someone asked me if I ever planned to expand,” she says. At that point, her answer was another emphatic “no.” However, due to her dedicated staff and their growing reputation for quality work, the business (clientele and production) has, in fact, expanded. With more business comes more equipment, resulting in the need for more room. Now, their goal is to have enough space for 20 to 30 carts of parts to continue being as expedient as possible for their customers. This will mean an expansion of 30-by-100 feet, allowing for not only more space for parts, but also more space to maneuver during production.
“We want to deliver a good product,” Carol says. “Again, number one is customer satisfaction. We stand behind our work, and if you aren’t satisfied, we are going to do what we can to get you satisfied.”
Along with ensuring quality customer service, Carol feels the importance of her business for her family.
“I was telling my soon-to-be ex, when determining the fate of the business, that the shop is our daughters’ legacy,” Carol says. “Even if they don’t become an active part in the day-to-day business, the real estate will provide rent income for their families for years to come. So, at the time of starting our business two years into our marriage with no children, there was no way of knowing how many, what gender — who our legacy would be handed on to. I hold much pride for all three of my daughters, who have forged their own way in their current careers.”
It’s an extension of the dedicated, family-oriented mindset that keeps Carol Miller and her team at Central Missouri Auto Body at the top of their game with more growth on the horizon. CBT