About the Author

About Me – Ray Jenkins.

I’ll start at the beginning.  I remember it very well – as if it was yesterday…

A young fifteen-year-old fresh out of school by six weeks and I start my first day at a Ford dealership in Slough, named Norman Reeves – 27 miles west from the heart of the City of London – for those of you that don’t know where Slough is in the UK.  They had six dealerships, in and around the outskirts of London.

The date is Monday, 8 September 1969…I’ve just turned fifteen by two weeks, and I’m a boy in a grown man’s world.

I was told by the service manager that employed me, a Mr Bob Povey, that when I arrived for my new job I had to go to the works controller’s office and be there for 8 o’clock sharp.  I arrived at the controller’s office at 8 o’clock sharp and waited, and waited.  While I waited, I noticed there were quite a few apprentices at all different ages, but all mechanics.  All the other mechanics were all at different ages. They were arriving for their day to start and there was plenty of banter going on, with swear words being part of everyday conversation.  When some of the office girls turned up at the coffee machine, which was situated in the workshop, for their morning coffee all the swearing instantly stopped until they went back to the office.  How times have changed…

I seemed to be hanging around there for what seemed like an hour before eventually the works controller came up to me and said “do you need to speak to someone?”, to which my reply was “I’m supposed to be starting in the panel shop today to be an apprentice Panelbeater”.  “Okay I will get someone to come and get you”. A very fit looking young man came down to get me, his name was Alan Taylor.  He was the bodyshop foreman and he run the bodyshop.  He introduced himself and took me down to the body shop.  Everyone was looking at this very naive new boy as we walked down to the very end of the workshop.

I was introduced to the other members of the bodyshop as the new boy.  Two painters Steve and Ted, Steve was in his early 20s, Ted was in his mid-40s. There was Stan, a Panelbeater, in his early 60s.  Then there was Spig, a 17-year-old apprentice Panelbeater.  A Polish lad by descent and born in the UK, hence his name being rather unusual to me.  We became great mates as I got older.  Alan, was the other Panelbeater in the bodyshop. I later found out that Alan had been trained and served an apprenticeship at Mercedes Brentford.  Mercedes UK had their own bodyshop based there at the time.  Today it’s a big complex dealership with many stories above displaying all the models that Mercedes currently sell in the UK. It’s sat, next to the M4 flyover on the great West Road that leads into London’s West End.

All the productives were on on-time saved bonus, well I did say it was a Ford dealership!  Needless to say, Alan was very handy with a hammer and dolly, and always got stick and acid banter from the mechanics when he collected his wage packet on Friday lunch time at the controller’s office. It was twice, and sometimes, three times as thick as anybody else’s wage packet. I remember thinking on many a Friday that will be me someday – hopefully!

The big workshop was split, two thirds being mechanical and commercial, one third being Body and Paint Shop, as it was termed across the 2 spray booths that sat in the corner.  One booth was infrared with 3 bar units screwed all around the booth, the other was gas-fired heating. They were purpose-built spray booth’s, not ovens, but very advanced in their day (infrared!).  At seventeen I was put on to time-saved bonus by Bob Povey, a great day that I will never forget.  Alan Taylor was not amused!  Not only had Alan taught me on the skills and art of Panelbeating, but he was booking on all the jobs I was completing by myself.  I eventually became body shop foreman at Norman Reeves.

After Norman Reeves, aged about twenty-three, I went freelance and self-employed.  I worked for a few Body shops in and around Slough and Windsor.

Where, has the time gone…  In my head I’m still 23 and just starting out!

One body shop I went to I was freelancing there for three days a week.  That body shop is still there to this day in Slough.  Thanks to working there I first got the inclination to get into management.  I remember thinking at the time those two in the office – The Body Shop Manager and Assistant Body Shop Manager, they stand around chatting, in a warm office, drinking tea and coffee, occasionally see a customer, do the odd estimate here and there, bliss!

This is at a time when repair estimates were written free hand, could be done by just looking at the vehicle, all vehicles were made of mild steel, and the only computerisation then was a calculator (they had only just come on the market).  So, here’s me crawling around a cold workshop floor, humping big jig brackets around, I fancy some of what they’re doing!  One of the managers got fired.  I convinced the owner, a woman that had been left the business by her father when he died, to take me on.  She had never set foot in to the business until her father died and relied totally on her managers.  So, that’s how I got in to management.

I left there to set up my own body shop business with a colleague. We ran it for eight years, had 11 employees plus 3 partners.  First hard management lesson I ever received was “never place all your eggs in one basket”.  We did retail work, but our main work came from a major car rental company (long before Enterprise came to the UK) I had known the General Manager of the rental company for many years.  One day he was offered early retirement, which he quickly accepted.  When the new General Manager came in, a very young man in his late twenties, he phoned to say he would be coming round to view our setup.  Which he duly did on the Monday. On the Tuesday, he phoned to say we would not be getting any more work from them.  When we questioned him, asked why, after eight years, were we being terminated? He just replied, where we were situated it didn’t meet his needs.

End of our business! I have said on many occasions that it was literally like switching the lights off, only it was work.  We had to clear up what was still in the workshop, but that was it – a sharp hard business lesson. One never to be forgotten.  I learnt many months later, the work that would have been going to us was now going to a body shop that was a friend of a friend…

Second hard management lesson learnt was “When someone new enters a position that directly affects you – either in the supply chain or in the hierarchy” start planning your “PLAN B” in case the new management does not like you or you don’t like them! The old scouting motto comes to mind “Be Prepared” or my favourite “Forewarned is Forearmed”. Over time the second management lesson I’ve seen first-hand and seen it happen many times. To coin another phase “if your face doesn’t fit” then there is only going to be one outcome – and it should be you that instigates it.

That large lesson cost me dear, emotionally and financially. You also find out your real friends in a situation like that.  Me, my wife and our cocker spaniel was left with very little financially.  People were carving up what me and my wife had spent years building, and we had no choice legally, but to watch.

Anyway, old news now.  Move on and time for a new enforced business plan.  What do I want and how do I get there?

I was out of work for a year but I was determined to get back into the body shop world.  I now realised there was a different way to do things.  Knowledge is King! It meant start again, but armed with the knowledge from that experience and what I was about to do. Which was to consume as much knowledge on how to run a profitable business. Learn to see what’s coming before it arrives and meet it on your terms and not anybody else’s.

I took the forced year out.  At that time, my wife, Seve (named after the golfer) our cocker spaniel and I were now living at my mother’s house.  She paid for me to take two courses with the Open University “The Effective Manager” and “Accounting for Managers” I still have all the course modules and refer to them when I need to dip in and out for information. They are invaluable even now.

From there it’s all history to where I am today.

The new informed Ray, still wanting to learn and be sponge like and absorb knowledge from those that know how to achieve the Goal.

My jobs that followed

  • General Manager at JRM in Wembley London
    • Independent medium sized body shop
  • Hartwell Motor Group various manufacture franchises
    • Bodyshop Manager
    • at Cowley and Banbury medium-size body shops
  • Ford Motor Company / MSXI
    • FordARC business development specialist
    • I looked after in the region of 55 different dealer owned body shops – not all at the same time I might add!
    • Ford were one of the first manufactures to do Kaizen and 5s. It was rolled out across the UK titled Dealer Process Improvement (DPI). Each ARC specialist had to undertake DPI at three dealer body shops after our own initial training. It was a very successful programme.
  • Nationwide Repair Centre – Bristol
    • General Manager
    • Applying DPI to this site certainly got the desired results
    • the largest bodyshop in the Nationwide group 33,000 ft.²
    • 100 employees on-site including 5 managers.
    • When I joined the bodyshop it was in a mess, doing 65 vehicles per week and within a year we got the highest output ever at 171 vehicles in a single week. This was achieved with less productives (through natural wastage over the period).  We averaged 160 vehicles per week but started to run out of work at that consumption of jobs per week.  Breakeven was 141 jobs per week and our referrals were at 120 per week – do I need to carry on?
  • Whites Accident Repair Group
    • Group Bodyshop Manager
    • 4 Bodyshops in the group Croydon, Wimbledon, Reading and Farnborough
  • Bodyshop Consulting
    • Working with The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) Coaching Bodyshop Managers and Owners
    • Courses available all year round
    • If you would like to attend the next one call or email

Tel: +44 (0) 1992 511521
Email: cpd@theimi.org.uk Ask for Heidi or Kim

  • Bodyshop Consulting – Since 2007
  • Retails and Markets Eye-Load, Implements and Supports Eye-Load in the UK
  • Gives ongoing support to all the existing and new users of the Eye-Load Bodyshop Solution –
    • If you want to increase throughput and flow in your bodyshop and wish to know more Go To www.eye-load.co.uk