08_Jon McNeill

Take the High Road

Jon McNeill and his team want to do for auto repair what the Home Depot has done for hardware: Become a best-practices competitor in a fragmented industry. The company has 40 locations and annual sales of approximately $120 million.


Jon McNeill
CEO, Sterling Collision Centers Inc.
Natick, Massachusetts


What needed an overhaul?
McNeill and his team overhauled the auto collision repair industry in much the same way Home Depot overhauled the hardware industry. After his wife’s auto accident, he experienced one of the poorest customer service industries. He found what other consumers find–that getting your car fixed after an accident is typically a miserable experience. The consumer must find a body shop on their own (typically located in an industrial park or other non-consumer friendly area), do without their car for 2-3 weeks without a guaranteed promise date and get caught in the middle of the battle between their insurance company and the body shop over what should be covered. McNeill partnered with Bill Haylon and Bob Thompson to found Sterling Collision Centers.

What was the single biggest obstacle?
A $30 Billion industry that hadn’t seen change in several decades. The average shop in the industry only does $400,000 in revenues. McNeill’s team envisioned centers doing more than $3MM annually, located in higher traffic retail areas and most importantly delivering convenience to consumers.

How did you overcome it?
Sterling began applying Lean manufacturing techniques to an artisan-based industry. “Basically, we’re applying the same principles Henry Ford applied 100 years ago.” Those manufacturing disciplines enable Sterling to get the car back to the customer in less than half the time it typically takes competing stores with higher quality and customer satisfaction ratings.

How have you seen results?
Four years later, Sterling has 40 locations and has gone from 0 to $120MM in sales in just over four years.