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March 2024 Vehicle Care RockStar: Clay Hoberecht

Integrity is the foundation upon which Clay Hoberecht has built himself and his business.
Clay Hoberecht
Reading Time: 5 minutes

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Perhaps you recognize that quote from C.S. Lewis. Clay Hoberecht, owner of Best Body Shop in Wichita, Kansas, grew up in a home where integrity was at the core of who you are as a person. Integrity proved to be the foundation upon which Hoberecht built himself and his business.

“I was just raised by a father that poured a cement foundation of integrity in my life. In fact, I kind of joke with some of my friends, especially back when I went through a party phase … I wasn’t always full of integrity, but there were certain times where I remember thinking to myself that I wish I didn’t know that this was wrong. There was always this internal compass of knowing the right from wrong, and it’s always been very, very, very clear to me. I might not know how to go about starting a business or doing certain things, but I always know what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Ever since he started his business, Hoberecht has been setting the stage — one job, one video at a time — and inviting others to join him in improving the integrity of the collision repair industry.

To learn even more about Hoberecht and how he runs his shop, watch this video!

Firm Foundation

Often, entrepreneurship runs in the blood. But just as a seed needs water to grow, so too does that entrepreneurial spirit need a constant flow of nourishment. Hoberecht credits both his parents with providing that sustenance.

“I grew up in a non-traditional home with a dad that owned a couple of his own businesses. He had a massive influence on my out-of-the-box thinking, and my mom influenced a significant amount of my confidence with her constant reassurance,” Hoberecht says.

After being homeschooled through high school, Hoberecht found himself in need of a job. Though he had worked various jobs for his father already, he realized he wanted to get a job on his own. One day, when he was around 17 years old, Hoberecht was sitting in the back of his dad’s car as they drove past a body shop. The garage doors were open, and as Hoberecht looked inside, he wondered what went on there. That look planted the seed of curiosity about collision repair.

He decided to pay a visit to a body shop owner his mother knew and see if he could get a job. But when Hoberecht applied, the owner told him that without any experience, he couldn’t hire him. So Hoberecht went to apply at the body shop that initially fueled his interest … and received the same answer. After visiting every body shop in Wichita, he found himself in a pickle, because no one would hire him without experience, but they all told him not to go to school for it either.

Clay Hoberecht

“So I got creative, and I think this is where the entrepreneurial blood kind of showed, and I didn’t know it was entrepreneurial blood until much later in my life. But I actually went and got a job at Walmart — third shift — and then went back to the first shop and said, ‘Hey, I’d like to start Monday, but I’ll work for free.’ And so, I actually worked at that auto body complex for a year for free while working at Walmart to pay my bills,” Hoberecht relates.

Over the next few years, Hoberecht went on to work at a few different body shops and eventually landed at a hot rod shop that really sparked his interest, especially in fabrication. He developed such a passion for it that he then opened his own business, C Hoberecht for Customs. But he got tired of having to explain the name and spell it to customers. But a year or two later, he ended up changing the name — all because of an employee’s snarky remark.

“My employees would always come to me and ask, ‘What should we do here?’ There’s a lot of variables, especially in the collision repair world, but in the hot rod world as well. And I remember I always answer the same way: ‘What’s best for the customer? What’s the best way?’ And I remember one of my employees getting pretty pissed off, and he goes, ‘Why don’t you just call the place Best Body Shop?’”

And that’s just what he did.

The Art of Letting Go

Throughout his entrepreneurial journey, integrity has been at the heart of Hoberecht’s business practices. And once more, it came from the foundation set by his parents.

Culture has always been of utmost importance to Hoberecht’s business — and he hasn’t been afraid to ask for help in making sure his shop operations run smoother. After receiving a copy of the book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni, Hoberecht worked with coaches and Table Groups over a period of years to cultivate a culture of trust in his shop. It was during this time that Hoberecht realized that he’s not a very good manager.

“I’m a good entrepreneur, I’m good at starting, but when it comes to systems and processes and the lack of a roller coaster, that’s not me,” Hoberecht confesses. As a result, he moved one of his staff with management skills into a general manager position, which left Hoberecht to be solely in an ownership role. Giving up daily operations was incredibly freeing, Hoberecht admits. Even so, it wasn’t easy to just let go.

Clay Hoberecht teaching staff
For Hoberecht, it is imperative he learn how to create an honest relationship with his employees and a smooth way to run shop operations.

“It was grueling at first. You watch your cameras, you are watching your employees, and you’re not there anymore, and you’re not really supposed to say anything, and you’re looking at the numbers. But again, this is where having a coach there has been unbelievably helpful. I remember calling [our coach] one night, and I’m like, ‘Hey, man, I don’t know when I should be buttoning in, when I shouldn’t, because sometimes these guys — you have to learn from failing. I know I did, but I also don’t want to abandon ship, right?’”

His coach pointed out that Hoberecht owns a cell phone, his manager owns a cell phone, and Hoberecht only lives five minutes away from the shop. “He’ll call you,” he said. So Hoberecht cut back his hours and told his general manager he would only come in for half-days from then on.

“And what I noticed is he rose to the occasion because he didn’t have somebody looking over his shoulder. I was able to make decisions that were easier for me. I stepped back and out of the situation — made a world of difference,” Hoberecht says.

Clay Hoberecht clearly embodies a RockStar — and not just because of his ZZ Top-like look, but because he’s using Best Body Shop as a stage to educate his customers and the greater collision repair community on the right way to do things. Stay tuned to learn what, exactly, that means.

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