There’s been more than a few times when 46-year-old Denise Koukal (last name rhymes with “local”) wakes up in her suburban Woodbury home and almost has to pinch herself to make sure she’s not dreaming. “I never imagined as a girl born in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and as a kid on a farm in the Red River Valley, that I would have this self-taught career path. But, my grandparents and parents always encouraged hard work. I am fortunate and grateful to work for Joanne LaMettry and LaMettry’s Collision where that is rewarded,” said Koukal.
Denise Koukal at LaMettry’s Richfield location.
Today, Denise Koukal is the Chief Information Officer for one of the nation’s largest and most respected family-owned automotive collision repair enterprises. She’s also a happily married mother of two boys, but more on that later.
Denise Koukal with son, Jared, and father, Orlin, on the farm near Rothsay, Minnesota in the 1990s.
Denise Hovland Koukal remembers with great fondness her childhood and early adolescent days on her grandparent’s, and then father’s farm, near Rothsay, Minnesota just south of Fargo-Moorhead. “Those were great memories to be with my family in that beautiful, wide open farm country. Riding on the tractors and combines. Everyone worked hard. My dad, Orlin Hovland, took over the family farm and still kept his job as a lab manager in Fergus Falls, while Mom also maintained two jobs. I guess a work ethic is both caught and taught,” said Koukal. In the early 1980s, she and her mother, Connie, and younger sister, Michele, moved to the Twin Cities suburb of Bloomington. “This was the ‘big city’ for me. Sort of traumatizing for a girl from farm country. But we three stuck together. And still today, my mom and sister are my best friends.” Denise became a full-fledged Bloomington Kennedy Eagles High School teen. “After high school, I went to cosmetology school, but also really wanted to finish my formal education, and I needed to work, too.” She enrolled at Normandale Community College and took a part time job at LaMettry’s Eden Prairie as a Customer Service Rep in 1992.
A family collage of Denise, her sister Michele, and Mom
Now, 24 years later, with an ascending resume of job titles within LaMettry’s, she’s part of a corporate leadership team and is guiding employees at 8 locations through the dozens of software platforms keeping all the technical and administrative processes moving. Said Koukal, “When I started here, almost everything was on paper. Now everything is on a screen. Most of my focus is on our industry-based estimating and management software. But because all our OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) certifications are so critical to our success, that’s another major focus.”
She always applies the LaMettry’s principles and vision statement to her decisions. “It is so easy to get bullied by technology. You have to keep asking, ‘How does this serve the customer? How does this help our employees do a better job?’ My role is to make sure the technology works for us, not the other way around. My real value is helping our people use the technology, working alongside our talented employees, and making sure our customers receive exceptional service.”
Denise and Robb Koukal
Denise met her husband, Robb Koukal, in 1991. “Robb grew up on Grey Cloud Island. It’s like a tiny town tucked away in the big city near Cottage Grove.” They have two sons, Jared, age 20, and Jakob, age 16. “Robb works for Northland Concrete, Jared works full time, and Jakob keeps us super busy with his lacrosse team.” On summer weekends, you can find the Koukal family camping at places like Lake Byllesby near Cannon Falls, the Veterans Campground at Marine on St. Croix, and many state parks. “We started as tent campers, and graduated to a trailer. It’s great family time, really back to the basics.”
Sons, Jakob (left), Jared (right)
Great soccer coaches know most goals are scored, not just by the last player to touch the ball, but by all the players who help set up the shot. And as a former college soccer player and high school coach, LaMettry’s Maplewood General Manager, Eli Padilla, couldn’t agree more. “When the job calls for people to work together, whether it’s soccer or collision repair, the beauty is in the team work.”
Some of Eli Padilla’s LaMettry’s Maplewood Team: Standing, left to right: Kari Rieger, Dave Miller, Eli Padilla, Russ Wyganowski, Elaine Sanders. Kneeling left to right, John Friedmeyer and Andy Tihanyi.
The 39-year-old came from diverse south Minneapolis roots. “My great grandfather was from Mexico, and my great grandmother was Norwegian. Dad is an artist in St. Paul and Mom loves to garden, and stills lives in the home where I was raised on 44th and Pleasant Avenue. My older sister is a college professor in California.” Padilla went to Minneapolis South High School, and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a major in English Literature and a minor in Spanish. “I played soccer for the Gophers, and got a chance to travel all over the country. Even played a summer in Mexico,” said Padilla. To pay back student loans, he began coaching high school soccer and basketball at the International School of Minnesota. “That’s where I met and coached Randy and J.R. LaMettry. We became good friends, and I got to know more about their family and their business. I took an entry-level job 11 years ago, became General Manager of the Richfield location four years ago, and GM of Maplewood two years ago.”
Padilla is the first to admit he is not what most people call a “car guy.” Saying, “Don’t get me wrong, this is the vehicle repair business. I try to personally inspect each and every vehicle that comes through our door. That keeps me in touch with our techs and what’s happening across all makes and models. Every day on the shop floor is a continuing education for me. I have great respect for our people who do the actual work, but I didn’t grow up tinkering and rebuilding cars. I am a ‘people guy’ first.” Padilla tells his team they’re not in the collision business serving people, but in the people business providing collision repair. “The LaMettry’s philosophy has always been to focus on the customer first, and that’s why I love working here.”
Eli and Ivonne Padilla on their 12 year “overdue honeymoon” in Tulum, Mexico last winter.
On a trip to Mazatlán, Mexico 12 years ago, Eli met and later married Ivonne Gallardo. Ivonne works for the Columbia Heights School District, where their children, Douglas Jose, age 10, and Lilliana, soon to be age 7, attend school. The Padillas recently became legal guardians for Ecuadorian born, 18-year-old Jefferson Padilla. “Ivonne and I felt we had room in our family, our home and in our hearts for Jefferson.” The couple also finally celebrated a “long overdue” honeymoon trip last winter, traveling to the ancient Aztec city of Tulum, Mexico.
The Padilla family: Jefferson, 18, Douglas Jose, 10 and Lilliana, soon to be 7.
When he joined LaMettry’s 11 years ago, Eli was not an outdoorsman. Today, the outdoors is his primary pastime. “I got invited on deer hunting trips with others from LaMettry’s and it just got into my system. We now have a cabin in Pine County, about an hour and half away from our home in Blaine. There I can turn off my phone and immerse myself into the natural world. It’s like I am on a different planet from the everyday world. I’ve not only had some great hunting trips, but I’ve had some of the best naps of my lifetime leaning against a tree.”
Eli Padilla and trusted hunting companion, Duke.
To the untrained eye, it might look like just another way to make collision repairs. But to industry professionals, Bodyshop Revolution’s technology, equipment, and process is revolutionary. And the man who knows this the most is LaMettry’s VP of Operations Darrell Amberson, one of the industry’s most experienced and respected professionals, and past chairman of the Automotive Service Association (ASA) board of directors.
VP of Operations, Darrell Amberson with the mobile Bodyshop Revolution equipment at LaMettry’s Eden Prairie location.
Q: How would you briefly describe Bodyshop Revolution?
A: Bodyshop Revolution is both a theoretical and operational approach to increasing collision repair quality and reducing cost.
Q: What’s the theory?
A: In any repair, the variable cost is really time. We call it cycle time. The time it takes from starting to finishing a job. Bodyshop Revolution starts with what it calls the “Theory of Constraint.” That is pinpointing those parts of the process that create slowdowns. That can be anything, from workshop design, parts procurement, staff capability, customer contracts, workflow and repair processes. So it really challenges your thinking process to improve or remove anything that can create an unnecessary logjam. And I think, looking back as we started working on this, that was the toughest part. You think you’ve thought through everything already, but you have to really take a hard, hard look at how your can improve your process first, and only then deploy the equipment.
The Bodyshop Revolution booth at LaMettry’s Eden Prairie location.
Q: How is the equipment different?
A: In at least three ways. First, Bodyshop Revolution has modern drying technology that allows one operator to apply coats of filler and primer, with a rapid drying technology. LaMettry’s has both a mobile drying unit and a booth drying unit. For collision shops, nothing really compares with the speed, cost, efficiency and finish achieved by booth robotics. Second, because of the process and equipment efficiency, a shop can really get more production out of a smaller space, saving square footage costs. Third, the drying unit utilizes gas catalytic technology. Without getting too scientific here, it is a heated chemical reaction that turns methane gas into infrared energy that speeds up drying and curing of both paint and filler. That can reduce job energy costs by 50 to 70 percent.
In the dark, it’s easier to see the chemical reaction that turns methane gas into infrared energy.
Q: What kind of investment does this require?
A: The investment is both time and money. We spent a lot of time researching Bodyshop Revolution as a company and process, including sending people to company headquarters in the U. K. and Europe. LaMettry’s was one of the first five companies in the U.S. to partner with Bodyshop Revolution. It was a sizable investment in future technology, and a green initiative to reduce our natural gas and electricity consumption.
Q: Bottom line, how does all this benefit your customer, the vehicle owner, and your insurance partners?
A: The customer’s primary concern is the best quality repair and getting their vehicle back to drive as soon as possible. This accomplishes both. Bodyshop Revolution repair history shows some of the best results in terms of quality repair, which has to do with overall look, finish and durability. And yes, we can cut substantial time the customer is without their vehicle. Every repair is different so it’s hard to give a specific amount of time saved, but we believe it is anywhere from 20 to 30%.
In terms of our insurance partners they advocate for anything that reduces cost and improves customer satisfaction, both in terms of turnaround time and repair quality. Our insurance partners look to companies like LaMettry’s to be leaders in the industry.
Making any major investment like this, both for capital equipment, training and resources is a bet. But we believe this is where the collision repair business is going and LaMettry’s wants to be there.
LaMettry’s sponsored 2 teams at the annual Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Minnesota (AASP-MN) Race for Automotive Education. This event raised money for scholarships for students in the automotive field. One of our teams even won first place!
At home with the Faidleys, David and Colette, in their Richfield home, with a baby boy due in May 2016.
Search online for the term “quick study” and you find: “one that can speedily learn the essentials of something to be done.” David Faidley, LaMettry’s New Brighton location General Manager, could be a footnote to that page. “I’m not impatient, but once I understand the most important stuff, I’m on to the next thing,” says Faidley, a 32 year-old native of Chanhassen, Minnesota. He graduated from Chaska High School in 2001, and headed to Grand Forks and the University of North Dakota. “I did well in all my core courses the first two years, got the basics quickly, but wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do from there. I wasn’t comfortable spending a lot of money just spending two more years trying to find out.” So Faidley headed back home and happened to connect with boyhood friend, Randy LaMettry, who referred him to an entry-level opening as a detailer at LaMettry’s Eden Prairie. Said Faidley, “I’m not your typical car-guy who knows and loves all the features of various makes and model years. I like this business because each make, model and repair situation is a learning experience that really fascinates me.”
That learning style has paid off for Faidley. He moved up the LaMettry’s ladder quickly in Eden Prairie, briefly moved to the Lakeville location, and jumped at the chance to become New Brighton General Manager in July 2014. “I think of LaMettry’s as a university of collision repair. If a person works hard, learns quickly, and earns a reputation as someone committed to the business, you can graduate to new opportunities.”
The opportunity to manage the New Brighton location is almost entrepreneurial for Faidley. “First, this is one of the newest locations, so we’re still in the business of building our referral network. LaMettry’s has always had a great reputation in the collision repair industry, but we need to really promote ourselves here and increase our volume. Second, our partnership location with New Brighton Ford is a terrific gateway into the aluminum body segment with the new Ford F-150.”
In 2015, Ford created the first aluminum body pickup truck and LaMettry’s New Brighton became one of the first Ford Certified Repair facilities in the Twin Cities area. Said Faidley, “Because the vehicle is so new, we’re just starting to see body repairs come in. We did get a new F-150 last summer that suffered hail damage from bumper to bumper. It was a textbook case. We got to use all of our expertise.” That expertise is substantial. “Ford is very exacting in terms of on-site facility requirements and process, but Ford also knows there will be a learning curve, so there’s a lot of support both real-time and on-line. But that’s where LaMettry’s shines. The company is willing to make the investment in the people and process.”
Left to right: Colette Faidley, Dave Faidley and David’s sister, Kristen.
David Faidley expects to start another learning curve by entering fatherhood with his first child, a boy due in May 2016. Faidley and his wife, 30 year-old Colette Benton Faidley, are getting their home ready while she continues to work. “Colette attended Metro State University and is a very accomplished hair stylist. Now she enjoys helping others complete their education as an Academic Advisor at National American University.” According to David, “She grew up in Mankato. We bumped into each other at a music festival, started dating a while later, and that was all it took. We got married September 2014. We didn’t want a big wedding, so we made it official with a small group of family at the Hennepin County Courthouse near Ridgedale in Minnetonka. And then in February 2015, we did a more formal destination wedding event at Playa Del Carmen in Mexico with a small group of friends and family. It was an awesome time and a great memory.”
David and Colette Faidley on the beach at their destination wedding in Mexico, February 2015.
David and Colette Faidley are settling in to their Richfield home that’s not far from several other friends who also work for LaMettry’s. “I’ve really taken to the kitchen and cooking. Things like soups, chili and crockpots. Makes it feel like a real home on a cold winter day.”
We had a huge outpouring of donated toys from our customers, employees, vendors and friends at all 8 LaMettry’s Collision locations. All toys went to the Marine Toys for Tots campaign for Twin Cities children in need. The Marines stopped by multiple times throughout the campaign to pick up toys as our boxes were full!
Thank you to everyone who contributed!
The box at LaMettry’s Collision Eden Prairie was overflowing with fun toys!
At LaMettry’s Collision Burnsville, the front office collected money from the staff and then bought these toys to add to the box
The LaMettry’s Collision Burnsville box before (left) and after (right) the employee purchased toys were added
A full box at LaMettry’s Collision Richfield
LaMettry’s Collision Lakeville had a very generous customer and his brother donate a bunch of toys. They donate to Toys for Tots every year. We were honored to be their drop off site this year!
Another full box of toys at LaMettry’s Collision Lakeville.
And yet another full box at LaMettry’s Collision Lakeville!
One last van full of toys dropped off at the Toys for Tots warehouse.
Chris Nordquist dropped off the last of our toys just before Christmas. It was a van full!
Vehicle donated by American Family Insurance and repaired by LaMettry’s Collision
Willie B Pargo received a repaired 2012 Chevrolet Malibu from LaMettry’s Collision and American Family as part of NABC’s Recycled Rides program.
Inver Grove Heights, MN, December 9, 2015 – Ever since his car broke down over the summer and couldn’t be repaired, Recycled Rides recipient Willie B Pargo had been taking the bus over an hour each way to continue his volunteer work at the Minneapolis VA. Now he has a reliable vehicle thanks to LaMettry’s Collision, American Family Insurance, NABC’s Recycled Rides program, and local vendor partners.
The military and volunteer service of Willie B Pargo was recognized at the Recycled Rides event on “Give Tuesday,” when he was presented the keys to a 2012 Chevrolet Malibu by LaMettry’s Vice President JR LaMettry.
LaMettry’s Collision Vice President JR LaMettry gives Willie B Pargo the keys to his new car.
Speakers at the event included LaMettry’s President of Operations Darrell Amberson, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the River Heights Chamber of Commerce Kelton Glewwe, and Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie. Sheriff Leslie reminded everyone, “This is give Tuesday, [but] we can do something every day to help our veterans. Say ‘thank you’ to them, donate, fly the flag, visit a VA hospital or home, and when you talk to them, ask how they are doing and stop to listen.”
Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie speaks at the Recycled Rides event.
Last to speak at the ceremony was someone who knows Willie well, Commander Glenn Boche of The Military Order of the Purple Heart Minnesota Department. He shared some background on the Purple Heart award with the crowd. “Willie and I are both Vietnam Veterans. Willie and I are the survivors. The Purple Heart is not an award that anyone that joins the service wants to achieve, for obvious reasons, because there are only two categories of people that get this award; those that are wounded and survive, which Willie and I were very lucky to, and those that were killed.”
Commander Glenn Boche of The Military Order of the Purple Heart Minnesota Department speaks at the Recycled Rides event.
Boche concluded, “I’ve known Willie for at least 4 or 5 years as a volunteer myself out at the VA Hospital. I can’t think of a more deserving person. He is out there at the VA hospital every day of the week, Monday through Friday, doing his thing out there. Sometimes he’s hard to catch up to because he’s moving so fast. Thank you Willie for what you’ve done, thank you for your service, thank you for all you do out at the hospital!”
This is the 6th vehicle LaMettry’s has repaired and donated through the NABC’s Recycled Rides Program.
LaMettry’s Collision team with Recycled Rides recipient Willie B Pargo (center).
From left to right: Ann Bruce (Sales), Chris Nordquist (Sales), Justin LaMettry (Vice President), Recycled Rides recipient Willie B Pargo, Darrell Amberson (President of Operations), Stefany Lorang (Creative Director), Laurie Kaiser (CMO)
THANK YOU to everyone who contributed including:
– aaa Auto Parts
– American Family Insurance
– Choice Auto Rental
– Enterprise rent-a-car
– EP Auto Detail
– IAA (Insurance Auto Auctions)
– Inver Grove Ford
– Keystone / LKQ Corp
– Park Chrysler Jeep
– Suburban Chevrolet
Our generous event sponsors
Chawn Clough takes a rare break as General Manager at LaMettry’s Collision in Burnsville.
Comedian Woody Allen jokes that eighty percent of success is showing up. LaMettry’s Burnsville General Manager, Chawn Clough, isn’t joking when he adds the words “on-time, consistently, and ready for a full day.” No surprise to those who work for, or just know, the 38 year old Richfield native. “My dad was a welder. My mom worked hard raising three kids. I learned early on about the value of work and being someone others can rely on,” said Clough. He worked summer jobs at car washes and gas stations, and replied to a local newspaper ad for work at LaMettry’s Richfield after graduating from Richfield High School in 1995. “I’ve always loved being around cars. Not many people know, I worked as pit crew and actually drove in the Enduro Races at Raceway Park in Shakopee, which finally closed in 2013. I drove a 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass. A big boat. The winner was the last car on the track that was still running. Those days were crazy-fun, but they’re gone forever.”
At LaMettry’s, Clough has been all business working his way up from a detailer, to parts, to file manager, before becoming General Manager of LaMettry’s in Burnsville three years ago. He attended Hennepin Tech Community College in Eden Prairie to get certified in collision repair. Clough says the biggest challenges today are keeping up with technology and finding people. “When I started, just about everything was written on paper. Now it’s almost all on a screen, somewhere. I am so grateful to be with LaMettry’s. They’re willing to make strategic investments in equipment and systems that keep us an industry leader. And to promote people, like me, from within their ranks.” But finding and keeping great employees, says Clough, is one thing that never seems to change. “Talk to anybody in the automotive repair business, and they will tell you their biggest challenge today is recruiting. I’m not just talking about finding men and women with skills and experience, I’m talking about finding people who demonstrate a persistence and real commitment to be successful. And with a company like LaMettry’s, I’m living proof, that persistence and hard work pays off.”
Chawn Clough with one of many monster sunfish that make for great outdoor fun, and great indoor table fare, at his northern Minnesota cabin.
When it comes time to relax, you generally won’t find Chawn Clough on a couch somewhere; you’ll find him outdoors. “In the 1930’s, my great aunt and uncle basically lived off the land in a handmade log cabin in northern Minnesota as a way to survive the Great Depression. Our family was able to purchase the place and continue the legacy. Now it’s not only where I love to hunt and fish, but also where we can gather with family and friends on weekends, have bonfires, and just chill out. It is really my little slice of heaven on this planet.”
Sunrise at Chawn Clough’s cabin near Remer and Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota.
Chawn Clough married a friend from Richfield High School, Michelle Garvey, thirteen years ago. Michelle works for Vibrant Technologies in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Said Clough, “Michelle is our Chief Technology Officer at home, too.” Their daughter, Payten, age 10, is in 5th grade and attends a Spanish language immersion school in Richfield. “She’s a very bright girl, just like her mother, and is fluent in both English and Spanish. When we go grocery shopping, I often find her in the next aisle over helping Spanish speaking couples make buying decisions.” Chawn Clough also has a 20 year-old son, Cole, who’s an avid rugby player and loves to deer hunt. “I just bought Payten a new 4-wheeler,” said Clough, “so I’m trying to turn her into a country girl, too.”
Michelle, Chawn and Payten Clough, are all smiles. That’s daughter, Payten, smiling the most.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, when we honor all he men and women who have defended our country, we will be donating a Recycled Ride to a U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart Medal recipient, Willie B. Pargo of Brooklyn Park, MN. Willie has donated years of his life as a volunteer at the Minneapolis VA, and for the past three years, has been VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) Officer for the Military Order of the Purple Heart. This Recycled Rides gift will provide reliable transportation and allow Willie to continue serving others with his volunteer work.
Recycled Rides recipient, Willie B. Pargo
The event will be held Tuesday, December 1 at LaMettry’s Collision in Inver Grove Heights (4700 S Robert Trail, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55077).
10:30 am Refreshment & Social Hour
11:30 am Presentation of Vehicle
All are welcome!
Over 2 nights, nearly 70 firefighters and first responders from the Twin Cities participated in a unique, hands-on program designed to help save critical seconds when extricating victims in accidents involving complex, late model vehicles. The First Responder Emergency Extrication program is unique in that it provides valuable hands-on opportunity to practice extrication techniques specifically on late model vehicles.
The late model vehicles used for the extrication practice session at LaMettry’s Collision in Lakeville and EP Auto Tire & Glass in Eden Prairie (part of the LaMettry’s Collision family) were donated by State Farm Insurance. The program was provided at no cost to the participants and included dinner, classroom instruction on the latest technologies in vehicle design and materials by a representative of Holmatro Rescue Equipment, as well as an air bag deployment demo, a Tesla vehicle display and demo, and a hybrid vehicle display.
The firefighters appreciated the opportunity to perform hands-on extrication training. Said Aasa Just, firefighter for the Farmington Fire Department, “I benefited the most from being able to pull things apart first hand, and see where the air bags are and where good cut points are. The event was fun and very informative especially on how to work with and disengage hybrid systems.”
Thank you to all our sponsors for making this event possible:
- State Farm
- Choice Auto Rental
- Holmatro Rescue Equipment
- Jefferson Fire & Safety
- South Metro Rental, Inc
- Tesla Motors
- TRA (Total Resource Auction)
- Metropolitan Ford of Eden Prairie
- NABC (National Auto Body Council)
Night 1 at LaMettry’s Collision in Lakeville:
Classroom portion of the training
Airbag deployment demonstration
Extrication demonstration before breaking into small groups
Small group hands-on extrication training
Small group hands-on extrication training
Small group hands-on extrication training
Last step – removing the roof
Having a little fun after the training is done
Night 2 at EP Auto, Tire & Glass in Eden Prairie (part of the LaMettry’s Collision Family):
One hour classroom session before the hands-on training began
LaMettry’s Jason talks about Tesla safety features
Instructional demo before breaking into small groups
Everyone gathered around for the demonstration
Extrication training small groups
Extrication training small groups
Extrication training small groups
This is what it looked like after they were done practicing on it!