Empathy is often defined as a person’s ability to recognize and share the emotions of another person. And that’s how Valisity LaMettry approaches life each day saying, “I imagine myself as others, and more than that, I imagine myself in their situation, and that starts with at least some knowledge of who people are.” That empathy makes the 39-year-old well-suited in her role of Customer Service Trainer at LaMettry’s Collision, as well as being a wife, and mother of two active and growing boys.
The Valisity and J.R. LaMettry family. (Clockwise) Valisity, Jackson, age 10, J.R., and Mason, age 7.
Perhaps it all started with her unique first name. “My Dad loved the names Felicity and Charity. So they named my sister Charidy, and changed letters in Felicity to come up with Valisity. It was a challenge as a teen and led to a lot of nicknames, but as an adult, it’s a source of pride and compliments.” So much so, that Valisity LaMettry only allows a very short list of people in her life to call her “Val.” Born in the Twin Cities, she spent the first 10 years of her life in Oklahoma as her family cared for a grandparent suffering from ALS. “While I was too young to understand much, I think those years deepened a sense of ‘others’ in my being.”
Valisity with her Dad, Terry Haigler.
She graduated from Apple Valley High School where she created life-long friendships, then spent the following years in a variety of jobs, often two at a time, but all the positions involved serving others. “Whether I was waitressing, bartending, or in a salon, I always engaged with my customers. I wanted to hear their stories and understand their lives.”
In 2003, she joined LaMettry’s Richfield location as a Customer Service Representative, eventually working with J.R. (Justin Richard) LaMettry. “We got along famously, and I thought he would be a great match for my roommate at the time, so I set them up on a date. Well, they never made that date, but J.R. and I got to know each other much better.” And the rest is LaMettry family history. Valisity Wood and J.R. LaMettry were married in July 2006. In the process, Valisity also gained the “world’s greatest mother-in-law.” Said Valisity, “Besides my own mother, Joanne LaMettry is one of the most amazing women I know. Both inspire me tremendously.”
Valisity Wood LaMettry with her mom and siblings. (From left to right) Valisity, her mother Deb Hanson, sister Dana Beyer, sister Charidy Wood, and brother James Wood.
Valisity needs to run on inspiration in her role as Customer Service Trainer because the job really has no formal playbook. When the task of creating and opening the LaMettry’s Customer Call Center was thrown to her, she had to self-guide the process by researching other operations, visiting call centers, and establishing a game plan for the company.
Doing customer service training for LaMettry’s employees at 8 locations across the Twin Cities, she starts by creating empathy with those she works with. “I travel to and spend time at each location, observing, listening, and talking with LaMettry’s people who are on the front lines with customers. I try to coach them to think what it’s like if they just had a car accident or suffered damage. To slow down and tune into people. If the process starts there, everyone is happy with the results,” said Valisity.
At home, she tunes into the lives of two very active and bubbly young boys. “Jackson is in 5th grade, and he’s almost as big as me, and his feet are bigger than mine, so he may become a double to his Dad, but looks like me. Mason is in 2nd grade, and talks like me, and acts like me, so he may be my mini-me, but looks like his Dad,” said Valisity. Both boys are in Tae Kwon Do, while Jackson loves football and basketball, and Mason plays hockey and flag-football. “They keep us moving, like all parents with youngsters in school and sports. J.R. and I drive to fields and arenas day and night, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Jackson LaMettry will be 11-years-old this December.
Mason LaMettry will be 8-years-old in January.
Recently we hosted a Continuing Education (CE) class for insurance agents on Ethics and Pay As You Drive Insurance. This class was sponsored by LaMettry’s Collision along with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Ungerman Restoration.
At the full day class, agents learned about ethics in our modern world, as well as the pros and cons of utilizing the pay as you drive technology feature and the impact it may have on drivers and insurance companies.
Before lunch, there was a speed volunteering exercise for Children’s Dental Services and the United Way. At their tables, the agents worked together to assemble Kid’s Dental Kits which were then donated to Children’s Dental Services (CDS).
According to the speed volunteering flyer, “Children’s Dental Service is the only community dental services agency in Minnesota dedicated exclusively to providing oral health outreach, education, and treatment to children and pregnant women across the state. CDS targets kids who are not being served and brings dental care directly to them in the school, where they are comforted by familiar surroundings.”
For this annual homecoming week event, Lakeville North High School students take turns smashing a car with a sledgehammer over their lunch break. They pay $1 for approximately one minute to inflict as much damage upon the vehicle as they can. The DECA program is donating the money raised this year to Lakeville area food shelves. LaMettry’s Collision worked together with Allen’s Towing to provide the car, make it safe for the smash, and get it to the school.
Before the event started, the DECA students had fun spray painting the car. Then it was game on. Check out the before and after! Wow!
Watch our facebook video of one of the teachers taking a swing at the car.
These two were determined to get the rear bumper off.
And they did!
This is definitely an event students look forward to every year!
Thank you to Lakeville North High School DECA for including us again! We are always happy to help!
Gina Jacques wears many hats, and loves to help people in her Sales/Marketing/Office Support role at LaMettry’s New Brighton, Minnesota location. Along with her sales duties, she also fills in when needed at customer service, production assistant, and staff training. “I feel like I’ve really found my calling in life, and a place that respects and rewards my desire to work hard,” said Jacques.
Gina and husband, Bob Jacques.
It would be an understatement to say it wasn’t easy for this 37-year-old wife and mother to get to this point in her life. “I grew up in the Frogtown area of St. Paul. I was raised by my Mom, Cindy Shortridge, and my step-dad, Lee Shortridge. He spent his summers on the golf course when he wasn’t working. Mom was always working at least two jobs and my grandmother cared for us. My brother, Charlie, and me would shovel St. Paul neighborhood walks and driveways in the winter, and mow lawns with a push mower in the summer to earn money. I taught myself to focus on the goodness of the present moment. Maybe that’s why I enjoy being busy, meeting and helping people so much,” said Jacques. She also took great comfort in soaking up the wisdom of her neighborhood elders. “I listened to their stories for hours. I understood early on to accept the bad and good. It’s why friends always hear me say, ‘It is what it is.’ ”
Gina’s mom Cindy Shortridge, and Gina at her wedding.
After graduating from Roseville High School, Gina went into sales for Comcast Cable for two years. Of that position she said, “It wasn’t so much sales as in helping people, but sales as in just getting orders, but it was great experience.” When her daughter Alexis was born, she stayed home and did cleaning to help pay bills. Eventually, she took a job with a national collision franchise and started working her way up the industry ladder. For 13 years, she did everything she could to prove herself worthy, including many ten hour days and six day weeks that meant missed family events and dinners. All the while, unbeknownst to her, she was building her reputation in the business. “I knew I couldn’t sustain the stress my work was creating at home. Then a couple of vendors said I should talk to LaMettry’s. So, I picked up the phone and one thing lead to another, and here I am.”
In her Sales and Marketing and Customer Service position at LaMettry’s New Brighton, Gina Jacques does what she always does. Part of “my job is to find the people and companies who need our help and then create a valued business relationship based on their satisfaction. And that’s really the LaMettry’s difference and why I am so grateful to the LaMettry family and leadership team to be here. There are plenty of places to get vehicles repaired, but I know LaMettry’s is the only one focused completely on the customer from start to finish. There’s never a doubt about that, with our dealer-partners, agents, suppliers, or individual customers,” she said.
Back on the home front, life never slows down. Her husband, Bob Jacques, works for Vinyl Art in Plymouth, Minnesota. They started dating in 1996, but didn’t get married until 2008. Gina explained, “I wanted to wait until we could afford a wedding. I think that’s when Bob knew I was the one for him.” The Jacques 18-year-old daughter, Alexis, recently joined the U.S. Navy and is in basic training in Illinois.
(Left to right) Jessica Votel, Gina’s daughter Alexis Jacques, and General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of United States Central Command, a St. Paul native and family friend.
Their son, 12-year-old Dylan, loves to be outside. Gina said, “I want him to grow up independent. In the summer, he hops on his bike in the morning and is off for the day fishing or playing football.”
Gina’s 12 year-old son, Dylan Jacques.
Gina also loves to be outdoors with her family whether hiking or biking. “On the weekends, I bike 15-20 miles of trails winding through Coon Rapids, Maple Grove, and Osseo. Biking is great exercise and keeps me busy, but what I love most is being busy with others where I can make a difference in their lives.”
Gina and Bob Jacques on a Lake Superior North Shore hike.
Coming Soon: LaMettry’s 9th Location
Work has begun on the 9th location for LaMettry’s Collision & Glass. #9 will be located in Chanhassen, MN off of Audubon Road, and right by the AutoMotorPlex.
They broke ground in June, and now the walls are starting to go up. Our anticipated opening date is this winter. Check back for updates!
Future site of LaMettry’s Collision in Chanhassen by the AutoMotorPlex
Groundbreaking for LaMettry’s 9th location.
The walls are going up for LaMettry’s Collision 9th location which will be in Chanhassen, MN
LaMettry’s Collision is proud to sponsor and participate in many local Twin Cities charity golf events.
Some of the events we participated in this year included
- Children’s Hospitals Golf Benefit Audi Quattro Cup at the White Bear Yacht Club in Dellwood
LaMettry’s sponsored the lunch and sent golfers to this event.
Our golfers included (from left to right) Justin LaMettry (Vice President), Eric Johnson (Eden Prairie GM), Randy LaMettry (Vice President), and John Rutz (PDR Manager).
- BMW of Minnetonka 2nd Annual Drive Away Lyme Disease Golf Tournament at Midland Hills Country Club
LaMettry’s sponsored a hole and sent golfers to this second annual event.
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car Golf Tournament at The Links at Northfork benefiting the Greater Twin Cities United Way
LaMettry’s sponsored a hole and sent golfers to this annual event.
- 22nd Annual Alliance of Automotive Service Providers-Minnesota (AASP-MN) Golf Outing at Keller Golf Course in Maplewood
LaMettry’s sent golfers to this event where money was raised for Minnesota Careers in Auto Repair & Service. Our team even won first place!
Left to right: Eric Johnson (Eden Prairie GM), Justin LaMettry (Vice President), John Rutz (PDR Manager), and Mike Ballou (Richfield GM)
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!