Melissa Thuringer

Manager at Heppner’s Auto Body

Melissa didn’t plan for a career in the automotive industry but when she was offered the opportunity to move from a receptionist to an estimator, she took it. Now, over 20 years later, Melissa manages the Heppner’s Auto Body Woodbury location.

Melissa first started in the automotive industry as a receptionist for Abra and was going to school for law enforcement. Shortly after accepting the position as an Abra estimator, she began her education and training in the automotive industry, including a year of I-CAR training. She quickly realized her passion for working with people and helping customers. After six years with Abra, Melissa made the leap to Heppner’s Auto Body.  Melissa continued as an estimator for seven more years when Heppner’s offered her the position of manager. Melissa knew she’d be challenged with this new responsibility, especially as a woman in a predominantly male industry, but she was eager to get started. Over the last seven years as a manager at Heppner’s Auto Body, Melissa has learned a lot about customer service, problem solving, team management and each shop position. As the manager, she’s responsible for a variety of functions, including shop operations, scheduling, car inspections, estimating, ordering parts, billing paperwork and more. Melissa continues to love working with people, both customers and her internal staff, and has enjoyed listening and learning from everyone along the way.

Position: Shop Manager

Job description: Manage team members and all shop operations. Provide excellent customer service. Oversee shop work and parts inventory.

Job outlook: Average

Education: Leadership and management skills are required. Bachelor’s degree preferred. Automotive degree helpful. Knowledge of various shop responsibilities. 

Character traits: Determined, problem-solver, eager to learn, resilient, people-person.

Benefits: Variety of work. Solving customers’ problems. Building and supporting a team.

Benefits of Being an Auto Shop Owner

Lots of variety, and every day is different. As the manager, Melissa is responsible for making sure the shop runs smoothly. It’s hard work, but she finds it very rewarding. Being able to work with and learn from so many people has always been Melissa’s favorite part of the job. 

Advice for Aspiring Auto Shop Owners

Listen and learn is Melissa’s biggest piece of advice. “Make sure to shadow and listen to your superiors and those who know more than you,” explains Melissa. “Learn how they talk to customers and technicians.” She says to be prepared to work hard. Being a shop manager is a great job with great responsibility, and it can be stressful at times. “Remember to put yourself in the customer’s shoes,” says Melissa. “They’re going to come in upset, but it’s your job to help them.” It’s very rewarding when a satisfied customer leaves and you know that you helped them. 

Education to Become an Auto Shop Owner

Melissa didn’t start her journey with the intention of becoming a shop manager, so she had to work even harder and take additional classes and training along the way to where she is today. An automotive or business degree can greatly help someone venturing down the path to become a shop manager. 

Future of the Auto Shop Owner Position

Cars are forever changing. Every aspect of design and service is becoming more advanced than it was 20 years ago, and with these advancements comes more responsibility. With all the changes in cars and tech, managers need to learn more, know how to do more and ultimately be able to monitor and teach others. This is a busy and growing industry, and it’s a job you won’t have to worry about fading away. Cars will always be around and there will always be a need for people to service and maintain them.