Engine Knox: The spirit of Christmas

by Steve Knox

It came to me in the wee hours of the morning. I’m 47 years old. I have a wife and two daughters. One seven years old, the other, nine years old. I run two collision centers; I have 33 employees. It’s December. I have become Santa Claus.

My daughters want every toy and game they’ve seen on YouTube. They’ve spent hours and days watching other kids and a few youthful adults opening every toy the manufacturers can possibly advertise over these channels. They’ve seen them unpackaged, unwrapped, and played with. Most get excellent reviews. Why wouldn’t they? The manufacturers supply the merchandise and the dollars to these YouTube stars. The YouTube stars provide the manufacturers with my daughter’s Christmas wish list.
My wife Jennifer has far more simple Christmas aspirations. She wants to have the house in good shape, the kids looked after, and maybe, just maybe she’ll slip me a hint of something she’d really like. I have to be far more attentive to her wish list, she doesn’t broadcast it as my kids do.

So I listen to them. I write secret notes to remind me of what these things are that they want. I make my list, and pray I have time to check it twice. I go to the mall. I spend hours comparing some fluffy little critter in oversized packaging, thinking the whole time, “don’t they already have three of these?” Oh well. Part of being a dad is giving in to your kids’ wishes. Who am I to stifle their dreams? With my wife, it plays out a little differently. I’m like a squirrel collecting nuts. I listen to each clue, write it down, and order it from Amazon or wherever I find it, and make my secret collection of everything I think she might have hinted about. Her needs are small, so I have to operate on her wish list with surgical precision.

Then there are my big kids. My employees. These folks are a lot more expensive to grant Christmas wishes to. Jay wants more estimating space. Meaghan wants a better process for following jobs through the shop. Peter would like to have a new belt sander. Nick wants more bay space to work on vehicles. Brian wants just to be left alone to do his work, and no German cars, please. Renald wants us to invest in more frame equipment. Erin wants four more arms so she can triple her current workflow. Will would like a process to keep the vehicles free of snow and organized better for production. Dusty is wishing for his apprenticeship to move along. Andrew wants all of his paint jobs to be perfect, dust-free and colour matches to be spot on. Manoli wants his parts to all come in correctly with no blemishes. Shelly wants the paperwork to be easier to account for. Jackie just wants all of her customers to love her and be well. These are the wishes of only one of our shops. I’m still working on the list for the other.
Me? I just want everyone to work hard, be successful. Get along all the time, and push to constantly improve. I’d also like to retain a few more percentage points of gross before it gets eaten up on its way to the bottom line. I’d like to get another $500,000 worth of work through the door without knocking the walls out of our shop. If we can do that, my Christmas wishes are granted.

CARSTAR Fredericton and CARSTAR Fredericton North general manager Steve Knox is a member of the CCIF Steering Committee and an I-CAR instructor. He can be reached at sknox@carstarfredericton.ca.

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