Walter Morse, owner of High Caliber Auto Collision & Repair and his team of skilled technicians have been servicing the people of the Creston Valley for 14 years. The shop is located in Creston, British Columbia with a population of 5,600. It is a rural location with many surrounding small farming communities, which brings the service area up to 15,000 people. “The customers are the key to success, they are in the area because they love the climate, the unique charms of the local artisans and enjoy the small-town atmosphere.”
Being just a 10-minute drive north of the Idaho border has this town surrounded by beautiful nature scenes everywhere you look. The mountains, lakes, and streams that sprawl across the landscape provide the citizens with various outdoor recreational activities. Walter and Annette, his wife, enjoy camping, fishing, archery and spending their spare time in the wilderness with their two children. Farmers markets are a large attraction to the area, the apple and cherry orchards throughout the community export their produce worldwide. In the past decade vineyards have also become quite popular, it is a pleasure to enjoy a glass of local wines during the evening. The two of them are also very active in the volunteer sphere, dedicating their time to helping with community events, youth programs and wildlife conservation whenever possible.
In 2008, the shop started with just 5 employees and 3 bays, 2 of which were rented out to other smaller businesses. The shop has expanded immensely since then. They have since taken over those bays and have 11 full time employees on their docket. The shop’s floor plan has also doubled, and they now have a drive-through paint booth, improving both workflow and efficiency.
High Caliber is known for going above and beyond their customer’s expectations. Walter says that they, “treat everyone with respect and pride themselves on customer service, quality workmanship from professional, skilled technicians.” The shop specializes in insurance claims and repairs, which is important to Walter. In his town there are many collisions involving wildlife that can cause severe damage to a vehicle. Without the support of the insurance companies, many of the necessary services the customers need would be unaffordable. Instead, his clientele know they can come to him and his team and only pay their deductible for a “like new” vehicle after repairs.
Walter also provides his customers with lifetime guarantees. These let people feel at ease, they understand that the shop cares about them and prioritize solid work over potential profits. According to him, customers “are assured our repairs are done to OEM standards and we stand behind our work.” Going the extra mile has been proven to work too. Word of mouth has been the most effective marketing thus far for High Caliber with “the majority of our customers coming to us because of our outstanding reputation from their friends or family members.”
As a shop owner, not only are the relationships with clients important to Walter, but so are the ones with his employees. It is a true team culture where each person’s skills and personality compliments and supports the others. He loves “working with others” and the ability “to mentor each other”. Walter cites his understanding of what it means to create a shop culture to being a DRIVE client. Before attending DRIVE’s workshops, he says there were moments where he had trouble communicating his expectations to employees. Now, they have “developed better training, policies, guidelines and job descriptions so that everyone at High Caliber knows what is expected of them and where to find direction if needed.” And, with an advisor to help keep him on track, he has been consistently hitting his goals and continually moving in the right direction.
He also knows being a part of industry associations is good for business! They allow him to get industry specific training for his employees, network with other shop owners, and have access to different educational opportunities. In addition to DRIVE, High Caliber is a member of CCIAP (Canadian Collision Industry Accreditation Program) and Quality Assured Group (QA Group) which gives them “better buying power from suppliers and support from other shop owners in the area.” The shop also works with ARA (Automotive Retailers Association), for a voice with industry leaders.
A love for the collision repair industry also constantly keeps Walter pushing to succeed and better his business. “It is a dynamic environment; things are always evolving, and we are continuously learning new techniques to keep up with industry changes.” With each new material, electronic communication system, or piece of equipment there’s always a new way to get a job done. To him, the best part is the feeling after helping those in need.
Fellow shop owners in the collision repair industry are also a highlight of his work. Walter loves learning about other professionals, from how they came to own a shop to their own experiences in the trade. They can workshop solutions to problems specific to their work, give advice about struggles they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them. Together as professionals they get to share the steps they’ve taken to become prosperous and foster a connection with one another.
Walter left us with his most valued piece of advice: “Always be true to your word and the services you can provide.”
Prepared by Chase Clough