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Expanded Chaos

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New Jersey shop owner David Rush has operated D&M Auto Body for over three decades.

Along the way, his shop has gone through multiple transformations and expansions.

Most recently, the shop increased in size from 7,000 to 12,500 square feet, which includes 2,500 square feet of office space.

Currently, the shop has 19 back-shop employees and eight members of management and administration.

From projections and finances to the direction of the company, Rush is consistently bettering himself, the shop, and employees.

FenderBender sat down with him to discuss how he has turned chaos into affluence and expansion through determination and hard work.

Here are the main takeaways.

Know When It’s Time to Grow

Starting out, D&M Auto Body operated out of two spaces, before realizing a single location potentially was the way to go.

“Well, we had two locations at one time,” Rush says. “Which was a disaster."

It’s no secret that navigating an expansion can be tricky. However, for Rush, it’s nothing new.

Over the years, he has been a part of multiple reconstructions and configurations of his company. 

The most recent was less than a decade ago when the shop doubled in size, which led Rush and his employees to be able to double sales out of the single location.

As an owner, determining a facility’s true capacity isn’t always easy. So, fully understanding when it was time to expand was crucial to Rush and the success of his company.  

“We went from $3.5 million to $6 million,” Rush says. “We doubled our net profit also—more than doubled our net profit.”

Although the years leading up to the improved building weren’t always the easiest or cheapest, as they consisted of blasting out parts of a mountain to make room for the expansion, they were well worth the hassle in Rush’s eyes.

"Make sure you have the sales, and make sure you’re going to make money doing these extra sales,” Rush says.

Finding a good time to expand is often easier said than done. However, with the right mindset and staff, a little give can turn into a whole lot of take.

Grow From Within

Before one can determine how they want to go about creating additions, owners must first acquire the knowledge of when he or she feels it is the best time to grow.

For Rush, this realization happened when his shop reached $50 a square foot.

“If you get up to around $50 a square foot, it’s definitely time to add on,” Rush says. “Because at $50 per square foot you start running into other cars, and people, and tools, and equipment, and all that kind of stuff.’

Experiences such as this one equated to Rush feeling it was time to expand.

When building up a new location, he looks to flourish from within.

“We always really grew from within,” Rush says.

Send The Love Letter

Showcasing the shop’s appreciation for customers’ continued commitment is another great way to ensure that, regardless of when consolidators move into the area, individuals stick around and retain their loyalty.

Despite the constant fear of consolidation, Rush feels that marketing past customers can help ease that burden.

Train And Incentivize Employees

Regardless of whether training is in person or online, Rush seeks to develop his staff by keeping them “interested and involved.”

This ensures that despite future expansions or transitions that employees are eager to stay with the company.

From a customer standpoint, not only does his staff aim to follow all procedures but conveying them all to customers is what sets D & M Auto Body apart from other shops according to Rush.

In order to expand, the sales have to be there. It’s as simple as that.

“We’re trying to build customers for life, just telling them everything we do, and I know people in my area do not do that,” Rush says. “And the insurance company’s see that too. They know we’re doing the right thing.”

Securing both staff members and customers before opting for expansion is key.

Join A 20 Group

“The most important thing for any body shop owner is to be involved in some 20 Group,” Rush says.

Regardless of whether it is through a paint company or is independently run, 20 Groups are key in terms of determining when it’s time to expand a shop by comparing its numbers to others across the country.

“It holds me accountable for running a good business, not just a body shop,” Rush says. 

Not only do these groups foster friendly competition, but lifelong friendships and acquaintances.

Being able to compare numbers in a large, dynamic setting helps ensure that owners are expanding at the right time and place.

So, what are you waiting for? Get involved, evolve, and when the time is right, expand.

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