Insurance Insiders to Savvy Shop Owners
Switching industries to start a new business is never easy, but James Pasquin and Nicholas Hindy left their careers to start their first collision repair shop with a secret weapon—an inside understanding of how the insurance industry works from years spent as insurance adjusters.
From grasping how to run a large enterprise to the details of policyholder repair procedures, the pair used their years of insurance know-how to build Anthony’s Auto Body in Shrewsbury, N.J., a collision repair business an hour south of New York City that walks its customers through the repair and reimbursement process, advises them on improving their coverage for future incidents and establishes policies that ensure the business gets reimbursed for every ounce of supplies used on insurance-pay jobs.
It’s a thorough way of doing business that both say has defined the shop in the eyes of its customers and many insurance partners. It has also helped pave the way for rapid, profitable growth during the last nine years.
“A lot of shops are just not fixing cars properly because they weren’t getting paid to do things, so if they didn’t get paid to do it, they just wouldn’t do it,” Hindy says. “Me and Jimmy knew that as long as we’re doing it, they owe it to us and we will get paid for doing it, [which] would allow us to use the proper products, do the proper procedures. Having that insurance background allowed us to be able to negotiate claims.”
Pasquin and Hindy opened their second location, 35 miles miles south in Tom’s River, last July, and are working to further grow their footprint with additional stores in the coming years.
Pasquin started in the industry by attending Automotive High School in New York City, which led to a job with the city repairing a vehicle fleet. After his next job at Penske Truck Leasing in Manhattan, he tired of the work and left in 1991 to become an insurance appraiser with State Farm Insurance.
“I wanted to change and do something different to see how the insurance end worked,” he says. “I was interested in doing that, and tired of getting my hands dirty after working with fiberglass on all of those trucks for years.”
Hindy started working at his cousin’s body shop in Brooklyn before high school and, after graduating from college with a computer-related degree, he opened his own body shop in New York. After selling the shop to his partner, he left the field to become an automotive damage appraiser for State Farm, where he met Pasquin.
Finding success in insurance, while learning sophisticated business tactics through State Farm training programs, both decided to take control of their careers by opening a shop in Shrewsbury that they purchased from an owner who, both say, focused on profits at the expense of proper training and equipment.
They both had dreamed of opening their own shop, primarily to be in charge of their own destinies. With their combined insurance and body shop backgrounds, they felt they had an opportunity to provide a better experience for customers dealing with the traumatic aftermath of an accident.
“We had a different vision. We wanted everybody to see it our way, look at the product we could deliver, watch us,” Pasquin says. “Me and Nick knew from the get-go that we wanted to do it 100 percent—proper training, proper tools, understanding the repair process.”
After buying the shop, the pair immediately invested in new equipment and, within the first two years, expanded the 3,500-square-foot shop to 13,000 square feet.
Meeting of the Minds
At Anthony’s Auto Body and now Anthony’s Auto Body II, the repair process includes several procedures to stay organized and provide clear documentation for insurance providers.
When they first opened their shop in 2005, insurance companies would tell Pasquin and Hindy they were the only owners they worked with who knew how to get paid for the little things—supplies and materials that add up to big dollars over the course of a year.
“Both of us having the same mindset and knowing what the customer deserved as far as the repair goes and understanding what the insurance wanted to deliver enabled us to come up with a plan and come up with processes in the body shop and how to get the car fixed properly,” Pasquin says. “We know the insurance end of it, we understand what they want and … [that] enables us to see both sides of it.”
Thorough blueprinting on the front end has helped the shop minimize parts orders per job, which saves time and money. Fully stocked work carts reduce downtime from technicians stopping to find additional supplies.
By keeping everything labeled, bagged and tagged, the shop has reduced wasted time due to confusion or misplacing items. For supplies, dedicated buckets for every job have helped the shop track its supply and material usage, which is a key way to justifying expenses to insurance providers.
The three-gallon buckets are simple dollar-store items that are used to hold materials such as seam sealer, panel bonding, urethane tubes and anything else that was used on a specific job—all in an effort to track every cost that goes into a project.
All throughout the process, technicians use cameras to photograph everything that happens before, during and after the repair, sometimes entailing more than 100 photos per project.
“Our guys take photos throughout the whole process—there are cameras all over our shop from check-in, to the R&Is (removal and installation), to the dismantling, to when the car is ground down, to it being in plastic, in primer,” Pasquin says. “We encourage our techs to take many photos, because our estimators rely on them in the event of a supplement.”
While some insurance companies have objected to paying for denibbing and polishing, wielding photographic evidence has helped Anthony’s Auto Body recoup the time and materials it uses to perform quality repairs.
“We can bang heads all day long with these guys, but if we can provide documentation for everything that we do, and we can prove to them that we did everything they’re asking for, they don’t have an argument to tell us no,’” Pasquin says. “Any question they’re going to ask, we already have an answer for them.”
Part of their unique vision for the business included ancillary services like towing, alloy wheel repair, detailing and mechanical services, which comprise only a fraction of the company’s overall revenue.
With two ASE mechanics already on staff, adding mechanical services to the 15-bay facility was a recent move intended to make the business a “one-stop shop” and capture more customers coming off the busy fronting highway, as well as existing customers they would previously refer to other mechanical shops.
Although mechanical service comprises a small, but growing portion of the Shrewsbury location’s business, Pasquin is seeking to expand its import at the shop, with a goal of expanding it to 25 percent of the overall business.
Leveraging their ties to the insurance industry, the original location has 12 DRP partners, a number it hopes to duplicate in time at Toms River.
More Stores Ahead
The opportunity to expand to a second location came after the first shop became largely self-sufficient after years of process work and training through I-CAR classes, 3M educational events and a PPG-led 20 Group.
“We got to a point where the processes were working great. Jimmy had the right people in place up there, and it was OK for me to leave,” Hindy says of leaving the Shrewsbury location to focus on opening the Toms River shop.
He adds that both he and his partner like to be sponges for information, and that the opportunity to interact with large MSOs at industry and supplier networking events have been a huge help as they have worked to refine their procedures and grow the business.
The decision to open the second store was made to increase their regional exposure, while also increasing profitability that has suffered due to the increasing cost of goods, utilities and insurance in the face of relatively low insurance rates in their market area.
From here, Pasquin and Hindy have their sights set on building up Toms River to match their success in Shrewsbury, then scanning the horizon for the other locations to fully realize their long-term dreams. While Hindy left Shrewsbury to start the next location, the two have no plans to go their separate ways.
“I see us growing together. We’re a family,” Pasquin says. “We’ve talked about doing this for a long time, doing it together. I couldn’t ask for a better person to do it with.”
Hindy echoed the sentiment, stating that they ultimately hope to have five stores under the Anthony’s Auto Body banner, a name inherited from the previous owner of their first location. Even though they weren’t impressed with his track record, the pair elected to keep the name to preserve their DRP and towing contracts.
“Our goal is to have four or five of them, oversee it, work on the business not in the business as much as we do; just have the right people in place, have processes in place. And I think that’s going to allow us to be successful,” Hindy says. “We’re fighting a battle where we’re getting paid minimum to try to prove a profit. I think we’ve got that down. If we could duplicate that three, four, five times, that’s going to make us much more successful.”