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Shaping the Future

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It’s not easy to run a profitable collision repair center these days. There’s far more to this business than fixing cars. Maintaining insurance relationships, constantly striving for greater efficiency, keeping up with technology, overcoming rising expenses—it’s a challenging business. But that hasn’t stopped newcomers from giving it a try. 

Every year, we take a look at the industry’s up-and-coming shop operators, the rising stars of collision repair. You’ll find three of them in this month’s “New School” feature.

Each of these individuals overcame significant obstacles to find success. And each of them is a pioneer of sorts, blazing a new trail in an industry that is ripe for innovation.

Daniel Panduro, the 32-year-old manager of J&L Body Shop in Sun Valley, Calif., recognized a need to revamp the shop’s long-unchanged estimating process, outdated technology and unorganized parts handling. The shop had followed the same procedures for decades, but Panduro saw an opportunity to break the mold.

“Running a shop today is certainly different than even five or six years ago when I was getting into it,” he says. “It’s already a different game.”

Shop owner Ryan Cropper, who bought his first of two facilities about a decade ago when he was just 22 years old, shares Panduro’s mind set. Cropper owns Able Body Shop in Anchorage, Alaska, and boasts annual revenue of roughly $5.5 million thanks to outside-the-box thinking. For example, he looks at retail stores outside the industry for customer service trends, and added a truck accessories shop for greater parts control and additional revenue.   

The third operator featured is 36-year-old Nathan Nix, body shop manager for Kelley Automotive Group in Fort Wayne, Ind. Nix says all of his efforts, such as encouraging shop tours for vehicle owners, have been customer driven. 

“In the last 15 years that I’ve been in the business, it’s more about the customer now,” Nix says. “It’s about helping them through a situation rather than writing an estimate and selling a job.”

These repairers are helping to shape the future of the industry, ensuring that it will be viable for years to come.

In this issue of FenderBender, we also feature a shop that takes a wild approach to marketing (“Serious Fun, Serious Business”). Frank McClosky’s business, Frank’s Collision Repair, based in Baytown, Texas, treats every holiday as an opportunity to get noticed. It seems ridiculous, but McClosky and his colleagues dress in outlandish costumes and parade in front of insurers and other business partners, earning laughs and staying top of mind. McClosky is serious about success, but he knows how to have fun achieving it.

You can find more business-boosting ideas in this month’s Strategy section, which includes stories on how to maximize your labor rate, manage human resources issues without a department, and organize your workload for better efficiency.

As always, I welcome your feedback on these stories, and if you’ve got your own innovations or success strategies to share, shoot me an email. You might find yourself in a future issue of FenderBender.

Jake Weyer

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