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The Millennial Shop Owner’s Vision for Collision Repair

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The Millennial Shop Owner’s Vision for Collision Repair
Millennial shop owners detail the progressive strategies that will separate them from the pack in the new year.

STATS: MAACO COLLISION REPAIR & AUTO PAINTING Location: Houston Employees: 23 Average Monthly Car Count: 140 Annual Revenue: $2.5 million

Flipping the Script

by Noura Elmanssy

 

At 24 years old, Kevin Taylor earned his MBA.

At 24 years old, Taylor thought he was going to be on Wall Street.

At 24 years old, Taylor saw no future for himself in the collision repair industry.

And at 27 years old, Taylor purchased his own body shop.

If it wasn’t for his “young, dumb and aggressive” mentality, Taylor wouldn’t be where he is today. While helping his dad manage a Maaco shop as he initiated a career in the finance field, he couldn't help but feel his calling was in another field.

“I was in brokerage, packing real estate deals and selling them off out of grad school,” he says. “But I learned I did not like working for a big company.”

So, in turn? The body shop—which he had previously figured was an “undesirable industry”—suddenly made sense.

Starting with his dad’s shop in 2005, where he tested the water and made changes like tracking estimates versus retention and a shift in focus on ARO, car count and fleet opportunities—he doubled the shop's sales within two years from $500,000 to $1 million.

He came to find that he had more of a voice, led a smaller team, and his decisions had a business-wide impact.

When presented with an opportunity of turning around an underperforming Maaco shop, despite some risky leaps and bounds, he decided to take them head on.

He’d safely argue that, today, that was a good decision. The now-owner of a Maaco facility in Houston, Taylor went from thinking the collision industry was “dirty” to now running a $2.5 million facility—all while remaining one of the youngest Maaco shop owners in the country at 36 years old. And he did that by flipping the Maaco formula and image to stand out from the crowd.

 

Combating the Maaco Way

In 2010, Taylor purchased a large underperforming shop, which boasted 18,000 square feet in workspace, but only churned out $700,000 in annual revenue.

And while the turnaround seemed daunting, Taylor had only one key goal in mind with that purchase—a goal that seems absurd, delusional and unrealistic.

Well, it seems absurd, delusional and unrealistic, until you remember how Taylor operates.

“From the beginning, I wanted to have the best shop in the country. Period,” he says. “I want the best shop in every way. Process, quality, cycle time, profit, everything—I want everything.”  

And the business Taylor was purchasing wasn’t just any old shop—it was a Maaco facility. But Taylor knew what he was getting into when he decided to go for a Maaco shop. He knew he liked the retail focus of the company, along with:

  1. The purchasing power and ownership infrastructure
  2. Branded advertising and purchaser advertising at a discounted rate.
  3. The opportunity for networking.

Taylor also knew what he didn’t like. He says the Maaco brand is inaccurately associated with cheap painting, poor workmanship, underwhelming facilities and remedial technology.

“I said if I was going to do this, I didn’t want to be like that,” he says.

It all started with looks. Taylor has renovated twice in the last six years. He invested in state-of-the-art, HD LED screens, brand new welders, laser frame equipment and frame machines and restructured the back of his facility.

Next was finding the balance between doing the $700 paint jobs that Maaco was known for and knowing how to properly repair a $5,000 front-end job, he says.

“When we make a mistake and we’re a Maaco, we have a very short leash for customer confidence,” he says.

Taylor knew certification was going to set him apart and boost customer trust, so he was one of the first shops in the country to jump on the Maaco Certified Program. In addition, his shop and each one of his techs became I-CAR Gold certified, which is not common among Maaco shops, he says.

 

The Unexpected Turn

Sure, Taylor had turned around his dad’s shop once before. But turning it around a second time was the last thing he expected three years after striking out on his own and purchasing his Maaco shop. That is, until the life-altering events of Christmas Eve 2012, when Taylor’s dad was shot in the parking lot of his shop by the suspect of a high-speed car chase.

In the aftermath of the event, Taylor had to look after the business, and while he had been going there every week anyway to help out, this time he really had to prepare the business for sale, something his mother wanted to do.

Unfortunately, in the years since Taylor moved on from running the shop on a day-to-day basis, his father’s sales had declined again. So, Taylor applied the same methods that he did the first time around to increase sales once again by 50 percent.

Taking care of both his own and his dad’s shop proved challenging for Taylor, and he soon realized that he couldn’t grow the quality and the revenue of his shop if he continued to focus on both.

“I didn’t feel like it was a good fit at the time. I didn’t feel that my shop was the best shop in the country yet and that was my focus,” he says.

After prepping the family shop operationally, he then sold it to an individual who then sold it to an MSO.

But it was through this experience that he tapped into the support system he had around him, including fellow Maaco shop owner, Brian Greenley, owner of one of the most successful Maaco franchises in company history.

Taylor flew out to Greenley’s Littleton, Colo., shop and the two clicked immediately. Taylor describes it as being “on the same wavelength” in nearly every aspect of business, including their remarkably similar management styles.

His mentor/mentee relationship with Greenley reassured Taylor that his decision to stray from the crowd meant that he was doing something right.

 

The "Kevin Way"

Since then, Taylor has become laser focused on putting out quality work in a timely fashion that’s profitable to the business and of value to the customers—that’s the “Kevin Way.”

“If we don’t have all of those, it doesn’t work,” he says.

In order to achieve this, he started with the staff. Upon purchase of the shop, Taylor made everyone reapply for their jobs to ensure that he had the right staff in place, and, of course, added some new members.

“I wanted good people. I wanted people that had a built–in sense of urgency and people that wanted to learn and to be better every day. We wanted to continuously make improvements all the time,” he says.

He took people from industries such as the insurance, restaurant, construction and commercial maintenance businesses and trained them from the ground up. Everything from the basics of how to talk to a customer, to the difference between insurance and out-of-pocket repairs, to the parameters of a customer negotiation, are all addressed in training.

“I took non-industry guys and I trained them to be 'Kevin’s Guys,'” he says.

Using his business background, he’s given accounting and business classes to his staff to help them in their personal and professional lives. This practice has helped retain 80 percent of the crew over the past four years.

To ensure a teamwork mentality, Taylor says his staff is salaried with the opportunity for bonuses based on what the shop makes. 

In the beginning, he saw all of his business opportunities in local and national fleets. He realized those customers were being “kicked to the curb” by other shops because of DRP relationships. When everyone was going in the direction of DRPs, Taylor remembers going against the grain and maximizing fleet opportunities.

While a “non-DRP” mentality is not uncommon in most Maaco shops, for Taylor’s production-focused model instead of a retail focused, his reasoning for remaining solo is so pointedly representative of his leadership style and progressive vision that it almost feels entirely unique.

“I control what we do—we drive the train, and I’m the conductor,” he says. “We have a background for being young, progressive and growing. My crew knows our objectives. I’ve had to focus on that hard to lead in the right direction.”

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