Processes, people help drive rapid expansion growth for Texas MSO

April 9, 2018
Within five years, ProCare opened or acquired 12 shops, surpassing Brock and Fallis’ original goals. The company now has a full executive team, as well as three regional managers and a director of operations.

Making the transition from a one- or two-shop collision repair business to a full-fledged multi-shop operator (MSO) is rarely easy. There are financial challenges, personnel challenges, and competitive threats from larger, more experienced consolidators and MSOs. 

But one of the biggest challenges is for the owner and managers to shift from a hands-on approach to the business – being directly involved in every customer interaction, insurance dispute, hiring/firing decision, and even directing repairs – to delegating those responsibilities in order to focus on growing the whole company. 

At a Glance:
ProCare Collision
San Antonio, TX
No. of employees
Paint supplier
No. of locations
Markets served
$50 million

That was an obstacle that ProCare Collision founder Clay Fallis wrestled with as he attempted to expand beyond his two-shop footprint. Founded in 1999, ProCare is now a rapidly growing regional MSO. But a decade ago, ProCare’s ability to make that transition was in doubt.  

That’s because Fallis was still managing his burgeoning MSO like a single-store business – the owner was intimately involved in every aspect of each store’s daily operations. It was exhausting for Fallis and ultimately made it more challenging to successfully expand. 

By the time ProCare opened its third shop, the business was struggling. 

Enter Vince Brock, an executive with little experience in the collision industry but with the insight and capital that helped turn ProCare around. Brock (who formerly operated a successful commercial painting business) bought a controlling interest in the company and convinced Fallis that he needed to hand day-to-day operations over to his shop managers so that he could focus on growth. 

“For single-location businesses, the owner is a big draw as to why people do business there, or why the business itself works,” Brock says. “Once you add locations, it has to be about the process, not the owner.” 

In 2008, Fallis and Brock launched an ambitious plan to add eight more locations in five years. Fallis became the director of acquisitions, and he and Brock began outlining a way to standardize processes across the existing shops, identify potential new sites and acquisitions, and establish better relationships with vendors and insurance companies. Brock became CEO. 

“There was a big culture change involved in moving away from the idea of fighting with the insurance companies,” Brock says. “We had to overcome that adversarial relationships and become a partner with the insurers. At the end of the day, it’s in the mutual best interest of everybody involved to do a correct repair at the correct value. If you spend all your time fighting about it, you can’t get anything done.” 

Brock and Fallis worked together to nail down vendor and insurance relationships and outline the repair process the company would follow with every single vehicle. “From the outside looking in, not much changed that first year,” Brock says. “Inside, everything changed. We figured out what process everything should follow and we tried to replicate that.” 

Shop managers were given more autonomy so that Fallis could focus his energies on expansion. “We really wanted to empower the managers to make as many daily decisions as they can,” Brock says. “We formalized the toolbox they had to make those decisions.” 

Staff members also had to get away from what Brock says was a company catch-phrase – “I’ll call Clay.”  

“We set up a manager’s share folder on their computers so they could find the forms they need to hire and terminate employees or do reviews, for example,” Brock says. “They didn’t have to call Clay to do any of those things. Some managers liked that because they now have more authority, and some didn’t’ like it because it was just easier to call Clay when there was an issue.” 

For employees who have been with ProCare since before the expansion, there are still some challenges in accepting a more corporate-based management structure. “We can’t shoot from the hip anymore,” Brock says. “In some ways, things move slower than they did in a smaller organization, so the challenge is in being compliant while also being nimble and responsive.” 

Doubling the business 

From there, the company needed capital to grow. “We really had to look for opportunities,” Brock says. “When you don’t’ have funding or capital, you find the opportunities that present themselves that you can afford.” 

Brock kicked in his own money, and ProCare worked with paint supplier Axalta to help further expand. ProCare opened two more shops on their own, followed by the company’s first big acquisition: purchasing another successful Texas MSO, Austin-based Ellis & Salazar in 2014 using some bank-based financing and a prebate structure from Axalta. 

The company doubled in size while expanding into a second metropolitan market. That move was largely made possible because the original partners in Ellis & Salazar had attempted to sell to a consolidator but the deal fell through.  

“Some of the principals were staying and they didn’t really want to work for a larger consolidator, so we found some traction and retained as much of what Ellis & Salazar had built as we could,” Brock says. The Austin branch of the company kept its original name and branding. 

Ellis and Salazar owner Joe Lewright became chief operating officer of the ProCare organization. The company has also added a chief financial officer and other executives to help manage the business. 

From there, ProCare shifted its attention to Houston, acquiring the four-shop Fogle Collision Center organization (this time using private equity funding). Again, Fogle kept its name as part of the transition. 

“That helps with retention,” Brock says. “If you change the banner, then employees who have been getting up and going to work for that company for years may start to question why they are still working there. If you keep the name and the look of the shop, it feels like they are still at home.” 

In addition to the Fogle acquisition, the company bought two other shops and built two brownfield locations almost simultaneously. 

Training center benefits entire industry
Like just about every other shop and MSO in the country, ProCare Collision has struggled to recruit and hire new technicians. In 2017, the company took the initiative to launch a new training facility and program called ProCollision Training that would not only benefit ProCare, but that would also serve as a talent pipeline to other Texas body shops. 

Brock says the company turned to Paul Gage, a training guru who had established the CollisionU program at Fayetteville Technical Community College in Fayetteville, N.C., to launch the idea. ProCare approached him about setting up training facilities in Texas for its employees, but Gage suggested something bigger – a program that would benefit the industry at large.  

That was right in line with what Brock and Fallis wanted to do. “They had the same vision,” Gage says. “Vince said that if we can make the industry better and raise the bar for technicians and shops everywhere, that will help ProCare be successful.” 

ProCollision Training launched in 2017, and now offers classroom instruction and hands-on training. The classes are open to anyone in the industry that wants to learn. While ProCare launched the company, classes and training will be handled on neutral territory and Gage has policies in place to ensure that technicians won’t be poached by competitors. 

“Industry response has been fantastic,” Gage says. “We also have a big focus on staff development. We have a human resource crisis, and if you just go out and hire without stabilizing your existing workforce, you run the risk of losing that existing workforce. We build development and training programs that match the career path they want for themselves.” 

Gage supports the I-CAR curriculum and also offers additional instruction opportunities to complement both I-CAR and OEM-specific programs. 

ProCare has also launched its own retention and development program that works in concert with ProCollision. “We ask them what they want to get out of their relationship with ProCare,” Brock says. “Where do you want to be in five years, and how can we help you get there? It really changes the relationship with the employees.” 

ProCollision will move into a larger building in the near future, and Gage has begun hiring more staff. “We have some financial backing now, so we’re looking at buying some equipment,” Gage says. “We have some really unique things we are bringing to market to take away the roadblocks for people coming to training. We are putting in a daycare, and we are offering training in both Spanish and Vietnamese as well.”

ProCare doubled its size with each new investment. “I wouldn’t recommend following our footsteps in terms of 100 percent growth at every turn, but you can’t really time your opportunities,” Brock says. 

Within five years, ProCare opened or acquired 12 shops, surpassing Brock and Fallis’ original goals. The company now has a full executive team, as well as three regional managers and a director of operations. 

Staff development focus 

An important part of the MSO's growth has been made possible by Brock and Fallis’ focus on staff development. ProCare began investing in employee training and hosting in-house training and leadership training so that managers could take on more responsibilities and other employees could be groomed for future leadership positions. 

Communication has also been critical. Fallis sends shop managers a copy of the company’s daily scoreboard reports so that everyone has a view of where the company and each shop stands relative to closing ratios, cycle times, and other important KPIs. ProCare formed its own 20 group, so the mangers can meet once per quarter to compare notes. “You can write this stuff down all day long, but it helps to have a real world discussion about eh challenges you run into when implementing these best practices and SOPs,” Brock says. “It’s more valuable if you have a guy in the room who has overcome similar challenges in the same environment you are in.” 

The company has also launched a ProCare customer call center and an internship program for collision repair students, and recently helped launch a new training center that is open to its own employees as well as technicians across the region (see sidebar). 

The ProCare shops all have different layouts and different size restrictions, so ensuring process consistency is an ongoing challenge. “We really have to spend a lot of time on how we can adapt our processes to flow in those environments,” Brock says. “How do we recreate this model with a certain number of employees and at varying sales levels? Some of the shops are doing one-third or half the revenue of others based on where they are and the DRPs they have in place.” 

Regional managers are able to help with that process by coaching store managers, and sharing best practices among the group. “Everything is always changing,” Brock says. “We try to find the important fundamentals, bring those to the table, and then other things can change around those. We focus on getting customer service right, and having a standard check-in procedure.” 

The company is working to rationalize its company-wide DRP relationships in 2018. “We have three brands, and we initially thought that the insurance companies would see us as one company and understand how that works in terms of our value to customers. But they aren’t as clued in as we expected, so we’re going back and explaining this to them.” 

ProCare also restructured its websites to better reflect the integration of the three brands. 

“With our scale, we also have something more to bring to the table,” Brock says. “We have a call center and an estimate review center, and we can offer improved DRP compliance. We are going back and reintroducing ourselves to the carriers. We want to be that regional MSO with the scale and resources that the big consolidators provide, but on a more localized level.” 

ProCare plans to continue its expansion in 2018, although Brock couldn’t share any details. He said the company will also be focused on continuous improvement in order to keep up with the national consolidators in the market. 

“The more we learn the more respect I have for the big guys, because it’s difficult to be nimble as you increase in size. The competition is fierce. We get better every single day at what we do, because our competition is good at what they do. That drives value to the customer.” 

About the Author

Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a freelance journalist based in Columbus, Ohio, who has been writing about manufacturing, technology and automotive issues since 1997. As an editor with Frontline Solutions magazine, he covered the supply chain automation industry for nearly eight years, and he has been a regular contributor to both Automotive Body Repair News and Aftermarket Business World.

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