Becoming Part of a Collision Repair Franchise

Oct. 1, 2017
For some dealerships, joining forces with a collision repair franchise can aid relationships with insurers and ease the workload of managers.

Fred Beans has no interest in ever letting his business sit in neutral.

As a result, Beans, the founder of the Fred Beans Family of Dealerships in the Philadelphia area, looked to jump start his collision repair segment a couple years ago. In 2015, Beans joined the CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts network. Now, the longtime owner sounds especially energized.

“I like the idea that I’m part of some structure, an organization,” says Beans, who got his first dealership 42 years ago. “It makes me want to reach … a higher standard.”

While business currently appears encouraging for Beans and his six body shops, there were times, not long ago, where that segment had little forward momentum for him. Beans felt the steady supply of work that collision repair can provide was worth a continued investment, though, so he kept re-tooling. Below, Fixed Ops Business examines how pairing with a collision repair franchise eventually helped Beans’ business hit a higher gear.

Losing Ground

A few years back, Beans noticed a pair of industry trends he found troublesome.

First, many of Philadelphia’s collision repair businesses were going the route of consolidation. Secondly, Beans’ body shops weren’t documenting key performance indicators (KPIs) closely enough.

Both issues inspired the owner to react decisively.

“I thought that I needed to get some sort of alliance, because I’m a car dealer first, and a body shop owner second,” Beans explains. “I felt that I needed the structure, because I’m a car dealer first, and a body shop owner second,” Beans explains. “I felt that I needed the structure, because [consolidation] was happening all around me.”

Also, those in charge of Beans’ body shops were too busy to adequately keep tabs on the facilities’ metrics, and elements like cycle time had grown sluggish.

Beans, a military man in a former life, wanted his body shops to establish industry standards, rather than fade toward the back of the pack.

Shift Gears

In the past, Beans notes, his body shops were run by each associated store’s general manager—in other words, someone with myriad other responsibilities, like selling cars and managing inventory. In 2015—when the owner decided to join forces with CARSTAR in an effort to improve overall performance, and use CARSTAR’s clout to improve representation with insurance companies—he tweaked his organizational structure, allowing for more attention to be given to the collision repair segment from above.

“Now,” Beans notes, “I have a body shop director. So, we try to run all six of those [body shops] to CARSTAR standards.”

After he opted to pair with CARSTAR, Beans instructed all of his collision repair facilities to use CCC ONE management software, and to keep tabs on accounting through the use of QuickBooks.

The body shop facilities have thrived.

“I’ll tell you what I like,” Beans says. “I like the fact that all of our people wear the same uniform. We have standards, we have online training.

“We have a structure to live within. I need that structure. As a franchise car dealer, we live in a narrow channel; you operate with certain guidelines.”

Now, he says, all of his body shops are “singing on the same song sheet.”

Moving Forward

Nowadays, the body shops affiliated with the Fred Beans Family of Dealerships document their KPIs as closely as ever. They compare everything they do internally, and try to improve incrementally. As a result, Beans says his collision repair facilities’ gross revenue has improved by roughly 15 percent.

“Keeping score, which I call ‘keeping score for success,’ and measuring how you’re doing against standards and a group of peers, is” valuable, he explains.

Beans also feels that his affiliation with CARSTAR—which he believes gives his business increased credibility—has helped secure DRP relationships with the likes of State Farm, Farmers and Allstate.

“It’s been good for me,” he says of partnering with CARSTAR. “I look forward to growing with CARSTAR. I feel like I’ve got somebody that represents me to insurance companies—with some clout behind it. I don’t think you’ve got much clout when you’re alone.

“We certainly had our bumps in the road, where we didn’t get as good of scores as we should. But right now we’re doing what I consider a good job, and we’re getting better, because we’re measuring [KPIs] all the time.”

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