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ABRN's 2015 Top Shop: Chantilly Auto Body Group

Tuesday, December 1, 2015 - 09:00
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One of the hallmarks of a great shop is the ability to succeed where others have faltered. Take, for example, solving the partnership puzzle.

Partnerships pose a dilemma a bit unlike any other ownership format. On one hand they offer significant financial benefits. A 2008 study from Small Business Trends determined that average revenue for partnerships have risen 157 percent since 1980, while sole proprietorships saw 51 percent declines during the same period. On the other, they tend to be more volatile than any other ownership type and usually are the quickest to dissolve.

Yet, some partner-owned shops find ways to thrive. Such is the case with Chantilly Auto Body Group in Chantilly, Va., ABRN's 2015 Top Shops winner. The growing six-location MSO is on its second partnership.

That's not the only way Chantilly Auto Body Group stands out. The shop has paved a long, successful path by flourishing in areas where many repairers either are reluctant to tread or may be overlooking.

Chantilly Auto Body Group is ABRN's 2015 Top Shop

Origins in the trenches

Chantilly's founding may have been the first sign the business was going to march to the beat of a different drum.

Chantilly Auto Body Group
Nedal Khatib, Ryan Roberts
Owners
Chantilly, VA
Main location
6
No. of locations
30,000 / 30
Square footage / no. of bays
160
Total no. of employees
$2100
Average repair ticket
$38 million
Annual revenue
17
No. DRPs
PPG
Paint supplier used
Chantillyautobody.com
Website

Original partners Nedal Khatib and Bob Ellison met while bidding against one another for rental company repairs. At the time, Khatib owned his own shop, and Ellison worked for a dealer shop. In 1990, after several years of getting to know one another, the pair decided to leverage their experience in the Washington DC metro area and go into business together. They targeted Chantilly based on the area's strong growth and leased a building. Khatib moved in equipment from his Manassas shop, and they started work (with Ellison remaining connected to the dealership).

For the next 10 years, the two gradually grew their business. Khatib says a reputation for quality repairs and personal service helped catch the attention of DRPs. After Chantilly landed its first program, other insurers caught wind of the shop's ability to meet customer expectations. Soon the business was working with multiple repair programs

"They couldn't believe our CSI scores. We had over 98 percent at the time, which was unheard of," explains Khatib. "Sometimes the insurance company would send over a corporate audit team to validate the results."

In 2000, Chantilly had so much work Ellison and Khatib built a new 30,000 sq. ft. building, complete with drive in estimating and on-site vehicle rental (the first of its kind in the region). The business began transitioning work over from the original to the new site, while keeping the first location open. Doing so set into motion one part of the process by which Chantilly would grow into an MSO, acquiring new sites for work overflows.

In 2005, Khatib and Ellison opened another shop nearby to handle the work the ultra-busy Chantilly shop couldn't schedule. Eventually, the business would open two more shops for overflow. Two additional locations would be brought on board based on their potential for growth.

Chantilly owner Nedal Khatib has formed two different partnerships to grow his business.
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