Multi-Shop Operators (MSO)

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Merging two family-owned MSOs, Legacy Autobody builds foundation for future growth

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 07:00
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As a four-shop operation, Legacy did $13.5 million in business last year, and Dewalt estimates that with six shops the company will reach $18 million in revenue. “When we started, we had a plan to build the company to $20 million in sales, and we’re already getting close, so there’s really not a limit at this point. If we can keep adding one or two shops per year, we will keep expanding.”

To staff the other new shop, Legacy is moving a manager to the brownfield development and promoting an estimator to manager at his previous location. “We’ve started training ahead of time,” Dewalt says. “One of our shops has two painters and no preppers, so we’re sending a painter to the new location and hiring preppers for both shops. We always have issues finding technicians.”

While there is no formal promotion track yet, Dewalt says that being an MSO has opened opportunities for employees to move up in the organization. “We also just started an apprenticeship program that we’re piloting for body technicians,” Dewalt says. “That’s the hardest position to fill, because young people just aren’t getting into the industry anymore. We’re looking for people with a willingness to come and work every day and learn the craft. We’ll hire the attitude and teach the skill.”

Like other shops, Legacy does struggle to locate new technicians, a problem that will likely increase as the company expands. “We have some schools nearby, but we don’t get many people out of them,” Dewalt says. “There’s one tech school in our area, and they just have one person in their autobody program. I expect that program will not exist within the year. Finding body technicians and estimators is one of our biggest challenges. We call them ‘ghosts.’”

Dewalt says the CARSTAR relationship has paid off in terms of sales and other benefits. “There are rebate programs we take advantage of,” Dewalt says. “There are some challenges, too. There’s a central review program, so we’ve had to integrate that into our estimating process, but overall it’s been positive.”

Becoming a larger MSO has helped Legacy gain new business, reduce costs, and opened up new opportunities for revenue growth. Dewalt also says that the merger has made being an owner much less grueling. “I have more freedom,” he says. “I can go away for a week and not have to worry. “There are two other owners, and we have a lot of good managers in place.”

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