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Collison Pros expands while putting customers, employees first

Monday, October 7, 2019 - 06:00
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When Brian von Tress launched Collision Pros in Northern California back in 2013, one of the reasons he did so was to get closer to the shops, his employees, and his customers. After nearly 20 years in management roles with a larger MSO, he wanted to get back to his roots and have a better connection with his employees.

“I wanted to finish off my career a little closer to the customers and the employees,” von Tress says. “Some of that was a little idealistic. It’s harder than I thought, but I wanted to be a smaller company that gave back and cared about the customers and the employees.”

At a Glance:
Collision Pros
Auburn, Calif.
Year founded
No. of employees
No. of locations
Markets served
Paint Supplier

Five years later that connection was fully tested when a wildfire stormed through the California Sierra Nevada region and destroyed his Paradise, Calif. Location. In addition to the shop, several employees lost their homes in the fire. The owner continued to support payroll for the shop and donated to the families, and then launched a successful GoFundMe campaign to help his employees recover.

Eventually he relocated all of those employees to his other locations, but he also remained dedicated to Paradise. The area was decimated by the fire, but von Tress re-opened in a new building and hopes to be part of the effort to rebuild Paradise.

“There was a shift in population, and a lot of the population that was displaced to Chico, Calif., where we also have a shop, so that store got very busy, and we were the only shop with the extra technicians to handle that load,” von Tress says. “We were able to keep everybody busy right away.”

“We found a shop in Paradise that did not want to re-open, so we acquired it and opened on a limited basis,” von Tress continues. “We want to support the town and see it rebuilt. If every business abandoned the town, it could be 20 years before it comes back. We want to be part of getting the infrastructure back up.”

Starting over from scratch

Von Tress began working in body shops as a teenager and while in college. He later served as a regional manager and then COO for Golden State Collision (later acquired by Caliber), which operated more than a dozen shops. However, after nearly 20 years in the business, he decided he wanted a change.

He saw an opportunity to launch a multi-shop operation north of Sacramento. In July 2013 he opened his first Collision Pros store in Auburn, followed by a store in Chico at the end of that year.

“In 2015 I brought on two key staff members, Ty Stowers and Jason Meehan, and gave them an ownership piece to run day to day operations while I focused on other areas like acquisitions. Since then we have been on fire opening at least one store per year,” von Tress says.

The company’s goal: 10 to 12 stores and $25 million in revenue. “But we are half way to that, and I think we are already looking beyond,” von Tress says.

Targeted acquisitions

Collision Pros has a centralized accounting, payroll, human resources, banking, marketing and acquisitions functions, while all other operations are local to the stores. The company has grown exclusively through acquisitions, which von Tress had experience with at his previous company. “That’s been more successful and it’s a little less risky,” he says. “I didn’t’ really have the money or the energy to fail.”

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