Collision repairers, like owners in other industries, speak often of "out-of-the-box" thinking, the fresh ideas that drive the innovations businesses need to survive and thrive. Innovating in the collision repair industry lately has proved especially difficult since most shops already have their hands full just operating day to day.
Ironically, this fact makes innovation even more necessary. What should shops do? They might want to look at the example set by D-Patrick Body and Glass. The Evansville, Ind.-based business used a fresh focus on customer service to spring it from a modest standalone shop to an evolving, growing MSO.
IMAGES / D-PATRICK BODY AND GLASS
The new focus on service was a product 14 years ago of the hiring of Greg Hagan who today is D-Patrick's body shop director. Before coming on board, Hagan worked in restaurant management – experience he says that brought a new perspective on service at D-Patrick.
"You see things the way the customer does. In the restaurant industry you look at things as minor as how clean the bathrooms are," Hagan says. "At the shop, we began focusing on how we sold. From there, we began working on changes to the business culture." Such thorough changes take time, but for D-Patrick the transformation turned out to be worth the wait.
From tires and collision repair to mechanical work and glass, D-Patrick's goal is to offer customers every possible service at one location.
In a decade, the business grew from a shop generating $300,000 per year with two combo technicians to one making $3 million and employing 20 team members. The shop also opened the second of what would today become four locations that together pump out $7.5 million in annual profits. If that growth isn't impressive enough, consider this. With one exception (more on that later), these are dealership shops that service four dealer locations selling luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Porsche, along with Nissan, Honda, Ford, and Lincoln.
While dealer shops have certain advantages, such as a built-in customer base, they do face significant challenges, namely, OEM certification, especially for luxury brands. For D-Patrick, expanding its business meant becoming certified in BMW, Mercedes and Audi repairs. The business leaped those hurdles and along the way transformed its Motoplex European Body Shop into the only shop in the country with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen and Nissan Factory Certifications all under one roof.
Before vehicles are rolled into these paint booths, the shop's focus is to have all other chores, including interior cleaning, completed.
Perhaps even more impressive, the business managed these demands while also implementing a lean operation. Many shops make this journey, but D-Patrick did so while instituting some of its own twists to build efficiently. For example, it uses a paint vendor program that scans and invoices clips and fasteners at the start of the repair so they can be bagged and tagged on the appropriate parts carts. This way, these important pieces can't be misplaced and cause delays to a repair.