Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
We are a full service automotive repair facility specializing in collision repair. We have ASE and I-CAR certified technicians to service all your vehicle needs. We are a full OEM (manufacturer) parts only facility. We work for the customer and not the insurance company. We are not contractually bound to repair your car in a substandard fashion like insurance shops. We follow every make and model engineers’ blueprint to give you the highest in quality repairs. We use 100% factory approved paint and materials which have a 30-year finish warranty. Our goal is to make the repair process as easy as possible with optimal repair results.
How did the idea for your business come about?
While working for the larger collision repair organizations, I realized I was restricted from repairing vehicles properly because of their management. Certain parts and procedures that we knew were incorrect, we ignored for the sake of profit. We would put used structural parts or aftermarket parts that we knew weren’t crashed tested on customers’ vehicles. Just because they had a good exterior finish, we allowed our customers to drive off in these vehicles. It was hard going home to my wife explaining time after time what we were doing at these facilities. So at that point I made a decision to open my own shop. With the help of My father, brother, and personal funds I was able to get the start up capital needed. I owe my family a great debt for the sacrifice and the trust they put in my vision.
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
Actually, that happened with my first repeat client. I did a brief interview on why they chose us the first time and then why did they come back. The first reply was I was in the area so they just stopped in. The second was the fact that the repairs were done in a timely manner and that side of their car looked like it did when they bought it.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
It means I can see my vision and dreams everyday in real life. It means I get to have a sense of accomplishment on every car delivered. Just knowing I am able to deliver a superior quality product to my community is a blessing. My industry is one that can put someone in harms way if done poorly. We are in our vehicles almost as much as our own beds. We spend thousands of dollars on them and we carry our most precious loved ones inside them. Knowing that it’s completed in 100% factory crashworthiness is what gives us a peace of mind when the customer drives off.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
Columbus is a wonderful city with great people within it. Columbus is an inspiration everywhere you look. Whether you are going downtown or around 270 you see the constant growth and development. It makes you feel good to be a viable part of a prospering and growing big city with a small town feel.
Are you from Columbus? If not, please explain what brought you to here and ultimately what made you stay.
I am not from Columbus. I am originally from a small town called Lima. Lima, like any other city in the Midwest, took a big hit when the auto industry fell. Columbus is one of the cities that was not affected because that was not their staple business center. What made me stay was the atmosphere. The people are warm and genuine, there is great diversity, and it’s always developing. It has great school districts in which to raise a family and most of all, who doesn’t like those Buckeyes.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Make sure you have a strong support structure in place. Make sure you have a realistic viewpoint of costs and expenses to carry you for at least six months. Seek advise in the development stage from those who may know a bit more than you. When you think you know something, say to yourself, “I know it but I’m going to double check my information before committing.” This has helped me catch details overlooked and also to seek better information or a secondary viewpoint which helped me make an even better decision than previously thought.
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
How many hours you truly have to put in. I was hoping to have a day off at some point but that doesn’t happen. I can see that time coming but right now it’s not possible because of the constant growth.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
The one thing that gets me the most are the simple mistakes by the team. I want the team to make more money but sometimes life distractions can impede work life. I try to have a great work culture so the shop is the one sanctuary in our lives. We are at work more than we are at home or with our family so a good work environment is key.
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
I am not the easiest person to work for. I am demanding. I want every car to be perfect and I want it fast. Honestly I know the two don’t mix but I strive to be the best. I take great pride in my staff when they pull off a repair that should take 3 days in one. I love when they turn a 10+ day repair into a 5 day job. They work hard and I couldn’t be more proud but I push them hard.
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
They fail because of management. The top is the key to it all. If the top is bad then the body has no choice but to be.
What was you biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
Poor management choice. It actually cost me about $50k and that’s being conservative. I have learned to work without just throwing a body in a position. Sometimes I have to do way more tasks or I have to put more upon my good employees but they know I’m searching for a good replacement which is hard to do in this market.
What tool has helped you the most for your business (invoicing, accounting, shipping, plugin for website, etc.)?
I utilize CCC One and it is key to every estimate. It makes the tracking of every vehicle easy, scheduling, and parts invoicing a breeze.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
I had to do that immediately. In my industry you can’t do it all. Especially because it’s designed to be high volume and in a high traffic area. I knew I would have a workload just simply opening the doors.
What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
Implementing a Google review strategy. Pressing all our clients to share their experience, good or bad. I knew no shop operated like we do so I figured they would be mostly positive. I didn’t expect so many 5-star ratings but I’m truly thankful.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out.
Well, there’s not much yet I can say being just a year old. Right now the alignment machine may be a flop or a slow ROI. It’s been installed for a month but no training has been done due to an unfortunate accident by the seller. So we are being patient until he is able to return and we support him and his family through the hardship. So right now that’s the biggest issue.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
Our parts. In some cases we eat the cost of a quality part because the client doesn’t have the additional resources outside of the insurance money initially to cover the costs. We then explain that we will have to win a judgement against them in order for them to sue their insurance company to get the additional resources. What I’ve found is most people don’t mind the extra time going to the court to get their deserved money.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
I have a 1969 Chevy impala in for a full restoration. It’s not our normal repair at all. So it’s a bit pricey to the customer. To our staff it’s a fun project. We are used to working on newer vehicles so this breaks the monotony.
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
I love Google AdWords and radio. The majority of my clients stop in and mention the ad they saw on google or heard on the radio.
Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)?
Ron Manley of StryKo. Always has been a great advisor.
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
Looks like I’m repeating myself here. Ron Manley of StryKo. His company is growing not only in Columbus but outside the state as well. So it’s only natural for me to bounce my ideas of someone that has had success in business.
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
I actually see three locations in the city of Columbus serving every area. All operating under the same principals. Columbus is an open market in the collision repair world and I hope to close that.
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
Theres so much to do here. I would suggest they start in Easton. Take in some of the stores, go to the movies or even the comedy club. Then there is a great event downtown called, “ The Winedown” it on 5th Avenue downtown with a patio and jazz. Then they could head to the Arena district for good sightseeing as well.