Backing up owner Ben Krom in his effort to carve out a niche for his company in the collision market is (left to right) office manager/airbrush artist Leslie Scholl, metal tech Jim Harris and metal tech/painter Frank Frazzitta.
There’s a scene in the beginning of the holiday movie favorite “The Santa Clause” where, after Tim Allen completes his first night as Santa Claus and still believes it has all been a bad dream, he flies off in his sleigh to the North Pole and shouts, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night…and in the morning, I’m getting a CAT scan!”
In the face of dwindling profits, increasing insurer intrusion, increasingly head-scratching technology in vehicles, increasing environmental regulations, a decreasing technician pool and decreasing crashes in today’s collision repair industry, body shop owners might have also suggested a CAT scan to Ben Krom when he first proposed opening his own shop several years ago. But it wasn’t for all those reasons that Krom had never opened his own shop; it was simply funding. But a customer solved that problem.
The customer had asked Krom to restore his 1963 split-window Corvette, and one day during the restoration asked Krom why he didn’t have his own shop.
“You’re great with customers, and you do great work,” the customer said.
“Well, it takes a lot of capital and I don’t have the money,” Krom replied.
“Well, what if you had someone to help you?”
A deal was struck: Krom would restore another of the customer’s cars, a ’58 Corvette, and the customer would give him the $18,000 needed to restore it up front. Krom followed that up with $15,000 from his local bank and $35,000 from a county economic development agency, which was used to purchase equipment. But it wasn’t that easy, and it didn’t happen lickety split.
“I kept getting shot down after going to eight different banks because I had a poor credit history and no collateral,” says Krom. “What I would tell any business owner or someone who has a dream like this is that the key to it is persistence and who you know.”
Krom got to know several different people who became key players in opening his business, one being the chairman of the board of his county economic development agency. He worked on a couple of his cars and was introduced to him by a friend.
“You have to talk the talk and be persistent and show you’re going to make this happen one way or another,” Krom says. “Every time I left the bank, I said, ‘This is going to happen one way or another, with or without you.’ A lot of guys try this, get shot down, put their tail between their legs and walk away saying, ‘Well, I tried.’”
After two long years, during which he also wrote a business plan (something most aspiring business owners never do, greatly increasing the odds they will fail) and researched industry statistics and trends by visiting www.bodyshopbusiness.com
, the powers that be finally decided to give Krom his chance and take a risk on him.