An Alliance Of Abilities: CTA - BodyShop Business
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An Alliance Of Abilities: CTA

These four business owners have formed a partnership called Collision Team Automotive, Inc. (CTA)

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Dan Hall knows how to make things happen –
he’s the "operations guru."

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Rick Dunn has a head for numbers and processes.

Chris Getz, the strategist, contemplates the
reaction to each action.

And Chuck Plucinski walks the tightrope –
he understands publicity and how to network with both insurers
and collision repairers.

These natural abilities have, without question,
made each of these businessmen successful in their own right –
individually, they’re running multi-million-dollar-a-year collision-repair
shops.

But, as the saying goes, "There’s strength
in numbers."

Joining forces, these four business owners
have formed a partnership called Collision Team Automotive, Inc.
(CTA), which operates over and above their other collision-repair
businesses. In a sense, this collaboration is to the collision-repair
industry what the formation of DreamWorks SKG was to the entertainment
industry. When Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David
Geffen – a film magnate, an animation monarch and a music mogul
– united to form DreamWorks studio and to challenge the entrenched
Hollywood establishment, eyebrows were raised. Individually, they
had each reached the glass ceiling of success – they couldn’t
climb any higher since they were already at the top. To shatter
that barrier, they formed a collaboration to propel them to even
greater accomplishments.

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The teaming of Hall, Getz, Dunn and Plucinski
has also, no doubt, raised many an industry eyebrow. Individually,
these businessmen have experienced overwhelming success. But,
their combining of forces represents a change in the collision-repair
industry. The image of blue-collar mom-and-pop operations is fading
fast. Replacing that image are shop owners who are also savvy
business people. They have to be. The collision-repair industry
is now big business.

Each partner already has a thriving business.
Hall owns the Indianapolis-based Church Brothers, which is made
up of four stores, 140 employees and is ranked No. 5 on Dun &
Bradstreet’s listing of the Top 100 independent collision-repair
facilities in the nation; Getz owns three shops in Pennsylvania,
has 62 employees and earns $7.5 million in annual sales; Dunn
has five shops near Youngstown, Ohio, 60 employees and earns $5
million in annual revenues; and Plucinski owns two shops outside
Washington, D.C., has 35 employees and has annual revenues of
$4 million (he recently acquired a third shop and predicts that
total annual revenues for ’97 will be in the $8 million range).

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The men came together through the Coyote Vision
Group (a 20 group), in which they all participated, and soon realized
they shared the same business beliefs. "An affinity sometimes
builds between people who are like-minded," says Getz. "We
really had a keen interest in working together and that’s how
[CTA] formed."

CTA will unite the partners’ existing shops
under one business plan and will acquire other shops in various
markets. All shops will assume the name "True 2 Form"
after an 18-month phase-in process.

The plan is to buy 36 more body shops in the
near future – with an estimated total annual revenue of $125 million
to start. Hall’s been quoted as saying the partnership has a vision
of not just 10 shops or 100 shops, but as many as 1,000 shops.
"All of us have some acquisition activities going on in the
marketplace," says Getz, neither confirming nor disputing
the figure, "and our goal [for acquiring shops] will accelerate
as we have some successes."

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But success doesn’t come easily. "I’d
say we’re down to [wanting] 50 locations, but it depends which
one of us you talk to," says Plucinski. "I’m finding
it hard to buy two or three [more shops]. It’s very difficult
to get people to sell their businesses."

To raise capital, the partners have considered
going public with their stock, but, according to Getz and Plucinski,
the move isn’t necessary to expedite their plan. "It is,
certainly, an option," Getz says, adding that their goal
isn’t about buying up as many shops as they can. It’s about quality,
not quantity, he stresses.

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"We were all growing in our own areas,
looking to expand our businesses," Getz says, "and we
came to the conclusion that by pooling our resources and our thought
processes, we could do a better job defining what it takes to
deliver the very best collision-repair service.

"I’d like to see us be the leading provider
of collision-repair services in the country."

It was once predicted that mega-size collision-repair
shops would take over the industry. These monster shops, it was
said, would make lunch of the smaller shops – gobbling them up
and letting the industry digest the
consequences.

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When this monster-shop theory didn’t prove
true – realistically, you can only run a shop so big – industry
predictions changed. These days, it’s forecast that the industry
will consolidate (it already is). Smaller operations will be merged
or acquired by franchises or chains, and a few will own many.

While these predictions are somewhat true
– multiple-shop ownership is growing in popularity – they’re a
bit exaggerated. Smaller operations will never go the way of dinosaurs;
there will always be a place, and a market, for small businesses
– making their complete extinction impossible.

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There is, however, an evolution taking place
in the industry that’s being driven by visionaries such as Getz,
Hall, Plucinski and Dunn. Partnerships like theirs are not only
helping to change the image of collision repair from blue collar
to white collar, but they are also forcing a new level of competition.

"[Partnerships like ours] will be one
more pressure that will cause every one of us to be better in
our performance," says Getz, "but there will always
be that arena for smaller shops, those that provide a given service
in a given locale.

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"It’s a huge, huge industry, and there’s
a tremendous amount of opportunity for serious players."

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