It’s Friday night. You’re sitting in the bleachers watching your kids play football. You visit the concession stand at halftime and grab a bottle of water and a snack for the second half. The manufacturer’s label on the bottle of water looks a little different; it’s replaced with the logo of the local collision repair facility, with the phone number for each location printed clearly next to your hand as you unscrew the cap to take a drink. At every school sporting event you attend, you see the same labels on bottles of water, which were donated to the school by the local repair shop. In the event of an unexpected accident, you remember sitting in the stands and holding a bottle of water with the name of a local collision repair facility – and because of this, you give them a call.
For many body shops, marketing can be one of the biggest challenges to take on. In the small communities of Gainesville, Texas and Ardmore, Okla., Auto Body Concepts found a solution.
At a Glance
Location: Gainesville, Texas and Ardmore, Okla.
Year Established: 2001 in Gainesville, 2015 in Ardmore
No. of DRPs: 19
Square footage: 40,000 in Gainesville and 20,000 in Ardmore
Owner(s): Danny and Wendy Ott
Repair volume/number of cars per month: 125-150 in Gainesville and 30-50 in Ardmore
Average repair cost: $2,800 in Gainesville and $4,700 in Ardmore
Number of employees: 39
Certifications: I-CAR Gold, I-CAR Platinum, ASA, ASE, AMI, MACS, OEM certifications, Sherwin-Williams and Car-O-Liner
“We do something that separates us from the other shops,” said Dan Ott, owner of Auto Body Concepts. “We don’t advertise in the phone book or in newspapers. We do a little bit on social media, but our biggest marketing tool is donating bottled water to seven different schools in the area. If you’re ever at a football game or a basketball game or a volleyball game, you’re going to be holding an Auto Body Concepts bottled water. We do this so schools don’t have to buy the water; we’re donating it. But we’re also getting the advertising off of it as well. And it really pays off. It’s good for the community.”
Added Dan’s wife and business partner Wendy Ott, “We love to do anything that gives back to the kids, so they get to put that money that would have been spent on water back into their booster clubs to get new uniforms and equipment.”
People and Employees
Being a family-owned business, the nature of giving back, not only to their community but to their employees, is meaningful for the leadership at Auto Body Concepts.
“One of the things that my dad always told me was, ‘A shop is only as good as the people who work in it.’ And we consider our employees our family,” Dan said.
“We celebrate all of our employee birthdays and we make those special for them,” Wendy said. “We also invite all of our employee families to a Thanksgiving potluck in November.”
The family aspect of the shop, along with consistent support and monthly training at Auto Body Concepts, helps with employee retention.
“Another one of those things my dad taught me was, ‘If you take care of the customer and you take care of the employees, everything else is going to fall in place,’” Dan said. “We retain our employees and we don’t have a lot of turnover. We are in a pretty rural area, so most of our techs drive 30 minutes from their house to come to work. I feel that a shop is only as good as the employees that are in it, and we’ve got techs who have been with us going on 18 and 20 years since we’ve opened.”
Growing Up in the Industry
Supported by mentors like his father, Dan grew up in the industry learning from the best.
“My dad owned a shop in Gainesville for over 50 years,” Dan said. “We started out with a small 5,000-square-foot shop with a homemade paint booth. Back in the sixties, my dad actually built what’s now called a Quick Stick frame machine. He called it ‘Elmo’ because it looked like an elbow.”
Behind the Bays
Scheduling system: CCC
Estimating system: CCC and Mitchell
Prep station: Americure
Scan tools: asTech and Matco
Spraybooth: Accudraft Italia downdraft booths with waterborne drying systems
Lifts: 2 two-post lifts, 2 four-post lifts and Hunter wheel alignment rack
Measuring system: Car-O-Liner, Car-O-Tronic
Welders: Car-O-Liner spot welder and Miller MIG welders
Paint: Sherwin-Williams Ultra 9K Waterborne Refinish System
“I worked in the shop with my dad and my two older brothers,” Dan continued. “I was there day in, day out, when I wasn’t in school. I was actually painting cars by the time I was 13.”
After graduating from junior college, Dan married his wife, Wendy, and worked at some of the biggest dealerships in North Texas, starting out as a body man, moving into the paint shop and working his way up to an estimator and body shop manager. At 21 years old, he took over the dealership’s shop. Eight years later, he and Wendy purchased Dan’s father and brothers’ shop and took over.
“I had some great mentors when I worked at the dealership, so I knew what the corporate world was like and I had that luxury of spending another man’s money to figure out what worked and what didn’t work,” Dan said. “When we went out on our own, I saw a lot of the flaws in the corporate and the dealership world that I didn’t want to have in our shop.”
Centrally located on the main corridor of two major highways, Auto Body Concepts is now a 40,000-square-foot facility with 19 DRPs.
“We’re pretty much a one-stop shop,” Dan said. “We offer free loaner vehicles to our customers who don’t have a rental car on their policy. What separates us from other shops is that it doesn’t matter how big or small the job is, we polish the headlights for customers at no charge. We also detail every vehicle that comes into the shop, even if it’s for a door handle or if it’s a $10,000 job. Customers really appreciate that.”
Dan noted that his employees take pride in their work and take personal responsibility to deliver excellence. Through this motto, the customers are provided transparency on the work that will be completed on
“We don’t paint over dents,” Dan explained. “I don’t give away the farm, but when a customer comes in, we’re very thorough about it. We explain that the insurance company is going to pay to only blend your hood, but you have all these rock chips, and I’ve got this little hood as a visual so the customer can see rock chips in the hood, comparing what the insurance company is going to pay to only blend, and what it’s going to look like if we touch it up. And 90% of the time, that’s a chance for an upsell. We’re not going to debate with the customer when they come to pick up the vehicle, so we go above and beyond when it comes to explaining the process.”
Keeping open communication with customers has helped increase positive reviews for Auto Body Concepts online.
“All throughout the process, we keep in contact with the customer,” Wendy said. “We use a program called Podium that the estimators use, because customers are busy and not everyone recognizes our phone number and you don’t have time to talk, but everyone will look at a text message. Now, we’re able to give customers text message updates along the way and they can reply back to our messages. It has been a huge help keeping communication open with customers.”
Keeping customers satisfied has resulted in several accolades for the team at Auto Body Concepts. First, in 2001, Dan was the recipient of the ASA Stanley Merit Award and served on the I-CAR Advisory Board for the Southwest as the publicity coordinator. Then, Auto Body Concepts won the award for 100% customer satisfaction from CSI and the 2019 Customer Service Champion Award for having the best numbers over all shops in the state of Texas, in addition to Germania Insurance’s Best in the State of Texas award for the second year in a row.
“It’s one of those things that I keep going back to,” Dan concluded. “From the estimator all the way down to the technicians and even the guys on the floor, pride in your work takes you a long way.”