Setting and reaching goals is the key to running a successful business. When Bill Shaheen began his career working at a local collision shop, he took steps to build his own business by doing side work out of his home garage. In 2014, Shaheen’s hard work paid off when he was able to open his own shop, Bill Shaheen Auto Body in Carbondale, Pa.
Today, Shaheen is 32 years old, running a successful business with a goal of reaching $1 million in sales this year.
“A lot of the guys I’ve worked with in the past and the best technicians were in their late forties and early fifties. I don’t know of anyone my age who is even in the field anymore,” Shaheen explained. “I think I’m a little bit different. My building is older, a 1940s masonry building that is roughly 6,000 sq.-ft. with a semi-downdraft booth. Everybody looks at it like, ‘Oh my goodness, you have to have a million dollars just in startup costs to run your business,’ and I can tell you, I didn’t spend a billion dollars to get here. I did a lot of the hard work, not trying to be at the top right away, but building towards that.”
Despite being a somewhat inexperienced and young shop owner, Shaheen saw his business skyrocket in the last 12 months due to hiring one of his biggest competitor’s managers.
“I felt like when a lot of people came through the door, they would see a younger face and right away, they’d question my experience. So, I pushed to hire our competitor’s manager and now he is behind the counter. Now, customers don’t question experience when they see it.”
At a Glance
Location: Carbondale, Pa.
Year established: 2014
Square footage: 6,000
Owner: Bill Shaheen
Average repair volume/number of cars per week: 14
Average repair cost: $1,200-$1,400
Number of employees: 5
Demand for skilled technicians is an ongoing problem in the collision industry, and Bill’s Auto Body is not immune to it. Attracting interest in the field, according to Shaheen, boils down to providing attractive labor rates.
“The highest insurance labor rate in our area is $53 an hour for a technician. Everyone wants to come in the door and take home $1,000 per week, but you really have to produce a lot of work to do that.”
Shaheen currently has five employees working at his shop, but there is constant competition from other large businesses in the area to drive young people into a different industry. For example, a local company called Chewy that sells pet products starts their employees at $20 an hour.
“So, getting employees is definitely a struggle,” Shaheen said. “But I’ve been in business since 2014. I don’t have a DRP. I solely work off of a positive reputation and quality work.”
The repair quality speaks for itself, based on the ongoing training that the technicians receive and working towards achieving OEM certifications, including from Hyundai and Kia.
“I’m pushing my team towards OEM certification right now. I really believe in it. We’re doing it because it is what’s most beneficial for our business.”
Amplifying their message through marketing has helped Shaheen compete with other DRPs in the area.
“Most of my customers who have gone to big shops and DRP shops have to wait three or four days before the shop gets back to them. Nobody wants that. Everybody wants to go in the store and come out with whatever they went in for at the same time. Here, within an hour, they have their estimate,” Shaheen said. “So, I advertise quite a bit through TV commercials on our local news station.”
Another way Bill’s Auto Body reaches customers is by partnering with local dealerships.
“A lot of body shops used to look down on guys who did work for car dealerships, but we do a lot of work for them and most people will want to take their car back to us. Collision jobs are being towed in to dealerships and we’re sending a tow truck and bringing them to our shop, doing the work, then delivering it back to the dealership. It works well for the dealership because they get to capitalize on the parts and we collect the labor.”
Through these partnerships, being clear and up front with the customer is what keeps them returning to Bill’s Auto Body when they need service in the future.
“The dealership will tell the customer, ‘Bill’s Auto Body is going to be doing it,’ then we’re there in context, so we gain a customer from it. Next time, they’re probably going to bypass the dealership and come to us first…I mean, there are a lot of bad drivers out there, which is good for us, but I always looked at is as though I was taking the crumbs from the bigger shops but I’m making wedding cakes doing what I’ve done.”
Working towards their $1 million goal for 2021, Shaheen and his team are on their way by offering positive customer service and a reliable quality repair.
“Like any business, it is impossible to make every person happy,” Shaheen said. “We do our best by making the customer feel comfortable, making the process convenient by doing virtual estimates, and it all comes back to treating people right. And it is stressful for the customer because most people are only in one or two accidents in their lifetime. The saying is, ‘The customer is always right,’ but it is our job to show and tell them what is right by doing our job the best that we can.”