Consolidators: CARSTAR Chicagoland Nabs CFF Chapter Rookie of the Year Award
Shop Name: Collins Collision Center
Cruising Right Along
“It changed my life,” Collins says of his Cruiser. “It made me young again.”
Good thing, considering that Collins is busy not only with regular repairs, but custom work as well. He’s currently working on the 68th Cruiser brought to his shop for modifications in recent months by owners from seven different states. Recommended by the national PT Cruiser club he belongs to, Collins says owners are willing to stay in a hotel while he works his magic, ranging from custom striping and flares to installing superchargers and nitrous oxide kits.
Collins himself has $50,000 invested in his Cruiser, which has become his three-year-old shop’s traveling advertisement. He takes it to car shows throughout the area, where potential customers can “ooh” and “ah” over the $6,000 chameleon paint job, as did the judges of this year’s NOPI Nationals Motorsports Supershow held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“I won out of 5,000 vehicles worldwide,” Collins says. “The week after that I was swamped with sales.”
The “Collins” in Collins Collision Center is appropriate, considering his entire immediate family is involved in the day-to-day running of the shop, including Collins’ wife, Donna; their daughter, Malena; their son, Billy; and their daughter-in-law, Joann.
“The biggest issue is that I control quality better because we’re doing this for a living – it’s our life,” Collins says. “My return ratio right now is probably 1 percent because we’ve got the time to quality control it.”
Although Collins’ technicians aren’t family, they’re paid hourly or salary – and they’re paid well, something Collins feels strongly about.
“I pay my people high because they’re artistically inclined,” he says. “They don’t mind taking their time [to get a job done right the first time] because they know they’re going to be able to pay their bills this week.
“[When a shop owner] pays straight commission, everything’s rush, rush, rush. I still expect rush, but we’ve got the time to slow down and take it properly instead of trying to beat the clock.”
Collins uses a clockwise work flow to move vehicles through his shop – a system that allows the Collins family to oversee production from start to finish. According to Collins, his shop is also “probably one of the cleanest body shops in the county.”
“We steam clean once a week,” he says, adding that benefits far outweigh the cost. “When people walk in your shop and they can eat off the floor – and it’s a body shop – they’re impressed.”
But customers weren’t always impressed. Before opening his shop, Collins worked out of a 6,000-square-foot building that wasn’t giving customers the first impression he’d hoped. “I had to kind of sell myself when a customer pulled in, but now when they pull in, they give me immediate respect,” he says, adding that, in return, he does everything he can “to please a customer 100 percent.”
DRP Report: So Far, So Good
“I built my shop straight on word-of-mouth and recommendations,” he says, adding that he achieved his enviable sales goal “with no DRP whatsoever.”
But Collins felt sales could increase even more by entering into a DRP agreement, so about three months ago, he signed with both Nationwide and State Farm. So far, he says, the relationships have been positive: His business has almost tripled since signing the deals.
“It’s helped tremendously on cash flow,” he says. “Usually, from Nationwide, I’m getting three cars a day in. That’s pretty strong.”
Strong enough, in fact, for Collins to set the stage for branching out into another location in the near future. He’s already secured financing to build a second facility from the ground up and is currently negotiating the price of land, located about 10 miles from his current shop.
“It’s an auto alley with seven brand-new dealerships,” he says. “No body shops. It’s a gold mine. Somebody’s got to jump on it.”
And Collins is just the shop owner to do it.
Writer Debbie Briggs is managing editor of BodyShop Business.