Singin' the Blues in Montana: Blue Body Paint - BodyShop Business

Singin’ the Blues in Montana: Blue Body Paint

Name: Blue
Body & Paint

Billings, Mont.

Owner: Delane


Square Footage:

Number of Employees:

Repair Volume:
10 per month (collision)

Average Repair Ticket:

Delane Langton has the blues.

It’s not that he’s sad … it’s just that,
well … he likes the color!

All of his cars are blue, his house is blue
and even his Billings, Mont., body shop is blue – hence the name
Blue Body & Paint. "Everything else I’ve always owned
has been blue, so I figured the body shop might as well be blue,
too," says Langton. "It’s my favorite color. Always
has been. I’m kind of eccentric about it."

Though surrounded by all of this blueness,
Langton can’t be bleak about the profits coming in from his spray-on
bedliner business called Beartooth Bedliners.

Spraying It On

In addition to repairing about 10 collision-damaged
vehicles per month, Langton recently started spraying Ultimate
Linings bedliners and is pleased with the results – a 40 to 50
percent profit margin! His goal, in the near future, is to slow
down on the body and paint work – even though he loves the hands-on
of it – to go main line with the bedliners.

Langton had hoped to spray 200 bedliners the
first year – which he figured would pay for the start-up costs
of materials and equipment – and as of the end of May, he’d already
sprayed 100 bedliners. As a matter of fact, the bedliner business
has been so profitable that Langton’s in the process of adding
3,000 square feet onto his 4,320-square-foot shop so there can
be a dedicated area for the bedliner spraying.

Creating a Monster

Though Langton is adding onto his business,
he doesn’t have grandiose schemes; he wants to stay small. He
realizes it may sound "funny" that he doesn’t want to
expand his body and paint business and that he may be making a
mistake by not hiring more people, but, to Langton, money isn’t
what drives him.

"My world doesn’t revolve around the
dollar," he says, "and I don’t have to make a ton of

More important than making money is Langton’s
concern about losing control of quality. "The reason I’m
in business today is because of good, quality work, and so I’m
easing into this," he says. "I’m just trying to bring
people along to do it the way I want it done."

As a matter of fact, up until January, when
he hired one person to spray the bedliners, Langton was the sole
employee at Blue Body & Paint. Perhaps even more surprising
is the fact that the shop didn’t have a sign or a business line
until about a year and a half ago (about the same time Langton
purchased his first Yellow Pages ad).

Langton says he’s created a monster by growing
because when he worked strictly off referrals and word of mouth,
he kept up with his collision repair workload, which includes
doing all the metal (panel replacement) and paint work. Because
the shop is located in Billings, much of Langton’s work comes
from cars that have collided with animals – especially deer. Also
bringing Langton business is hail, which usually visits the area
one or two times in the summer, and in the winter, a lot of snow
and ice cause collisions.

When these crashes make their way to Langton,
he sees to it that he makes the process as easy as he can for
his customers. "I bend over backward, do whatever I can,"
he says. "For example, I’ll go pick up a customer’s car and
leave [mine] there, bring the customer’s car to the shop, repair
it, then return it so it doesn’t interrupt her day at all."

But now, with a growing bed-liner business,
it’s hard for Langton to concentrate on his collision jobs because
he’s spending time on the phone selling the bedliners. "I
get about three or four inquiries every day on the bedliner stuff,
so that takes me away from the job," he says. " …
It’s just very hard for me to get any hands-on work done in the
shop." Supervising his new employee and writing estimates,
he says, also keep him from his "work."

In fact, Langton says he almost regrets getting
bigger. "I feel like I was forced into it," he says.
"I’m a little disgruntled with the way things are headed
in the body and paint business."

Though the bedliner business has proven to
be a profitable venture, Langton says he acquired the bedliner
business "to do something a little bit different because
[he’s] getting the feeling that the large insurance companies
are pinching off the little guys." In other words, he doesn’t
want to have all of his "eggs in one basket."

Behind the Scenes

Langton is utilizing computer technology in
his office with the Comp-Est program, which he says is affordable
and makes it so much faster to do estimates and to keep track
of accounts receivables. "I think this was a fantastic step
that I maybe waited too long to do," he says.

In the shop, Langton’s equipment includes
a Miller wire-feed welder, a Rotary lift, a PPG paint-mixing system,
Sata paint guns, a Doumar solvent recycler and a Hercules gun
cleaner. When the addition to the shop is complete, Langton plans
to install a chemical mixing room between two spray areas, which
will be like prep stations with curtain walls.

The spray areas will be crossflow and have
exhaust fans to keep particulate material away from the jobs being
sprayed. He also plans on having a nicer office and receiving
area and a small showroom for truck accessories.

With an average repair ticket of $2,000, Blue
Body & Paint last year grossed $275,000, and Langton has reinvested
almost all profits back into the business – investments that include
training. Using PPG paint and attending PPG’s training program
is one way Langton, a certified painter, makes sure he stays on
top of things.

As a matter of fact, when it comes to training,
Langton says he can’t get enough of it. I-CAR trained and an ASE-certified
master paint and body tech, Langton reads all the trade magazines
he can get a hold of, goes to all trade seminars put on by the
paint-supply stores and attends everything and anything he can.
Langton says he’d like to participate in more I-CAR training,
but he sometimes has trouble finding out when and where it’s being

Shouting About It

To propel his new bedliner business, Langton
has spent almost $10,000 getting the word out – which has included
radio, television, newspapers, coupon books, and trade and home-improvement
shows. But, having booths at trade shows serves as the best advertising
because, he says, bedliners are a "touchy-feely thing."
"People need to see them life size and be able to touch them."

"Seeing" is important because people
"experience" the different-colored liners available.
"People have gotten used to just black, plastic, drop-in
liners," says Langton. It’s important for people to see that
there are more colors out there – 10 stock colors, in fact. And
one of those – you guessed it – is blue!

Pickin’ Up a Hobby

Langton found out that picking up a hobby
can be profitable. And that’s just what buying late-model Chevy
pickup trucks and rebuilding them started out as – a hobby.

The 10 or 15 rebuilds per year started as
fill-in work when things got slow in the shop. These days, Langton
buys the pickups from insurance companies or salvage pools and
reconstructs them to sell – with the profits going back into the

Despite all the growth Langton’s been having,
he continues to rebuild his pickups because he enjoys it so much.
"Isn’t that cool," he says, "when you profit from
your hobby?"

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