Right people, equipment, and DRPs help Beaumont shop increase sales

Joe Nevins first worked at Class Acts Autobody while in high school and returned in 2006 to buy the business. He says his market isn’t large, but he’s worked to equip his shop to keep cycle time low and quality high.

Paul Lookerse, a body tech at Class Acts Autobody since 2006, works on a Toyota Yaris. He says Class Acts “is the best place I’ve worked” in his 38 years in the industry.

Technicians Bob Raymond (l.) and Pryor Campbell reattach a gas door on a Toyota Highlander.

Estimator Daniel Nevins joined his brother’s growing company in 2011.

Estimator Joe Pistilli first worked at Class Acts Autobody as a teenager, then rejoined the company after his childhood friend Joe Nevins bought the shop.

Beaumont, Calif.—Brothers Joe and Daniel Nevins, and Joe’s childhood friend Jeremy Pistilli all started working at Class Acts Autobody while teenagers, learning the trade. Though they later went their own ways, working at different shops over the years, Joe Nevins became owner of Class Acts, and his brother and Pistilli now work alongside him in the shop’s office.

 

“I think it’s cool how we all came back,” Joe Nevins said. “It’s like a giant circle over 20 years.”

 

Nevins said he worked as a painter for much of his career, moving into an office position for two years at the last shop before he bought Class Acts in 2006.

 

Since then, he has more than doubled the size of the business, with increased sales each of the last seven years, including the recession.

 

“We were doing anywhere from 35 to 40 vehicles a month when I bought the business, and now we’re doing about 115 vehicles a month,” Nevins said, adding he staffs 13 employees, more than double his original number.

 

 The business operates in 10,000 square feet in two buildings across the street from one another; Nevins said he wishes he could change that because shuttling parts back and forth from the body department to the paint shop is inefficient.

 

Nevins said his market isn’t large – Beaumont and nearby Banning have a combined population of 68,000 – but he’s worked to equip his shop to keep cycle time low and quality high. Nevins recently purchased a second paint booth, a SprayZone, for the Spies Hecker’s waterborne paint it uses, something the shop transitioned to about four years ago.

 

“It wasn’t mandatory, but I’d been using DuPont products for years and our painter caught on pretty quickly,” Nevins said. “Our local distributor is Annex Automotive, and our rep, Skip Barnett, will do just about anything for us. If we call and need something — it’s a 60- or 70-mile round trip — he’ll do it.”

 

In addition to two Chief frame racks and a Chief Velocity measuring system, the body department has a Pro Spot i4 inverter resistance spot welder.  

 

“Most, if not all, of the eight or so shops in this market are sticking with MIG welding, but the i4 is fast and helps us match the factory welds,” Nevins said.

 

He acknowledges some aspects of his business are “old-school” – he’s found he can successfully manage production using a handwritten list on a notepad, for example. But he said it’s hard to argue with results: The shop’s cycle time is generally eight days or less, he said, better than industry average, and the office staff, consisting only of him, his brother, and Pistilli, embraces lean concepts.

 

“We don’t have secretaries or parts managers,” Nevins said. “Whichever one of us greets the customer owns that job, ordering all the parts, contacting the customer every three days and everything.”

 

As a marketing tool and to improve production and quality, the shop uses OEM price-matching when available to avoid non-OEM parts.  Painting most parts off the vehicle also improves throughput, Nevins said.

 

Founded in 1991, word of mouth accounts for much of its business today, Nevins said. In addition to the direct repair programs (DRPs), Nevins has also worked to maintain good relationships with all insurers.

 

“Out here, we don’t have a lot of the issues or fights with anybody,” he said. “We write what we need and we get it. We’re not gouging. I’ll tell adjusters, ‘Do what you can. I know you have guidelines. Let’s just work together.’ When they’re out in the field with a customer who is asking where to take their car, the adjuster will think about who fights with him versus who works with him.”

 

Nevins said that approach probably also accounts for the fact that four of the five DRPs the shop has are a result of the insurers approaching Nevins about joining.

 

Nevins said he has also been successful retaining most of the employees who were at the shop when he bought it and those he’s added by offering good benefits: health insurance, paid holidays and vacation, and a 401(k) with a dollar-for-dollar match up to 4 percent.

 

Nevins said he’s given some thought to leasing an additional 1,000 or 1,500 square feet, but he doesn’t have aspirations to expand much beyond that.

 

“This is manageable with just the three of us,” he said.

 

“And hopefully this will be the first and the last shop we all work at,” Pistilli said.