Accurate Auto Body owners secure future with purchase of new facility
Richmond, Calif.—After 28 years at the same location and her father looking to secure the company’s future, Accurate Auto Body Co-Owner Tiffany Silva said. Times had changed and as the years passed the old facility of family-owned and operated business was no longer adequate.
“We’d done everything we could in the old building — adding new equipment, becoming green certified. Regardless, we still did not have a waiting area, our office was cramped, our painter was working in a 25-year-old booth, and the location was hard to get to,” Silva’s father and Company Founder, Ed Cichon said.
Cichon saw his daughter’s passion and shared her desire to build on their business and make something they would all be proud of, she said. “We were very proud of what we accomplished at our old shop, but my dad saw my dream – I wanted to build something for our family and our employees. Our look to the future became a reality with this building.”
The thought of taking on a huge mortgage was daunting, she said. “I always felt comfortable renting until the landlord wanted to tear down the building to redevelop the property. I suddenly realized as a renter how fragile our position was. I also realized that a collision shop can’t just load up a truck and move. It was a shock to me how little security the business really had and that something we had worked on for so long could be gone with a phone call.”
Finding a location, getting the permits, building a budget and moving to the new shop was a process that took 10 years. “Everything is a process but we took the time because we knew owning our building and the property was the key to securing our future,” Silva added.
The new Hilltop location has 18,000 square feet compared to the original location’s 15,000. The shop floor is the same size but now there is a waiting area, office space, kitchen, and locker room. “We’ve given our team a wonderful place to work. Everyone loves having a kitchen and a nice lunch room. Front to back, it’s an excellent environment for us and our customers.”
The shop benefits from new equipment, clean rooms for prep and aluminum, as well as a new heated downdraft GFS paint booth and mixing room. “We upgraded our welders to the latest Pro Spot units, and Joel Smith and the team from Precision for Collision helped with the layout and installed the new booth, prep station, and clean room.” Additionally they upgraded the tire equipment with the latest Hunter mounting and balancing machines that go right along with the Hunter Alignment rack carried over from the previous shop.
The whole shop is cleaner and better organized, including a dedicated parts room. “The move gave us a chance to evaluate a lot of things and just make things easier for the work to be done. Everyone is happier. Enthusiasm has improved across the board. My dad is thrilled with what we’ve been able to do and the results it has produced.”
Silva said the results have been amazing. “Business is up 30 percent just from the new location - far beyond our expectations. The improved visibility, nicer facility, and a more efficient shop space have all contributed. Vendors started calling to get our business, and we’re getting referrals we’ve never had before. We’ve also gotten a lot of non DRP work. The two months it took to do the actual move was the scariest time of my life, but it was so worth it.”
Accurate’s paint supplier, Ned’s Auto Body Supply, was very helpful through out, Silva said. “Ned had faith in us and that we would grow. He worked with us where he could and it was a huge help to achieving our goal.”
She said Tom Wolf, from PPG, went to the planning commission with her. “PPG was with us every step of the way – they are hugely supportive of independents.”
To better serve the Hilltop Auto Mall dealers, Accurate joined the Assured Performance program gaining Ford, GM, and Chrysler certifications. “We wanted to assure the dealers we had the training and equipment to take care of their customers. We added the aluminum clean room and had three of our techs certified for the new F-150. OE certification has really helped when it came to getting dealer referrals.”
Education and training are at the top of the list at Accurate. She said that as one of the longest I-CAR Gold certified shops in the country, her quest to deliver the best possible repair can only be achieved through continued education of her staff. “The new location is great – people were actually dropping off their cars before we even were open – but your work is ultimately how you are judged.”
As CAA East Bay chapter president for the past three years, Silva and her family are grateful for what they have. “The industry has been so good to our family that we have to give back to our industry and our community and that includes our schools.”
Silva supports the Contra Costa College Collision Repair Program and Program Head Peter Lock by sitting on the advisory panel. “One of the biggest challenges for every shop is finding good techs. Most of our people have come through the Contra Costa College program, but that, too, can be difficult, she said.
“In the world of DRP-driven repair, it is hard to mentor students or even hire apprentice-level techs and get them the training they still need.”
The first problem, she said, is time, because the industry is driven by cycle time. The second are the jobs themselves. “When you strive to repair every car as if it were our own, it makes using entry-level techs very difficult. On the other hand, we’ve tried a lot of experienced techs that were just not up to the task. Finding quality technicians to join our team has been our biggest challenge as we continue to grow — but something we’ve accomplished.”