Family shop sees great value in its OEM certifications, training and equipment investments
San Bruno, Calif.—With plans to expand, brothers Steven and Johnny Kotik at International Auto Body & Paint are continually refining their processes and customer service while pursuing the types of training, products and equipment they need to improve their business.
They decided a long time ago to run a strictly non-DRP shop for a wide range of different reasons.
“We want the freedom to run our business our way and with some insurance partnerships you can lose that freedom,” Steven Kotik said. “Ninety percent of our work comes through the insurance companies, but we’re in control with every repair, and we like it that way.”
Located south of San Francisco in an area where they say there are more than 50 mechanical and collision repair shops within less than a square mile, International repairs 40-60 cars every month out of two buildings totaling approximately 4,800 square feet. They have been at the same location since 1994, when their father “Big John” Kotik began the business. Today, he helps Johnny, 45 and Steve, 42, on occasion while he and his wife, Thelma, keep one eye on the business from afar.
With plans to open their second location in late summer or early fall, in San Mateo, the brothers said they can successfully emulate the processes they’ve established at their current location.
“The opportunity came up and we decided to take advantage of it,” Johnny Kotik said. “We’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons running this place, so we are going to use that knowledge at the new shop. We’re investing in a lot of world-class equipment like a USI paint booth and we’re going to make this our flagship store. They know our names in San Mateo because that is where we grew up, so it’s an ideal situation for us.”
The Kotiks know that OEM certifications are the future of the collision repair industry, so that’s why International is a member of the Assured Performance Network, which means the shop is certified to work on Nissan, Chrysler, , GM and KIA other manufacturers.
By being certified to fix a wide range of cars, International is already reaping the benefits and can see that consumers see genuine value in these affiliations. “It shows that we are staying ahead of the curve and it does appeal to certain customers,” Steven Kotik said. “Since we got the certifications, we have definitely seen an increase in the amount of Nissans we’re getting here and we can track a fair share of them to our Nissan certification. Also, Chrysler/Fiat owners are finding us through FCA’s app and website. Our customers realize that these vehicles are full of computers and sophisticated electronics now, so I think that makes the certifications even more important to us.”
Johnny Kotik allows his shop to play with the “big boys,” he said. “To continually improve the business, both out in the shop and in the front office, we have to be moving forward all the time and certifications are a part of that whole picture. We want to strategically position ourselves so that we can compete and our certifications will transfer to our new location as well, which is crucial. To fix these cars correctly, it takes a ton of specialized training and we are dependent on the carmakers to provide us with the right information so that we can do the job correctly.”
By also making training a major priority and stressing it with their crew, International’s technicians are well-informed and not afraid to pursue education wherever it’s available, Steve Kotik said. “Our technicians are now looking at their roles here a little differently, because we push the training and tell them it’s a necessary part of the job. The classes have really helped them to build their confidence and do a better job. They get back from the classes and tell us now we have to fix this a certain way, which is great. Training is not something that you start and then stop, it’s always happening if you want to be a top shop.”
Another way to be an elite business is by using a paint that produces a finished product and that’s why International sprays BASF’s waterborne paint, Johnny Kotik said. “When it comes to working with any vendor, you have to look at their technical support, because without that you’re in trouble. With BASF, what’s really important is the support and training they provide and that’s what sets them apart from the others.”