Rancho Cordova shop remains fiercely independent among sea of MSOs
Rancho Cordova, Calif.—Mike Passof, the owner of B&J Body Shop Inc., knew that whatever career he was going to pursue, it wasn’t going to include wearing a suit to work every day. So, when he initially began researching the collision repair industry back in the early 1990s, he liked what he saw, especially the casual wear aspect of it, among other things.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Cal State at Sacramento, Passof decided to learn whatever he could about collision repair, so he got a technical education by attending American River College for two years and earned his associate’s degree.
Confident and ready to enter the field, Passof said he began working at B&J Body Shop for two years. “I started out doing a little of everything — from detailing cars to prepping them for paint to body work and then finally I started working as an estimator. It was an excellent education, because you can learn a lot in a classroom, but doing it yourself is the best way.”
As the business grew, Passof was ready to assume a management role and quickly became the company’s general manager for the 56-year-old shop, he said. For seven years now, he has been a co-owner/vice-president of the company that includes two locations and a towing company that is a separate standalone entity. Today, B&J Body Shop repairs roughly 125 cars monthly out of a 23,000-square-foot facility and employs 23 employees.
Business expands to second region
One sage move that Passof and his team made eight years was when they opened a second satellite feeder location in Folsom, a city that is located approximately 10 miles away from their main shop, he said. By shuttling cars from Folsom to Rancho Cordova, they are able to properly serve both regions effectively.
“It’s a 1,500-square-foot office in a strip mall where people from Folsom can bring their cars to us for repairs,” Passof said. “We have a DRP there with AAA, so it just seemed logical to do it this way. In addition, we already had a strong presence in Folsom with our tow trucks running a lot of tow and service calls in that market. Our tow trucks provide outstanding customer service and they essentially act as mobile billboards for the body shop. Plus, the city didn’t want any more full-service body shops, so this is a great compromise and an outstanding business model for us. We get roughly 20 cars every month from our Folsom location, so it has definitely been a success for us.”
An independent among MSOs
While large MSOs are acquiring independent shops all over the country, Passof said he is hanging tight while many of his competitors have signed on the dotted line with one of the big chains.
“We are one of few holdouts left and we’re not going anywhere,” he said. “We have a proven track record for doing quality work and I also think that many people in this area respect the fact that we’re still independent and not a large corporate run body shop.”
With fewer and fewer qualified technicians out there, do other body shops ever try to hire away Passof’s employees? “No poaching here,” he said. “We have three techs that started out as detailers here and our employees have been here for an average of eight and a half years. Our most veteran tech has been here for 21 years, which is great. If you manage people right and respect them, your people will stay.”
In light of victories, CAA up to more challenges
Now a 26-year veteran of the body shop business, Passof said he wants the collision repair industry to flourish statewide and that’s why he has been a leader for the California Autobody Association for many years. In 2014, he was the organization’s state president after serving in every available capacity prior to that.
Passof sees a bright future for the industry, but also recognizes that there will always be challenges along the way. “California Insurance Commissioner David Jones has been great for collision repairers in this state,” he said. “We have had some victories, but there are roadblocks that are thrown our way all the time. The biggest challenge we have now is to promote non-adversarial relationships with the insurance companies. It all comes down to the negotiation process, but it has to be fair for all parties involved — the shops, the customers and the insurance companies.”