After a longtime sabbatical, industry vet re-enters collision repair fray
Colorado Springs, Colo. —It’s commonly joked about in the automotive industry that once you’re in, you can never get out - like the Eagles sing in “Hotel California” — “You can check out anytime you’d like, but you can never leave.”
Bryan Dorman, the new owner of Clear Max Collision, is a case study of that sentiment. Having started in the industry as a detailer and working in it from 1989-2000, he “checked out” for the next 18 years and started his own insurance agency. In April of 2018, however, the industry pulled him back in when he bought Clear Max Collision from a longtime friend, Don Denham.
Denham had begun speaking to Dorman about buying the shop when he was looking to sell it last year, and while he wasn’t necessarily looking to re-enter the collision repair business, Dorman said he saw the potential and recognized the positive investment.
“One thing I had going for me while deciding whether or not to buy the business was that I’d been an owner of a business before, so I was familiar with the key metrics that signify a business’s health,” Dorman said. “It was clear from the data that Don had a successful shop with a lot of growth potential.”
Not only had Clear Max Collision won “Best Shop in Town” three years in a row through the Colorado Springs Award Program, but it was an FCA-certified repair facility and had an experienced crew, all of whom (save one) stayed on after Dorman took over.
“There are five of us — two body men, one prepper, one painter, and myself — and we average 35 cars per month,” Dorman said. “The crew here cuts no corners, and I think that’s where we get our excellent reputation — by following OE repair procedures to a ‘T’.”
The shop also has no DRPs, opting instead to develop key partnerships with local dealerships — all of which use Clear Max Collision as their preferred collision repair partner.
“Without DRPs, we have a little more flexibility in what parts we choose to use. I’d say 90 percent of the time we use OE parts,” Dorman said. “When Denham sold me the shop he hoped we wouldn’t seek out DRPs, and we haven’t. It’s worked out well so far.”
Training for the future
The shop is I-CAR Platinum recognized and Dorman plans to not only continue to send his staff to I-CAR training, but also attend himself. He’s also taking advantage of a new partnership with Capital Paint and Refinish, having switched to spraying BASF Glasurit four months ago after interviewing three different paint supply companies and choosing them as his supplier-partner.
“When looking for a paint supplier, I called a good friend of mine in the industry and asked who he uses,” Dorman said. “He told me Capital Paint and Refinish were the guys.”
Dorman said he decided to go with Capital Paint and Refinish, not only for the quality of the BASF Glasurit paint they distribute, but also because of their reputation for excellent service, which they’ve lived up to. After becoming partners, Capital set the shop up with a new mixing bay and computer and they visit the shop twice a week to check supplies. Dorman said they also offer free training for his painter and body technicians. The staff and Dorman plan to attend the next training in February in Denver.
Equipment purchases and plans for future expansion
In the past eight months, Dorman has invested $25,000 in new equipment, purchasing a new air compressor, four SATA 5000 spray guns and an Iwata SuperNova clear spray gun as well as the new SATA 5500X which is being shipped from Germany. He said the shop is bursting at the seams, currently booked about two weeks out with 20 cars on deck any given time, due to the hailstorms.
“The hail in Colorado Springs this year was so bad that we have to replace just about every panel on each hail job we accept,” Dorman said. “We try to be aware when we schedule that there might be a lack of parts, especially for our main repair nameplates such as Mopar and Kia. Right now, we’re taking in one hail job per week.”
The shop is using Audatex for scheduling and estimating; Dorman said it’s “extremely” user-friendly and has 3-D diagrams of every part.
He plans to makes changes to the company website, rebranding it to align with the company’s main nameplates, and will continue to align with OEs, aiming to become certified through the Assured Performance Network in more nameplates going forward.
Dorman also said there is potential for expansion.
“We could use another one or two body men with the volume we’re doing right now,” Dorman said. “It’s a challenge to find a space right now, because of the economic boom in Colorado Springs, but eventually the goal is to move into a larger shop.”