FinishMaster acquires longtime Colorado jobber Painters Supply

Sheridan, Colo.—In a bid to increase its market presence and penetration in Colorado, FinishMaster Automotive & Industrial Paint, a subsidiary of Uni-Select, acquired third-generation PPG jobber Painters Supply on Aug. 1.

Parts & People recently met with Francis “Hecker” Aicher Heckendorf III, the son of former Painters Supply owner Francis “Hecky” Aicher Heckendorf Jr., and FinishMaster’s newly appointed District Sales Manager Bob Ingalls to discuss the acquisition and its impact on employees, customers, and the local collision repair marketplace.

“As a jobber you really have to do volume to win business,” Heckendorf said.  “FinishMaster is the largest, and clearly in a good position.” 

The addition of Painters Supply, located in Sheridan, Colo., brings the total number of Front Range FinishMaster locations to seven, Ingalls said, including a Denver store acquired from Metro Paint Supplies (MPS) in 2013.

The ability to provide collision repair shops with popular refinishing paint brands such as BASF, Axalta, and PPG, and value-added programs, makes FinishMaster a valuable business partner, Ingalls said.

“The supply chain has more resources than ever to help a shop,” Ingalls said, adding that it’s easier for shop owners to use larger jobbers to do work smarter and differently.

“There’s a push for collision repair shops to be more efficient,” said Ingalls, who has 25 years of refinishing experience in Florida. Ingalls moved to Colorado shortly after the acquisition of MPS, oversees the Painters Supply acquisition, and manages all Front Range sales.

Heckendorf has transitioned to a full-time role as president of Repair Plan Network (RPN), while his father serves as a FinishMaster account representative in Fort Collins.

The younger Heckendorf said FinishMaster has the ability to help its customers understand their shop’s data, a critical piece of the puzzle in winning jobs in the future from insurance companies.

“The traditional adjuster is going away,” Heckendorf warned.  “You will get work based on data. If you don’t know your numbers, you’re dead. FinishMaster understands this and is reviewing data with its customers.”


Due diligence prior to sale

Prior to the sale to FinishMaster, Heckendorf said several jobbers approached his family to merge with or acquire Painters Supply. It was then that he hired a merger-and-acquisition firm, Focus Group, to help determine the net value of the business his family had worked so hard to build since 1981.

“From what I’ve learned, it’s difficult for small jobbers to complete the due diligence to sell their business,” Ingalls said.

After plugging numbers into Focus Groups’ data room, a valuation was established, Heckendorf said. So when FinishMaster came calling, he had a good starting point to work from.

Focus on employees, then customers  

   The paint business is not complicated, Heckendorf said, but it is relationship-based.

He said it was important to him that the family business be sold to a company that understands the dynamics of the paint industry, and values relationships with employees and customers.

Steve Arndt, FinishMaster president and COO, is a strong and distinctive leader, Heckendorf said, adding, “It’s clearly better to have paint people run the business rather than bankers.”

 Change is difficult for employees of any business, Heckendorf said.

“The key part is the people,” Ingalls said, adding that the first step after the acquisition was to address the 24 employees.  “We made sure they knew that they matter.”

Realizing that the first point of customer contact is with salespeople, Ingalls said they were able to quell rumors and ease uncertainty.

Taking those steps resulted in 100-percent employee retention and excellent customer retention, Ingalls added.

  Melding the cultures of two businesses — each with successful track records and individual strengths — is no easy task, Heckendorf said.

“Bob had to accept a new culture, take the good from both, and create a new one,” Heckendorf said, adding, “Courage enables a non-failure of imagination.”


Consolidators on the rise

 Heckendorf said the industry is complex and the market “has divided itself into the haves and the have-nots.”  

It’s getting harder for single point mom-and-pop collision repair shops to compete against larger MSOs, Heckendorf said.

The Big Four consolidators doing business in Colorado — Caliber, Gerber, ABRA, and Service King — are performing the majority of every repairable claim right now, Heckendorf said.

Those that aren’t backed by larger entities may be in trouble, he said. After an initial round of shop acquisitions, he said, the consolidators are now in “phase two,” using more strategic methods.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.