Long time shop owner says success comes to those who work, not wait
Westminster, Calif.—Pat Shrewsbury said his business philosophy is more or less summed up by a slogan in a recent Chrysler advertising campaign.
“There’s that ad that says, ‘Some people say good things come to those who wait, but the truth is, good things come to those who work,’” said Shrewsbury, who along with his wife, Olga, own and operate Prestige Quality Collision Repair. “That’s a pretty true statement. The people who are successful work for it.”
Shrewsbury hasn’t shied away from work in the 30 years he’s been a shop owner. In addition to continuing as an ASE-certified technician and the shop’s painter, he was an I-CAR instructor for more than a dozen years, teaching the organization’s painting, detailing, and workplace hazardous materials courses. He’s served on the advisory board for a college collision repair training program, and helped teach color matching there. He’s been a long-time member of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and a founding member of the Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association. And he’s a two-time past president of the Orange County Chapter of the California Autobody Association, having also served in other leadership roles within the chapter as well.
Shrewsbury said having launched his business during a tough economic period in the early 1980s and operating during several other downturns has served him well in recent years.
“I’ve seen so many shop owners, after things have been good for six months or a year, suddenly have a boat or an airplane or a lot of new equipment debt, and then, boom, when things drop, they have serious problems,” Shrewsbury said. “We’ve always managed to stay fairly humble. We never had it real easy or real, real hard. It’s been a long time since we really had to struggle.”
That said, Shrewsbury last year restructured the shop’s lease, squeezing production into 4,500 square feet to bring the company’s overhead more in line with the reduced amount of work available. But his experience also helps him remain optimistic about the future.
“I think that’s the biggest thing, not getting over extended and just realizing that if times are good, it may not be good forever, but on the other side, things always seems to come back after they have been bad,” he said. “It’s not going to come around overnight, but things will gradually get better.”
The Shrewsburys have three employees, including a lead technician, Billy Gauze, who has worked with them for more than 20 years. The shop was among the first in the state to begin using Sherwin-Williams’ waterborne paint line, serving as a test site for the paint company.
“It was nice that they felt confident enough to let us try it in a real-world test, and it went off without a hitch,” Shrewsbury said. “We’ve used Sherwin-Williams since 1995, and we’ve been very happy. They’ve always been very nice, very helpful, and great people to work with. I think the waterborne paint is more forgiving than the paint companies initially thought. We just took their advice and didn’t have any real problems with it.”
Shrewsbury has similar praise for the people he works with at a number of parts providers, including the Power Auto Group and LKQ Corp.
He said the shop’s long history results in a lot of repeat and customer referrals. The shop also receives referrals from several mechanical repair shops and participates in one direct repair program with the Auto Club of Southern California.
“We’re very happy with the relationship with them,” Shrewsbury said. “We don’t have to use aftermarket sheet metal parts, for example. That makes it a lot easier for us.”
Shrewsbury said one of his longer-term concerns is the changing demographics of the population in his market and whether his business will be able to attract customers from the faster-growing segments.
“Fortunately, having the insurance relationship does help us with marketing, because people still listen to the insurance company over almost anything else,” Shrewsbury said. “Back in the 1980s, we used to think we would always keep the customer. Then we watched them go away. We probably still get more work directed away from us than toward us, but that’s the way the business climate is.”
When asked what he might say if asked to speak to a group of his peers in the industry, Shrewsbury returns to his concept of working hard, not just for your own business but for the industry as a whole.
“I’ve always tried to give back to the industry, because if you want a better industry, you’ve got to build it, you’ve got to help make it,” he said. “I hope I’ve helped. I’ve certainly tried and I’m glad I did it. It would be nice if more people would do the same.”