Positive attitude, strong vendor partnerships pave the way for Brady’s Auto Body
Vancouver, Wash.—As Brady Lander was closing the books on his company’s best year ever in late December, he was also feeling positive about investors and others taking a renewed interest in the collision repair industry.
“It’s exciting to see more people have hope in the industry,” said Lander, the owner of Brady’s Auto Body in Vancouver, Wash. “I think for a lot of years, especially with the downturn, many lost hope that this was an industry that was viable. I think it’s neat to see more people being positive. We chose this profession. Let’s make it a great one.”
Unlike many who became shop owners after working as a technician, Lander did so after earning a business degree. As a student in 2001, he interned in a shop because of his interest in vehicle restoration, and decided to buy the business when he learned the owner was retiring.
Now the company has grown to employ more than a dozen people working in a 14,000-square-foot shop Lander built about a decade ago. Lander’s No. 1 piece of advice to other shop owners is to find a way to buy their own land and building.
“If you’re in a lease with someone else, your fixed costs are stuck,” Lander said. “If you can own your own land and pay it off, you have flexibility. I can’t pay myself rent for a couple months, so you can control your costs.”
Lander said he also has the flexibility of owning an adjacent parcel of land as well.
“We could put another 9,000 square feet up there, and we already have that permitted,” he said. “If we grow about 15 percent this year, we’ll about max this space out and will build there.”
The company’s paint shop includes a Nova Verta paint booth and double prep station. Air quality regulations require the shop to monitor and log booth pressures, and Lander said one thing he appreciates is that the Nova Verta equipment regulates pressure automatically.
“You just set it. If the filters get plugged, the booth will compensate and always keep it the same pressure,” he said.
Although the shop began using BASF’s 90-Line waterborne occasionally in 2013 while still continuing to spray BASF Diamont, Brady waited until Jan. 1, 2014, to make a complete switch-over so he will end up with a full year of data for comparison. He said his paint team was excited to make the change, and it required little in the way of investment other than a Becca paint gun cleaner and some Sata spray guns.
The shop brought a Chisum frame rack and Rotary 2-post lift over with the move from its original location, Lander said. One less common piece of equipment the shop has is a Tennant floor washer the company bought used from Costco.
“They sell them after they’ve used them enough,” Lander said of the retailer. “You can use it to clean the shop and then we put that through a filter system so we don’t put dust and debris into the sewer system, but it sure helps keep the shop clean.”
Lander said the Techna welder the shop bought about two years ago has been “awesome.”
“We demo’ed a couple different ones before we bought,” he said. “For ease of use and as far as efficiency, this one works great. And I get print-outs of weld quality, too, which is good.”
That welder comes to mind when Lander is asked about the shop’s key vendors.
“We use Industrial Finishes and they’re fantastic,” he said. “One of my guys actually dropped the Techna welder and broke the head. Industrial Finishes drove it to Seattle to deliver to the company to repair it so we could get it back in two days. If we’d shipped it, we would have lost a week and a half there. They’re a good partner.”
The Tonkin Parts Center is also “phenomenal,” Lander said, even regularly making a late-night parts delivery to the shop.
“That helps production,” he said. “It’s good to know you can just pick up the phone to partners like those and they’ll drop what they’re doing to help make your business successful.”
He said he also buys from McCord’s Vancouver Toyota, which also refers work to Brady’s Auto Body.
“They also have really grown their parts business to support us,” Lander said. “We still work on all makes and models, but we tend to specialize in Toyotas. We train more on Toyota with I-CAR and actual manufacturer training than any other make of vehicle.”
Lander said he understands why some people complain about the challenges in the collision repair industry, but for him, “attitude is everything.”
“It’s all about your outlook,” he said. “I like the industry. It’s fundamentally a chess game and the insurance company is playing one move and we’re playing another. If you build relationships, I think you can really put out a great product for customers and make them happy and just figure out to play the game. If you take personally what adjusters do, you’ll go nuts. And if there were no insurance companies, you’d have to sell a customer on why they need to spend $5,000 to fix their car. They’re not going to just write the check. But insurers have the money. You just have to get them to realize why they need to compensate — put the right pieces together to build the case for what makes sense.”