Getting back to his roots
Fremont, Calif.—As a former engineer who worked for several high-tech companies in Silicon Valley for many years, General Manager Frank Barnard of Almost Everything Auto Body and Paint in Fremont, Calif., left the crazy world of startups to enter collision repair.
With an expansive menu of services, Barnard’s business is truly living up to his shop’s name, and is thriving in a highly competitive area with 10 other body shops on his block.
While many collision repairers rely heavily on their DRPs, Barnard has diversified his business to offer a mixture of retail and insurance work. He’s not afraid to be a one-stop shop, contracting some of the work, but performing the majority of it in-house.
“If we can do it right, why not do it our way? We do a lot of non-insurance work and don’t have any DRPs, but we stay busy. We fix fleets and commercial vehicles, restore headlights, remove dents and scratches, and repair bumpers rather than replacing them.”
Almost Everything also has a full-service paint department that attracts car owners who don’t want to use their insurance in many cases.
“We offer a lot of services ala carte here and try to hit all the price points. Our complete car paint packages are competitively priced and offer a lot of different options. At the lower end, single-stage paint jobs cost $699 and sometimes we run a $200 coupon to make it even more affordable. For customers who are willing to spend a little more, we offer second stage paint jobs that come in at around $3,699. So, we’re trying to appeal to a wide range of different customers.”
To educate his customers, Barnard has a services board that hangs from the walls of his reception area and it works well. It provides information about his paintwork, collision repairs and other details that can eliminate speculation in many cases. When it comes to collision repair services, he has two categories —“The Best Way” and “Budget-Minded Compromises.”
“We deal with frequently asked questions and offer options. If people want to ask us about things such as OEM vs. aftermarket parts, blending paint, polishing and color matching, it’s all on the wall.”
When it comes to using factory parts, Barnard always wants to include them in every repair. But, if the customer’s budget or its insurance policy dictates the use of aftermarket parts, he doesn’t worry about a huge gap in quality.
“When I opened the business 11 years ago, the differences between OE parts and the aftermarket was significant and I tried to avoid them. But, now we can get excellent aftermarket parts from vendors such as Keystone and National Auto Parts, for example. For medium-priced cars that are more popular and are manufactured at a higher volume, the aftermarket is an excellent alternative.”
When Barnard began identifying every passing Mustang on the road at the age of two, his parents knew they had a car-crazed kid on their hands. Later, he worked with Ken Behring, the late owner of Blackhawk Car Museum in Danville, Calif. It was a fun and enlightening experience, he said, where he got to work on some legendary vehicles such as Lucille Ball’s 1962 Dual Ghia, Eva Braun’s 1938 Mercedes 540K and Clark Gable’s 1935 Duesenberg.
Barnard’s No. 1 priority and a major concern for the ongoing health of his business is finding and retaining skilled people. “We’re lucky to have Bob Gibbs, a master technician with 30 years of experience working here,” he said. “The job market in the valley is tighter than ever and there aren’t any qualified people out there anymore. I can easily teach a novice how to sand and mask a car, but replacing a quarter panel is a little more complex and requires more skills.”
In several cases, employees have left for greener pastures, but often return years later.
“I almost always take them back,” Barnard said. “If they leave here correctly and give me two weeks’ notice I will welcome them back. But, if they tell me they’re quitting the day before they leave, no way. In some cases, they come back better technicians because they’ve seen things done a different way.”
If you want something painted, Barnard is willing to refinish just about anything. “We’ve painted a lot of different things here over the years — drones, furniture, robotic prototypes and boats, for example” he said. “If we can get it in the booth, we’ll paint it and we will do a good job.”