Collision shop’s marketing emphasizes ‘green practices,’ local family ownership
Eugene, Ore.—When Ron Doerr began running radio and television advertising for M & G Collision Specialists about two years ago, he emphasized a couple things that he thinks sets his shop apart from much of its competition: local family ownership and a dedication to sound environmental practices.
“Here in Eugene, if you’re not driving behind a Subaru, you’re driving behind a Prius, so using waterborne paint is part of what I mean when I say we’re as green as we can be,” Doerr said.
The shop made the switch to PPG’s Envirobase paint line, purchased through Wesco Automotive Paint Specialties, more than three years ago, and Doerr said he couldn’t “believe how smoothly it went,” and how well color match meets or exceeds the solvent-based paint line the shop had been using. Production hasn’t suffered either, he said, with his two-man paint crew producing 850 to 1,000 hours a month.
Doerr said the shop also has long roots in the community, having opened in 1957. His father, Don (now retired), first painted at the shop, then bought the business in 1989 from the company founder. Ron’s sister, Annie Boggs, also joined the business at that time as office manager. Ron worked in automotive paint sales for a number of jobbers in the Northwest before joining his father’s business in 1996. Local, family-ownership is becoming less common in the industry, Doerr said, and is something customers appreciate.
The shop has a total of 13 employees, working in two side-by-side buildings totaling about 13,500 square feet. Technicians have access to three Chief frame racks, and each building has a Chief Genesis measuring system. One of Doerr’s most recent purchases was two Pro-Sport SP-5 smart MIG welders capable of steel, aluminum and silicon bronze welding.
“We’re super excited about those,” Doerr said. “From all the research I did, and from what the technicians saw during the demo, they really liked those machines.”
His father had installed a Garmat downdraft paint booth before Doerr began working at the shop, but Doerr chose to more recently add a drive-through cross-flow booth, hoping to minimize the permitting process. But he says now with hindsight, he’d like to add a downdraft booth at some point instead.
“I wish I could do it over again but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time,” he said.
Important vendor include the Tonkin Parts Center.
“They bring two deliveries a day, and they have the best service and the best discount,” Doerr said.
The shop also sublets its suspension and some airbag work to a nearby Midas shop.
“We’ve developed a really good relationship there,” Doerr said. “They keep trained mechanics on board for us.”
In addition to its longevity in the market, M & G relies on direct repair and insurance agent referrals for about 60 percent of its work. Doerr said even though much of the claims process is now handled through centralized offices, he still regularly calls on local agents face-to-face to maintain those relationships. He uses reporting produced by Enterprise Rent-a-Car, for example, to show that the shop’s cycle time is among the best in the market.
The balance of the shop’s work comes from word-of-mouth referrals by customers and marketing. Doerr says over the last several years he’s found radio and television advertising is effective though it doesn’t reach everyone.
“The people who say, ‘I heard or saw your commercial’ tend to be my age,” Doerr said. “They still get their news from the TV. The 18-35 age group? I’m still learning how to capture that. Our Yelp reviews are pretty good. But my social media skills aren’t very good. That’s an area I think we need to work on as we continue to grow.”
The other improvement he foresees is a shift to a shop management system and away from their current manual scheduling and production management.
“We do pretty well, because I’m usually here by 6 a.m., an hour before we open, so I can touch every car on the property,” Doerr said. “That way, if we get a phone call throughout the day, I know what’s going on with each car. We have a meeting at 7 a.m. and I tell everybody what’s going on, right down to what cars need to be washed or pre-washed. But sometimes by noon the plan has changed, and I think a management system would help us be better organized.”
Like many other shops, Doerr said the challenge of finding good technicians limits his business growth expectations. But he said that right now he has a “stellar crew,” and his focus is on keeping them happy.
“I care about them, and they know I care about them,” Doerr said. “And I believe that family comes first. When I’m recruiting, I always say that you have to be happy at home to do what you do for us. So make sure you’re happy at home first, I tell them. If you think that would happen with you working here, then I’m very interested in hiring you. But don’t rock the boat at home.”
He also relies on an important lesson he learned from his father.
“Don’t ever bend on honesty, quality or integrity,” Doerr said. “If you hold on to those, you’ll always be successful.”