Collision shop owner tackles expansion, switch to waterborne, community involvement
Canby, Ore.—Jack Brito points to a number of factors that have helped his business, Hot Rod Dreamworks Collision Repair, grow to 12 employees in recent years: customer care, online reviews, the addition of three insurance direct repair programs, and perhaps most of all, community involvement.
For more than a decade, the shop has hosted a free annual car show in June, attracting hundreds of people by opening the shop for tours and filling its parking lot – and that of the adjacent Ford dealer – with classic and custom cars, including many the shop has restored.
“People can see the type of work we do,” Brito said of the event. “We have it catered, and 100 percent of the money we get in for the food goes for Relay for Life,” a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
For a number of years, Hot Rod Dreamworks also has donated a vehicle to a local family in need through its “Wheels to Prosper” program. The most recent recipient was a single mother of four, earning a 4.0 GPA while going to school to be better equipped to support her family.
“The cars are sometimes donated, or we come across a car that fits the criteria,” Brito said. “We fix it up, detail it. As far as finding the right family, we notify Canby Center and seek nominations on Facebook. We’re looking for people who are working to get ahead, who maybe have had bad things happen. A lot of bad things happen to good people. We have non-biased people in the community – like the mayor or city council – pick a winner.”
The shop’s growing reputation in the community over 18 years has kept work – both restoration and collision repair jobs – coming into the expanding facility. After a 2,000-square-foot expansion earlier this decade, the company is just awaiting permit approval for a similar expansion this year, bringing the facility to about 10,500 square feet.
“This area is growing, and we need to grow with it,” Brito said.
The shop has also freed up interior space by placing two shipping containers in its lot for parts storage. That has helped kept parts clean and damage-free.
The shop hopes to finish off five or six complete restorations this year, although that’s more than most years, and Brito said collision repair work has grown to account for about 60 percent of the company’s business.
Another significant change this year was a switch to a new jobber, Industrial Finishes, and paint line, PPG’s Envirobase.
“It’s actually gone really well,” Brito said of the transition, adding that his painter had sprayed the product before and he supported the change. “When it comes to color match, waterborne is where any paint manufacturer is putting its time and money, because it’s the future. So we did it to be able to really duplicate the finish on newer cars.”
Brito said the rapid pace of change in vehicle technology is challenging but sees it forcing “the good shops to get better.”
“Plus, if you’re doing the same thing every day, it gets a little old,” he said.
“With technology changing, it just keeps the job more exciting.”
He points to vehicle scanning as one example. Other than older vehicles, the shop conducts pre- and post-repair scan on every job, using the shop’s Snap-on scan tools and AllData.
“That’s even if it’s just a bumper job,” he said. “We recently did a bumper on a 2018 Chevrolet truck and there were 17 codes set because of that bumper.”
Hot Rod Dreamworks is very much a family business. Brito’s eldest son, Eric, is a technician and production manager, his daughter, Shannon Allee, is the bookkeeper and oversees marketing, and his son-in-law, Jeff Goode, is the manager and estimator. Other employees that the shop has added as it has grown have often come at the suggestion of current workers.
“Our employees have actually found them, because they’re happy working here. When you find a good thing, you tell your friends,” Brito said.
He said he cultivates that by trying to maintain a pleasant work environment.
“I never get angry,” he said. “We try to have fun but also get things done. We’re like a family here. Let’s face it: We’re here more than we are at home. Let’s make it enjoyable. Do families have problems at times? Yes, but you’ve just got to learn to work through them.”
He said a key source of business management help he’s enjoyed over the years is his relationship with Drive, a California-based consulting group (formerly known as Management Success) that focuses on automotive service companies.
“They don’t teach you how to fix cars. They teach you how to fix your business,” Brito said.
He interacts monthly – and sometimes weekly – with Drive consultants who help him track and review business performance over time to ensure the numbers are trending in a positive direction, and help him address those that are not. Drive also holds classes and conferences Brito attends for training.
“I highly recommend them to any automotive business,” he said. “They handle everything from heavy-duty truck shops to collision to mechanical. They definitely have guided me along. Without that, I would not be where I am today.”