Quality Assured Collision Services
With 15 locations across B.C., QA Collision Services continues to grow as an independent auto body shop service. The shops provide the best technology and experienced staff when it comes to collision repair, from auto glass repairs to major damage collision repairs, QA takes the best care of its customers’ automobiles, rest assured.
But the story of QA Collision Services does not lie in the latest repair technologies and the most experienced staff alone. It lies in the fact that QA Collision Services came together as an amalgamation of several body repair shops that strived for the best quality, but saw that as the small local shops they were, they would not be able to compete with the larger brands and franchises, attract clients to their shops, and grow their business. That’s how QA Collision Services came to being. The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Mike Srigley, President, Bill Cunningham, Management Coordinator, and Lonnie Laplante, Vice-President and Owner of a QA Collision Services shop, about the upside for operating as a part of a larger group of quality body shops under one brand.
“In the early 1990s we saw several brands expanding rapidly in the area and the auto body franchising also came into the picture. Few of us started discussing how to compete with these companies that started taking over the market,” says Srigley. The group put together a simple list of auto body centres with quality service and organized a meeting to discuss the idea of forming a group of independent shop owners, and to create a new, unified brand with joined advertising, all for the sake of competing effectively with the larger brands, and also to increase the buying power for the group,” says Srigley.
The owners of the 15 shops that currently belong to QA Collision are shareholders of the group, but moving forward, the group is changing its model, and all new shops that come onboard will be QA Collision licensees with a future opportunity to buy shares of the group.
To become a member of QA Collision is not a simple request. To maintain high quality of service for the customers, QA Collision only accepts shops that meet the parameters of what constitutes a quality shop.
The B.C. auto repair market shows signs of slowing down, with a decade of declining insurance claims, meaning that the repair business is tight for most shops, with little room to grow. That’s why a shop of choice for QA Collision would belong to ICBC’s (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) most stringent programs, and preferably being ICBC accredited c.a.r. shop VALET facility. This is all to attract customers referred by the insurance company. “From the insurance point of view, there are different levels of quality, so we insist that new members do good work and are reputable shops,” says Srigley.
“Another key requirement is that the shop pays its bills on time. This may seem as a petty requirement, however to enjoy discounts that QA Collision can provide, the shop needs to be able to pay its dues to suppliers in order to maintain QA’s reputation. This is all part of our Code of Ethics,” added Cunningham.
“We get a lot of support in our endeavours from our suppliers because we are very unique in the fact that we actually pay our bills early. Shops are used to making deals to pay their bills late – 30, 60, 90 days later – but we insist on paying bills early — as early as 10 days. This allows us to build good relationships with the suppliers, and build our name.”
Laplante was one of the original members that created QA Collision group. And while his shop was among the smallest in terms of sales at the time, with QA Collision support Laplante was able to grow his business, building a shop with one of the highest gross profits in the group today. “I was able to grow the business thanks to what the group has to offer – the joint advertising and the buying power. There is also the camaraderie aspect of this, being together with your colleagues, and discussing issues and ideas to grow the business. The sharing of ideas is what helped me to grow my business to what it is today,” says Laplante.
QA Collision incessantly works to help its members to improve their business, providing training in aspects such as business management, latest technologies, and building relationships with customers. “Our members would have no real way to gain the knowledge and drive the level of professionalism in their shops to the heights they are able to achieve as members of QA Collision. When you belong to the group you can take the information you receive to the bank, because it comes from real-life experience, and it’s great to see members who work really hard to also start working smart, and we, as a group, see the payoff,” says Cunningham.
As to the future plans, QA Collision expects to welcome new members, but always follows its mantra of quality, caution, and respect for the existing members, minding the fact that potential members’ locations may be in direct competition with the existing members. “Geographically, in larger areas such as Vancouver, there is only place for maybe four shops, and maybe a single shop in smaller towns, so unless the market improves we will not put two shops too close together. It’s about the member privileges,” concluded Srigley.