Friends in need may well be friends indeed, but it also helps to have support and advice in the everyday running of a business.
In the fast-changing world of collision repair with plenty of fresh challenges to face, having a support network to turn to can be more than just a comfort, it can be the key to ensuring your survival and give your business the support it needs to flourish.
For the Fix Auto network of repair workshops, this is their mantra and one of its strengths in the increasingly complex operations of managing a repair business.
One franchise outlet who has been on the Australian journey of Fix Auto from the beginning is Fix Auto Mulgrave.
Owner manager Lana Pagiamtzis says the support of the network has not only helped with the day to day challenges, but has helped them grow.
“When I first started, we had a staff of five employees,” she says.
“And now we’ve got 25. We’ve quadrupled the turnover that we had when I first started with them. It’s been a blessing every year and just gets just better and better. We keep moving forward in so many ways. We’re hitting new milestones constantly, not just as a network but also in my own business.
Pagiamtzis says the contrast of the current support and her past business life in the repair industry is most stark when she thinks about what she doesn’t have to worry about now.
“Before I was part of the Fix Network, I used to have to constantly reach out to try to generate business, reaching out to insurers, to fleet organisations, to anybody in your local area. But once we joined Fix Auto, they took that burden away from me, so I was able to really concentrate on running my business and developing the staff to get the most out of the increasing turnover, volume and capacity.
“They do all that liaising for us on an insurer level and advocate for each individual location and the network as a whole. They are constantly in the background driving opportunities for growth to our shops.”
Before 2016 and joining Fix Auto things were not so easy for Pagiamtzis, and a combination of business and personal pressures almost brought to an end a career she has worked so hard to establish.
“As a repairer on our own in this industry, I found things were changing rapidly back then, it was obvious the industry was consolidating and if you were not part of a group or network, you would eventually be left behind. This has been the case for many repairers in the years since I joined Fix Auto, so, I’m really, really glad that I made the decision to join.”
Rather than deter her from building a future in the industry, the difficult times she experienced before joining Fix Auto inspired her to see what support options existed for repairers out there.
“I was one of the first people to join Fix Auto in Australia, so like anything new it takes time to get established and for people to recognise the brand, but I had faith in it.
“Before I signed with Fix Auto, I took a trip to Canada, and got to see how the brand operates at scale, with over 300 franchisees in the country, I saw the true potential of the business and I was very impressed. I know it will take us time to get to that size here and to me it doesn’t matter how long it’s going take. I get massive support and value already and this will only grow as the network does.”
One of the crucial ways Fix Auto continues to help businesses like Fix Auto Mulgrave is to free up time for business owners like Pagiamtzis by taking on the responsibility of management and reporting tasks.
“I’m so busy. We’re taking in 10 to 15 cars a day, so it’s a lot of day-to-day tasks that keep me busy. Fix Auto are constantly reviewing the business and how its performing and we sit and review that together in a way that helps me make great decisions, efficiently. They then support me by implementing changes into the shop to make sure we perform at our best in terms of production, quality and of course profitability.”
As change continues in the industry, Pagiamtzis says Fix Auto helps in other ways including keeping her business up-to date with new equipment options and subscription services as well as the critical steps in training staff.
“We are heavily focused on training, Fix Auto tap into the best providers in the industry whether that is through VACC, I-CAR or other industry suppliers. Right now my focus is EVs. We are seeing so many different brands of electric vehicles starting to come through and we want to be well prepared for that. I don’t want any of my guys left behind.”
Fix Auto Mulgrave also has not been immune to the recruitment issues facing repair businesses and the difficulty finding locally skilled labour and the Fix Network has helped by investigating sourcing overseas skilled labour including from the Philippines.
“They’re working all that in the background as well, which is brilliant and it’s just up to us as a business owner to make sure that we’ve got all the adequate credentials and whatever we need to be able to bring in people from overseas to work with us.”
The support of a reliable network becomes key in ensuring and handling the stress that can come from managing a hectic business, she says.
“I don’t stress about anything that I need to try to achieve in the business because I know that I just make a phone call to them and they are there to back you up in any way they need to.
“The support they provide is fantastic. We have Steve Taylor, who’s the Victorian State General Manager who provides us with all of the “On ground” support we could wish for. He is supported by Scott Croaker who heads up National Operations for the Fix Network with a real focus on process, data and driving performance for the franchisees at a national level.”
For Pagiamtzis, the human scale of Fix Auto is both reassuring and inspiring for her business to keep succeeding.
“It’s like an extended family business,” Pagiamtzis says.
“Stuart Faid, vice president for Fix Network in Asia and head of the Australian business always reminds us that we are family, not just a network, and they live that statement every day.
“It’s like everybody’s part of a big family. And we live by our genuine belief that we are Better Together.”
Another more recent business owner on the journey is Fix Auto Macarthur’s Aaron Samphier who rebranded in 2021 and described the transition to the Fix Auto family as ‘seamless’.
“It is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and the business has seen the benefit of it from day one,” Samphier told NCR.
Now more than two years down this path, Samphier is seeing the benefits and ongoing support across many aspects of his business.
“The network looked through our day-to-day business and helped fine tune and improve on small things like customer interactions, estimating, repairs and quality checks to handing over customer vehicles,” he says.
“Since joining, we have found there is always someone from the network who is happy to speak with us about any struggles or be a sounding board on the business’s growth.”
This enabled them to take the best elements of the business formerly known as AAA Malibu Paint & Panel and develop a new culture that resonated better with customers, he says.
“Having the backing of a corporate company made a difference in the success of our business. The focus on customer experience and service has been instrumental in enhancing the shop’s reputation and attracting more clients.”
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