Talking Shop

How this Sydney business took risks but set itself up for growth

The Karavasilias from the MPSR Group are shining examples of a successful career in the automotive industry.

Johnny and Sarah Karavasilias from the MPSR Group are shining examples of the different pathways that can lead you towards a successful career in the automotive industry.

With Johnny starting off as a panel and refinish technician at his family workshop, and Sarah working as a solicitor in criminal law, the unified business partners (and couple) prove there are many diverse career pathways in the automotive industry that can cater to any background. 

Johnny and Sarah have ensured that the MPSR Group is a family run and centred business. This mentality also spreads to their attitude towards their employees, with a fair-go attitude at the forefront of their ethos. 

Not a pair to shy away from hiring people with little experience, Johnny and Sarah’s can-do attitude embraces newcomers and apprentices with open arms. All the MPSR Group require is a willingness to work and learn. 

The original repair shop that started the MPSR Group was founded by Nick and Elias Karavasilias in 1980. It wasn’t until 2019 that Johnny Karavasilias branched out from his father and uncle’s business and opened the MPSR Group in Marrickville, New South Wales. 

Johnny’s wife, Sarah Karavasilias joined him three years later in 2022, which proved to be an asset to not only the family business, but the automotive industry as a whole. 

The MPSR Group is based in the heart of Sydney’s Inner West, Marrickville. The site is situated on 5,500 meters squared with the capacity to repair 150 vehicles a week.  

A smart system

As an award-winning automotive repair business, the MPSR Group have the latest technology to boost not only their business, but the experiences and opportunities for their staff. 

“It’s not so easy to finish 150 cars in a week, but I always like to be on the floor and always want to improve our process and how we do things. I’m always investing in equipment, so the speed of our repairs is efficient. We’ve got two Lowbake Gas IR arches, one Lowbake Alpha spray booth and one Gas IR combination spray booth. They allow us to do between 35 to 40 cars a day,” Johnny says.

“At any given time, there is about 70 people on the workshop floor, so there is always something going on,” Johnny says. 

“About a month ago we had training with the MTA for EVs. We had 10 of our staff do that course. The course was on depowering and repairing electric cars,” Sarah says.

The shift towards a streamlined system and consistent training, was a result of the boom in business after the COVID pandemic.

“Our workload exploded coming out of COVID. In 2022 the workload just went through the roof and we were essentially catching our tail towards the end of the year. Now we’re starting to optimise what we have. We’re taking time to implement leadership training and making sure that the workshop is efficient,” Sarah says.

“We’re trying to streamline everything, so onboarding is an easy process.” 

Embracing electrical

As a workshop on the path to I-CAR Gold Class, the MPSR Group is dedicated to upskilling and continuously improving their workshop and customer experience.

The Group has also invested in Lowbake equipment, which incorporates Rapid Air Drying System (R.A.D.S) that saves 80 per cent on energy costs and a 70 per cent reduction in baking time. 

“About 30 of the 150 cars we repair each week are usually EVs, and that is growing every month” Johnny says.

The Karavasilias’ have made contributing to a greener future a priority for the Group. With a Tesla accreditation received at the start of 2021, and a BYD accreditation that followed, the Group has trained staff to fix the changing car parc. 

“There were little add ons when becoming Tesla accredited. There was a lot of new equipment we had to buy. Before we only had two EV chargers on site, now we have a few more to keep up with charging the customers vehicles,” Johnny says.

Risk taking and expansion

The ability to take risks has paid off for Johnny, resulting in an additional warehouse. 

“I think one thing that sets me apart from others, is my ability to take risk. For instance, I made the commitment to invest in millions of dollars’ worth of equipment to fill out a state-of-the-art workshop without guaranteed work,” Johnny says.

“This investment, although stressful, has now brought in several contracts of insurance work and improved the overall customer experience. I work long hours to get the job done and give my other staff motivation, I love my job. I still learn new things each and every day.”

“We work well with the insurers and with the OEMs. We try our best to keep a happy medium,” Sarah says.

A fair go

Giving everyone a fair go and a chance to succeed sets the MPSR Group apart from their competition. Sarah and Johnny choose to take an informal route when looking for staff.  

“I think a strength that we have is that we give everyone a go. If someone is looking for work, we call them in. I haven’t seen a CV in two years. So, I will just give them a go, give them a trial and see how they do. And then we work out if they’re going to stay on board with us. We will give everyone a chance if they want to work with us,” Sarah says.

The breadth of opportunities in the automotive industry is a topic that Sarah is particularly passionate about. Sarah identifies the different career paths within the industry as a great opportunity to get your foot in the door.

“We give everyone a go because we have so many roles in the business. From detailing to our highly trained technicians, from admin to marketing, and parts categorising as well – there is something for everyone. We have two young ladies in our parts department who categorise and receive without any prior experience. They learned how to do that on the job and they are doing very well” Sarah says.

“We’re not scared to have someone with very little experience. We’ll build them up.”

Staff retention is also a key focus for the workshop.ß They promote a community focused environment that looks after their staff with a range of inclusive measures that are designed to embrace peoples’ differences. 

“We have a lot of staff that have been with us for the whole time as well,” Sarah says.

“I’ve reached out to some local schools in the area to let them know we exist, because a lot of people don’t even know that our industry exists until they have an accident,” Sarah says.

Even though technology has rapidly evolved over the last decade, the perception of the industry hasn’t changed along with it.

“I have invited careers advisors to come on site, and their jaws are on the floor when they come to the workshop. They don’t realise how technical it is. There is still that old stigma that it is a dirty occupation with oil all over the floor,” Sarah says.

“When people take the time to come to our workshop, they can see how hands on and high tech it is. The industry has come a long way from where it was ten, twenty years ago. That is why I have been working on finding new staff and reaching out to local schools.”

Retaining staff and making sure the working environment is community based is a key priority for the MPSR Group. 

“We do a lot of staff activities. We do regular events where we go and have dinner together or we’ll go to the local pub after work. Even our Christmas parties, we had Brazilian dancers, food trucks, ice cream trucks, and the children and partners of the workers are all invited. It is a family event. We’ve also done Origin night where we’ve had big screen at the workshop. There are all sorts of activities you can do,” Sarah says. 

Asking for feedback and engaging with staff is a high priority for Sarah.  

“In terms of securing our staff we like to have good engagement with them, making sure they’re happy. We consult with them all the time, asking if there’s anything they think we should improve on,” Sarah says.

“We’re a family run business so we know our employees on a personal level. We like to make sure that everyone is being looked after.”

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