Right in the middle
Having officially opened its new site at the end of 2013, you might be forgiven for thinking bodyshop’s medium bodyshop of the year 2014, Fix Auto Mid-Devon would be quite content with its lot. However, that could not be further from the truth as the business continues to flourish and further its credentials. bodyshop magazine editor, Mark Hadaway paid the business a visit to find out more.
Never one to rest on her laurels, Louise Woolacott, owner of Fix Auto Mid-Devon based in Crediton, Devon admits that one of the first questions she posed on completion of the revamped site was ‘what next?’ And as it turned out, it has been a question that has been answered in many guises, none-more intriguing than the fact Louise is now a qualified Ministry of Transport (MoT) authorised examiner.
‘The plan was, when we opened the new site, that we would sit tight for five years before we made any further moves within the business. However, with the incredible success that we have had since the opening, that idea has been short-lived and we now have various projects ongoing to further develop the business,’ explained Louise.
One of those projects has involved the acquisition of a 5,000sqft service and MoT testing facility, Moore Brothers, situated two plots up on the same road in Lords Meadow Industrial Estate. ‘The Moore Brothers’ business will be 100 years old in 2019 so comes with an invaluable local reputation,’ said Louise. ‘We recognised the business opportunity and subsequently acquired it as an ongoing concern. We have already given the business a makeover to bring it up-to-date and are now integrating it within our ethos. It offers great potential for us as a business and now, for the first time ever, we are able to offer a complete motoring package to our customers.’
Despite having won several new contracts as a direct result of the bodyshop revamp, along with producing major reductions in key-to-key times and an increase in gross profit of 21%, the bodyshop itself has not been void of change. ‘We’re already making changes to the site,’ said Louise who explained how the layout has been slightly tweaked to further enhance efficiencies and accommodate the levels of work the business now generates. A job triage system is also now in place to maximise workflow and working hours have also been modified in order to increase productivity with a six day, 7am to 7pm working day with productive staff on a four-day shift pattern.
Louise said, ‘We really are phenomenally busy and, as a result, it has really made us drill down on all areas of the business to find improvements. Thankfully, we find ourselves in a good place right now and very fortunate that we can be selective over who we choose to partner with.’
The revamped 8,500sqft site was the result of Fix Auto Mid-Devon consolidating its previous set-up of two 7,500sqft buildings (one owned and one leased), on opposite sides of the road, into one. The owned, previous single story building saw an investment in excess of £450,000 which not only involved major investment in the workshop but also included the creation of a two story office complex to house the reception and administration areas. An investment in roof clad solar panels is also proving a major monthly overhead saving.
The business currently employs a team of 27 people, including four apprentices – something Louise is a great believer in. ‘We have a fantastic team here and I am so proud of everyone’s efforts in embracing the changes we have made and making it work so successfully,’ said Louise. ‘We have some incredible talent within the business and are investing in the next generation in order that those skills can be shared throughout the business now and into the future. If we find the right people, we will create a job to fit their profile – people are key within any successful business.’
As part of the business development programme, Louise and one of her two daughters in the business, operations manager, Erika have enrolled on the Ageas endorsed Business Success Global programme. ‘We have to keep moving forward with the business,’ said Louise, ‘and a key part of that is developing those around me. The great thing is it offers us the chance to look at the business and pool our ideas of the future.’
One of the ideas currently being considered is also, partly, as a result of the success the bodyshop experienced since its new start. ‘In late 2014, such was the volume of work we were experiencing that we needed more space for vehicles. We therefore took the step to renegotiate our contract on part of the 7,500sqft previously leased site opposite,’ explained Louise. ‘We are now looking at the potential of turning that unit into an express repair facility.’ It is an idea which is still in its infancy but something Louise feels could yet again add to the overall effectiveness of the business.
‘We are a little out of the loop geographically,’ said Louise, ‘but with that comes the potential to very much focus on what we do, rather than be distracted by those around us. I certainly keep my eyes peeled though because this industry is moving so quickly at the moment, you most certainly need to be aware of any opportunities that may arise.’
Louise, now a member of the Fix Auto UK committee, is more than happy to admit that since joining Fix Auto back in 2010 the business has experienced unprecedented success. ‘It took some convincing to join Fix Auto at first,’ admitted Louise, ‘but I look back now and it really has proved to be the springboard for our success. Simple things like being part of the weekly Fix Auto regional conference call can be so valuable to the business.’
So, back to where it started, what next for Fix Auto Mid-Devon? ‘With what we have experienced over the past few years, goodness knows where we will be in years to come,’ said Louise. ‘What I can say is that, on the whole, I believe we need much more respect and trust within this industry, as a whole, in order to continue with the professional evolution of the sector. We really need to work in partnership to provide the best possible service for the customer whilst making money in order to re-invest, generate profit and ensure we are all here for the future.’