The Interview: Anthony Heard

bodyshop magazine deputy editor Danielle Bagnall took to Zoom to have a one-to-one with Essex-born Anthony Heard – owner of Braintree Motor Group. If you follow him on LinkedIn, you’ll know he has a lot to say – well, sit back and relax while he spills all.

How did you get into the automotive industry? 

I got into the industry by accident. I worked for a bodyshop and car and van hire. You know that best friend of your mum’s that you call auntie? Well, when I left school – around 23 years ago now – auntie Sharon asked me if I wanted to do some admin work at the independent bodyshop she worked for and I said yes. I then moved over into the bodyshop and have been in the motor trade ever since. I went on to train as an estimator at CL Panelcraft, before running the place. My last job before opening Braintree Motor Works was at BMW where I stayed for around 10 years, until I left over a cup of coffee – he said with a laugh. When the recession hit in 2008, we were banned from using the nice tea and coffee, but I continued to do so and ended up getting into trouble. I was like I’m not having that so went home that day and called around 10 bodyshops asking if they wanted to sell their bodyshop and one said yes. There’s a stint at Town and Country Assistance (now WNS) thrown in there somewhere, as well.

Tell us more about Braintree Motor Works (part of the Braintree Motor Group).

We got the keys to what is now Braintree Motor Works back in 2012. I inherited five staff, but there was no work – the place was losing a lot of money. We turned it around, though; we broke even for the first couple of years, and it’s been on the up ever since, growing staff numbers to 13. We’ve got a very good business model that’s probably different to 95% of bodyshops out there where we work on low numbers and high profit. We estimate correctly and we don’t get dictated to by anyone. We don’t do anything but crash repairs. We have the highest average repair cost in the UK with the highest gross profit. I can only say for the 65 bodyshops I’ve spoken to – I can’t speak for everyone – but we are doubling the national average without ripping people off. A few years ago, we were doing alloy wheel repairs, bumper scuffs, blow ins and all sorts – my thought process was the same as every other bodyshop out there, a “let’s just get more work through the door” mentality – but once I knew my figures inside out, I realised that none of those jobs were making me any money. I saw a business coach for six months who taught me to look at my numbers properly and there was no looking back – we now turn away more work than we do. I’ve got two local bodyshop cards in my reception so I can give customers options.

To read more, visit bodyshop‘s July issue.