In case you missed our article in the November/December issue of the magazine here's the update we published on Fix Auto.
Fix Auto is a global phenomenon but has been a bit of a slow burn in Australia. Stuart Faid explains how the 25-strong network is now ‘cooking with gas’.
t took a while for the after effects of COVID to dissipate and Stuart Faid, Fix Network Regional Vice President, Asia, Australia, NZ identifies the last quarter of 2022 as the time when people started to get back to’ normal’.
The network has grown by six locations this year all around the country. Faid talks about the variety of business owners being attracted to the network and the different motivations for each one.
“I’ll start with Fix Auto Darwin (formerly Boscato Panel Works). It’s a second generation and soon to be third generation shop. It’s been there since 1968 but they had a realisation that they needed to be a part of something bigger and more connected to the broader industry in order to stay relevant. Despite how well established, and how well the business had performed to date, we’ve been able to add some real value - improving process, procedures and efficiencies, all while focusing on optimising production. Now they achieve more volume through the same shop with the same headcount and productive resources, this clearly impacts the bottom line positively, which is our number one goal. I think that’s a real testament to outside involvement with a shared interest, coming in and helping the business grow,” he said.
“Then we have Fix Auto Port Macquarie. That’s an interesting one. It’s part owned by Jason Walsh, who established Fix Auto Northern Beaches in Sydney. He has family connections in that part of the world and has always kept one eye on what’s going on there. He had a longstanding relationship with Andrew Miedecke of motor racing and automotive retail fame and from there came an opportunity to work with the Miedecke Motor Group panel business.
“The panel shop was one of the first businesses Miedecke opened in the 1980s. He had been considering selling the business to focus on his now much more significant group of retail locations. We came in and talked about Fix Auto and the future of the industry and he was very keen to stay involved. Jason has now secured joint ownership of the business, relocated his family and we are underway with the transition into the Fix Auto network with a new multi million dollar location due to open in 2025.
“When you look at the differing profiles of the people joining, you’ve got a third generation long-established business which is a unique profile in itself, then you’ve got a business like Miedecke Motor Group who’ve got a panel shop as part of a multi-brand retail strategy; we really don’t have a “typical” repairer profile joining Fix Auto.
“Perhaps most significant in our growth in the last 18 months has been the advent of existing partners taking that leap from one site to two or even soon to three. An example of that in the last 12 months is the opening of Fix Auto Rockingham in WA. Steve Lopresti at Fix Auto Osborne Park has expanded his commercial interests “south of the river”. We now have four of our franchisees who own more than one location. The fact that they’ve been able to grow to a second location with Fix Auto is a great endorsement of how we support their operations in a way that is unique in the industry, focused on growth and empowering them to realise those ambitions of scale.
“In NSW we also opened Fix Auto Parramatta in Sydney. This business is owned by Nick Onis and Ray Borg. They are more typical of what a usual independently owned business looks like, two entrepreneurs running a business in an ever more challenging environment and wanting the support and engagement of a global organisation that can help them get the best returns on their efforts.
“Our latest recruit is Fix Auto Springvale in Melbourne a young guy called Ly Lui wanting to take his business to the next level. He is mindful that doing that alone can be a hard slog and wants to be able to tap into our scale and resources to accelerate his growth plans. He has jumped in with both feet and is well underway with the transition into the network, literally breaking his back in the process (that’s not a joke he really did break his back, but is back now and going full steam ahead). We’re in there helping him get his business set up for the future and supporting his vision for growth.
“What’s been really interesting this year is seeing the demographic shift of our network and seeing the kind of people who are willing to consider what Fix Auto can do for them. I think historically it was always the solo entrepreneur struggling to make a profit, working all the hours he could, talking to us about what we can do to make it all just a little easier.
“Now people are joining from very different perspectives with one common motivator, they all want to get a better outcome from their business in terms of their investment in time and labour. I think that’s becoming more and more difficult for everyone in the industry, with price pressure and labour cost increases - the margins are coming under increasing focus. The ability to tap into a resource like ours that dedicates time and effort to helping you understand how your business is performing, helping you make those changes to drive a different outcome, and be there as a support and advisory system has paid huge dividends to our network this year,” Faid said.
Work provider strategy
Fix Auto Australia is now sitting at 25 locations but what Faid is most proud of is that the network is about 30% up in revenue year on year.
“They have had an outstanding year and what’s also great is the feedback we are getting from work providers. Our focus is driving efficiency and productivity in the shop, so they can get more work through. By utilising their labour more efficiently they are able to be price competitive without sacrificing profitability or quality, this focus ensures an optimised price for the insurer. That’s not saying that it’s a cheap outcome but it’s the best and most market competitive outcome the insurer will get. Because we’ve created those efficiencies in the shops, their profitability is increasing. For us, that is the perfect dynamic, higher revenues driven by higher volumes and increased profitability, all of this while delighting our insurance partners with cost, quality and customer satisfaction outcomes. Everyone is winning.
In terms of how the growth of the network has influenced their engagement with insurers Faid said: “Certainly having more than 20 shops makes you more interesting to talk to and having a geographical spread gives you some relevance if they’ve got specific geographical challenges. We always knew the first 20 to 30 locations would be the hardest ones to establish and now that we have that critical mass, are delivering outstanding value to our work and insurer partners it will soon become a no brainer to become part of something that is wholly designed to protect your business and the wider industry from the challenges we face.
“What we’ve found above everything else is what the insurers are loving is the consistency. They have one point of contact, and they can discuss any one of our shops with that point of contact. If there’s a problem anywhere it can get dealt with very quickly. What they’re finding is the outcome and the experiences they’re getting in one shop versus another are almost identical, regardless of location, ownership style or even the type of facility.
“Ultimately when that car comes out they rely on a consistent benchmark of cost and quality and customer service, so that is what they’re loving.
“They get the best of both worlds - having the owner who’s invested in the business making sure that everything goes right, partnered with corporate governance and reporting and management. This gives everybody comfort that things are under control.
The Novus Glass franchise is also on a growth curve with eight new franchisees this year. “The glass industry follows the same direction as collision repair in terms of work providers. They’re setting standards and requirements for their approved repairers and the glass industry can see that the days of a man in a van whipping around doing $20 chip repairs or $150 windscreen repairs are fading fast.
“Windscreens are incredibly complex and becoming disproportionately expensive. So they are a high cost item insurers are taking very seriously in terms of their exposure to risk. It isn’t uncommon now for a windscreen to cost $3,000- $4,000, and when you look at your average driveable cost of repair, we’re almost getting to the same sort of levels of cost between a windscreen replacement and light collision.”
To find out more about Novus Glass opportunities listen to episode PAP131 our weekly podcast.