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Fix Network: Network Supports Next Generation

Autosphere » Collision » Fix Network: Network Supports Next Generation
Simon Roy (left) and Mathieu Deschênes (right) with André Cabana from Fix Network at the Blainville training centre. Photo Fix Network

At a time when body shop succession is not a given, four young rising stars offer a breath of fresh air and explain how they successfully took over the family business.

Auto Body Shop Succession Planning. Not all sons and daughters of body shop business owners cherish the dream of taking over the family business, despite the fact that it’s been around for decades and business is good.

We had the opportunity to talk with four next-generation owners who are either in the midst of taking over the family business or who just took over a few years ago. These four young entrepreneurs, flying Carrossier ProColor or Fix Auto banners under the Fix Network, all come from unique backgrounds. Despite that, their paths intersect, as they have often been faced with the same challenges and share the same victories.

A passion that transcends generations

Autobody mechanics who have spent their lives building up their businesses through thick and thin, aren’t always keen on the idea of selling it off to just anyone. Family members included. Our four interviewees can vouch for that. Despite their passion for the field and their willingness to take over, they nonetheless had to prove themselves to their parents.

Three generations of the Hébert family in front of their workshop. Photo Fix Auto de Valleyfield

For Mathieu Hébert of Fix Auto Valleyfield, transitioning into the third-generation business happened naturally. After taking business management in CÉGEP, he took up his place in the family business alongside his father, Claude.

“I’ve always done bodywork in my spare time. My responsibilities just expanded,” he says. “I proved myself to the team and my father was a real partner to me. He’s still a good advisor. I was gradually able to bring about changes in the business.”

Keven Tremblay, head of Fix Auto Charlesbourg, also represents the third generation. “I knew right from elementary school that this was the job for me,” he emphatically states. I became a shareholder in 2014 and my father, Mario, is going to retire before the end of the year, so ownership will be 100% mine. The transition occurred smoothly over a span of about 10 years, allowing me to make my way from the workshop to the administrative offices.”

For Simon Roy of Carrossier ProColor Saint-Eustache, the transition is currently underway and sister Annie has also joined the family business in the estimates department while he handles the production side.

Father Daniel passes the torch to Annie and Simon. Photo Carrossier ProColor St-Eustache

“My father Daniel started the business 30 years ago. My parents worked like mad to build this and it’s an honour for me to uphold their legacy. We are currently trustees of the business and my father, a true mentor, keeps us moving forward by advising us on our decisions.”

Maxime Deschênes of ProColor Longueuil, like the others, got a taste for body shop work at a very young age. “I’ve been in the business full-time since I was 18,” he says. “I wasn’t sure I was making the right choice, but I got hooked on working in the shop. I dabbled in everything, from disassembly to estimation to painting. My father Eric built a solid foundation and my present challenge is growing the business from within while keeping an eye out for any opportunities on the horizon.”

Network support

Our four interviewees have all shown themselves to be very receptive to help and expertise with a view to advancing their teams and themselves, as managers. While intergenerational transfer of knowledge has provided them with most of their guidance, Fix Network support is also mentioned in some conversations. The value of this resource can be expressed in several ways, as all four next-generation interviewees are very involved in network-organized activities.

“My relationship with the Network is excellent,” says Mr. Deschênes. “When I have a question, there is always someone there to answer it. I want to tap into all of the resources and expertise available to me as an entrepreneur.”

Tips and contacts

Being part of the Fix Network also offers these young people the opportunity to meet other business owners and share ideas and growth strategies with them. Mathieu Hébert highlights the network’s contribution in the transition. “They made themselves readily available to us. Participating in network events allowed me to share with other business owners who inspired me.”

Keven Tremblay now heads the business founded by grandfather Marcel. Photo Fix Auto Charlesbourg

Keven Tremblay agrees, adding that participating in the performance group and the regional committee has shed beneficial light on his operations. “We can share ideas with other shops,” he states. “This eliminates the feeling of isolation. What’s more, this approach allows us to compare ourselves and see how we can improve. It’s reassuring to know that there is a network to support us through the succession process. I benefit from the services offered and our success reflects on the network.”

Simon Roy, advisory committee member, underscores the network’s performance-driven objectives. “Our health is their health,” he says. “It’s as simple as that.”

The premise is simple: Harnessing the curiosity and open-mindedness of these young people, combined with a desire to strengthen and elevate success in the community all supported by a dynamic network that listens, will help ensure continued success today, and tomorrow.

All four demonstrate a passion for their industry, and take great pride in the ability developed by their teams to provide their customers with cars repaired according to the rules of the art and in a safe manner.

Plan for the future

Our readers won’t be surprised that this new generation has redefined the meaning of family business. They have their own ideas on how to do things, but also demonstrate huge respect for what was achieved by the generation that preceded them.

All of them are focused on growth. Newly-minted managers are focused on taking ownership of operations and growing the company from within by refining processes over the coming years.

Others are seriously considering acquiring additional workshops or making their shop the hub of a complete automobile maintenance service centre, including mechanics and auto glass.

For example, Simon Roy sees the importance of controlling the stages of production within his walls. All the mechanical work related to the repair is done by the workshop team, as is the alignment and calibration of the ADAS systems. Even electric vehicles are welcome at the Saint-Eustache workshop.

“We don’t want to depend on subcontractors,” explains the entrepreneur. “This is the best way to control deadlines, costs and quality of work.”

Father Éric Deschênes ensures the smooth transition of the business in his son’s Mathieu’s hands. Photo ProColor Longueuil

Supported transition

Fix Network encourages and supports business succession. “ We need them,” says Sylvain Séguin, President of the Canadian Fix Network. “Shop owners who want to pass the torch will obviously consider family members first. We as a network wish to facilitate this transition, guide the new generations in their investments and the deployment of best practices. We have built a base of expertise in this area and can support these types of successions while mitigating the emotional factor.”

What Séguin particularly likes about meeting representatives of the rising generation is their optimism about the collision sector and their desire to always go further.

“We know that the collision sector is not always easy,” he says. “However, these young people see, like us, all the potential it holds. They are also open to seeing the market differently, by considering adding services or making acquisitions. And we will be at their side to help them achieve their ambitions.”

André Cabana, Senior Vice-President of Fix Canada Network, elaborates: “We are proud of these young men and women who share our passion for collision. We have developed a coaching system for them and set up committees and performance groups to support them. Since they want to take their businesses to another level with us, we also give them access to our training centres where their teams can obtain the knowledge they need to advance at the pace of new technologies. The four young entrepreneurs who appear in this article clearly illustrate what we are experiencing across Canada where a rising generation is proudly endorsing the network and pouring their passion into it.”

Cabana emphasizes that these young entrepreneurs also understand that they cannot be one-man orchestras, and know the importance of surrounding themselves with talented people to enable them to better supervise all operations while keeping an eye on development possibilities.

Fix Network responds to this desire for support throughout Canada, where it has also established training centres. It offers all its franchisees access not only to technical knowledge, but also to all the support necessary to upgrade their performance. Mathieu, Keven, Simon and Maxime, inspired by the work accomplished by their parents, are clearly looking to the future with optimism. “The sector is heading in the right direction,” sums up Keven Tremblay. “I want to move ahead, possibly manage several workshops, and I can’t do that without being part of a network. We draw from the strength of the group both in terms of our relationships with insurers and operations development.”

 

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