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The Key Role of Corporate Workshops

Autosphere » Collision » The Key Role of Corporate Workshops
Christian Mommaerts took over Fix Auto Trois-Rivières Ouest last December. Credit: Jean Rodier

Fix Network relies on its corporate workshops as levers to promote the growth of its franchisees.

It’s not in the nature of franchisors to take possession of workshops, or even to build them. However, circumstances sometimes force them to do so. The most frequent case is the lack of succession for existing shops, or the need to occupy a buoyant market.

Sylvain Seguin, President of Fix Network Canada, explains that for body shops, taking over shops becomes an imperative for several reasons.

The corporate workshop is home to a team of highly skilled professionals. Credit: Jean Rodier

The dynamic role of corporate workshops

It’s interesting to learn that Fix Network has a well-defined strategy for managing its corporate workshops across the country. “We must make one thing very clear: our corporate workshops are not there to compete with our franchisees. On the contrary, we operate them in such a way as to support them,” insists the president, who asserts that before acquiring a workshop, his team will make sure that a franchisee is not interested in taking possession of it.

Nicolas Labre, Regional Manager for Fix Network corporate workshops, elaborates further on the value of corporate workshops. “These workshops play, and will continue to play, a key role in enhancing the value of our entire franchise network. Their presence ensures that a competitor won’t creep into their market,” explains Mr. Labre. In addition, the corporate workshops will have the capacity to absorb the overflow of vehicles entrusted to our franchised workshops, as well as directing work to them to maximize the efficiency of overall operations. They will contribute to making our network a reliable, flexible and always professional solution for our insurance partners across the country. We also see our corporate workshops as showcases of the best the network has to offer. Our aim is to use these body shops as test beds for the implementation of new technologies. Before introducing a digital solution with our franchisees, we validate it under real conditions, in our corporate workshops,” he gives as an example. “The same goes for best practices throughout our operations. Our corporate body shops give us access to a rich pool of data that can help us guide franchise managers towards greater efficiency and profitability. What’s more, with cybersecurity becoming a major issue, we absolutely must protect our workshops according to well-defined protocols.  We are therefore testing pilot projects within our corporate workshops to ensure that these systems are adaptable and meet the evolving needs of our industry and our franchisees.”

The facilities are spacious enough to train new talent or absorb turnover from other shops. Credit: Jean Rodier

Asserting a presence and diversifying the offering

“Mr. Seguin also mentions the importance of diversification, as it offers a wider range of income opportunities. Their body shop operations may run at a loss for a short period, but this will be offset by better profits from other services such as calibration, mechanics and glass. It’s for this reason that Fix Network offers its franchisees, whether Fix Auto or ProColor, the possibility of adding auto glass and mechanical services to their services.”

Taking over an existing shop or building a new one protects the territory from consolidators or conversion to another banner. “It’s also important for our partnerships with insurers to protect the repair volumes we wish to offer them, as well as guaranteeing consistency in our services,” adds Mr. Séguin.

The goal of Fix Auto Trois-Rivière Ouest, a corporate workshop, is to provide franchisees with support, notably in terms of expertise. Credit: Jean Rodier

A technology showroom

A bodybuilder could also drop in to see the latest management and repair techniques at work, or to familiarize himself with ADAS calibration or even electric vehicle repair, before introducing these approaches in his own workshop.

Fix Network intention is to use these workshops as workforce development centers, like satellites for its three training centers across Canada. For example, Fix Network is currently validating a human resources development program that would enable groups of foreign workers to pass through the training centers before perfecting their skills in the corporate workshops. They would then represent a contingent of workers capable of completing the teams of franchised body shops and workshops. In today’s employment climate, this could prove to be an innovative and valuable solution.

A corporate workshop is of great value to us,” says Sylvain Séguin,” but it remains available to our ambitious franchisees who would like to acquire it to expand or consolidate their market by combining several operating centers. And we’ll always be there to help them make a success of it.

Mommaerts has gathered a top-notch team around him to help manage the workshop. Credit: Jean Rodier

Managing a corporate workshop

Since last December, Christian Mommaerts has been the manager of Fix Auto Trois-Rivières Ouest, a corporate workshop. Having spent his career in the car dealership business, including 25 years as a trainer, he saw the opportunity to manage a body shop as a great challenge.

“There are a lot of similarities between dealership service departments and body shops. You must manage customer expectations and out-of-stock parts,” he sums up with a smile.

He says he’s very proud to have accepted Mr. Labre’s offer, discovering Fix Network’s vision from the inside. “It’s obviously a great network with a worldwide presence,” he points out. “This gives it great depth in terms of mastering processes and overseeing operations for its franchisees.”

Mr. Mommaerts has worked hard with a dedicated and skilled team of experts to bring the workshop up to the cutting edge of technology, a real showcase for the Network indeed.

“The Network gives us all the tools we need to move forward. Our workshop can also help franchisees in turn by becoming a reference for them. Our doors are open to them.”

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