Collision Repair 7#1
FIX AUTO NETWORK WORLD
Steve Leal’s story is a legend among Canada’s collision repairers. In 2005, Leal began as a franchisee and owner of Fix Auto Cambridge. Today, in 2021, he serves as the president of Fix Auto World, which offers more than 2,000 points of automotive service around the world.
The bulk of Leal’s rise to greatness occurred in an eight-year span. In 2008, three years after joining the Fix Auto fold as a franchisee, Leal obtained Area Developer rights to Ontario, followed by Atlantic Canada in 2010 and Alberta in 2011, before becoming Chief Operating Officer for Fix Auto Canada later that year. Few have a better read on the state of the industry than Leal, who has his finger on the pulse of the global aftermarket daily. “The industry is going to keep consolidating,” says Leal. “You’re going to have the consolidators, the publicly traded markets that will continue aiming for acquisitions of the regular independent. There are certainly shops that fail to survive; they need to be part of something bigger.”
The keys to the future lay in finding the proper pillars in support systems, he says.
“You have to have the right structure to continue to forge ahead. We’re going to see more sophisticated franchise systems in the future and, as an independent, you’re going to want a partner like that to ensure you thrive.
“The days of a standalone independent are dwindling, unless it’s a high specialized clientele or type of repair. An independent will need to be part of something to survive.”
Collision Repair 7#2
It’s been roughly two decades since the iconic Sam Mercanti graced the cover of Collision Repair Magazine, and since then he’s never stopped following his dreams. As many know, Mercanti acquired the rights to run CARSTAR Canada in 1994, and he started with his fi rst location in Hamilton, Ontario. Mercanti had a goal of having 200 locations across Canada, and by the time he sold CARSTAR Canada he surpassed that with 250 locations across the country.
Mercanti equates his success to his team and his love for the industry. “I love the collision industry, I love the people and I just had a God given knack for business,” said Mercanti. “I know the business from the ground up because I fi xed cars, and I painted cars so I knew how to give estimates and I knew how to make money.”
Another proud moment for Mercanti was in 2010 when he was awarded one of the top 50 best managed companies in Canada. “I started on the shop fl oor as a bodyman and going from that to 250 locations and being recognized as having one of the best managed companies in Canada was a highlight,” said Mercanti. “It was like a dream come true.”
Collision Repair 7#4
PARR AUTOBODY, SAAR
Tom Bissonnette, the visionary behind Saskatoon’s Parr Auto Body has taken a step back from life in the thick of the trade—but retirement isn’t quite what he imagined it’d be.
In 2017, following a year of retirement— spent largely on the Palm Springs golf circuit—Bissonnette applied for a suddenly open role at the Saskatchewan Association of Automotive Repairers (SAAR).
“I was floored when Bill Ziebart resigned as executive director. I applied for the job because I found myself bored in retirement, and I was appointed.” He says the best part of the job is sharing his experience with the shop owners—never without an entertaining tale about one of his past adventures, of course.
“I’ve made every mistake you possibly could, so I know what not to do and a handful of people I work with will take my advice and listen.
“It’s really fun to watch them develop and grow. Even in times where we’re not sure where the business is going, I sit back and remind them, ‘hey, I have lived though 20 percent interest rates. This is nothing, relax.’ It’s all about a certain amount of grey hair, right?”
As for the day-to-day at Parr Autobody, operations continue to run smoothly, thanks to the five-strong team that has bought into the nearly 70-year-old business: Chelsea Stebner, Brayden Neufeld, David Sather, Shane Desrosiers and the recently retired Don Pogoda.
Collision Repair 7#6
Dal Sian of Celltex Collision in Surrey, B.C. was always destined to be in the collision industry. His grandfather ran a shop in Nairobi, Kenya in the 1950s, while his father and uncle operated a shop in the U.K. In 1979, Sian’s his father came to Canada, opened Celltex in 1988—and it’s been operating strongly ever since.
In his many years in the industry, Sian admits that one of his proudest moments was when the shop was featured on the cover of Collision Repair in 2009.
“It’s a proud moment when you have customers come in and they see the print on the wall,” he says. “They really take interest in that and they get to know about us a little bit.” Sian says the biggest challenge he has faced is the current Covid-19 pandemic as it has affected everybody due to the lack of work coming in.
“We’re used to having around 10 cars a week, but now work isn’t coming in and we’re down to three cars a week and sometimes even no cars in a week,” Sian says. Though 2020 has been tough, Sian is optimistic that the industry will pick back up and has hopes that by the end of 2021 business will get back to normal.