To run Town Autobody, it takes a village
Story by MAX REID
It can be easy to get a big head in an industry like collision repair.
When nearly every conversation covers what credentials you do and don’t have, which OEMs you are and aren’t certified for, a simple chat between fellow business owners can devolve into high school level posturing quickly.
Yet, if you really think about it, we are all (for the most part) traveling down the same path, often pursuing the same certifications and pieces of equipment as our so-called competition.
And if all things going into the repair are considered relatively equal, both the equipment and skill of the repairer, what sets facilities apart besides the colour of the sign on their building?
For the customer, their decision then comes down to the not-so-simple choice of which local collision shop manager they will entrust with their means of transportation, not to mention a fair chunk of hard-earned income as well.
These are people that the average customer has likely never met before, or at least not outside of a collision-induced crisis, and “going with your gut” or blindly following the word of their insurer does little to give consumers an educated basis from which to decide. Well, allow us at Collision Repair to make that decision a little bit easier—assuming you live in Winnipeg, of course.
If you want a young, energetic business leader with proven management skills, backed up by a talent for auto body repair tempered right on the shop floor—Shamsher Singh Gaidhu is your man. Shamsher took the reins of what would become Town Autobody back in 2014, thanks to a connection from his older brother Amandeep, who was also working in the local collision industry at the time.
His entry into the industry came on hard and fast—Shamsher only graduated from high school in 2012 and wasn’t even a full Red Seal technician by the time Town Autobody first opened its doors—but financial difficulties within his family made him grow up quick, both in terms of his skills as a repairer, but also as a burgeoning young manager in an industry he was only just starting to get a grasp on.
“When we moved from India to Canada, it was a tough situation,” Shamsher said, over the phone with Collision Repair.
“I never push our technicians to do the work in two hours…our first priority is always quality work.” – Shamsher Singh Gaidhu, owner | Town Autobody
“My brother couldn’t get a higher education because we didn’t have the funds due to loans and everything like that.” Amandeep eventually found a path forward in the world of collision repair, and on the advice of their father Hardev, a former Jeep assembly line worker back in India, his younger brother followed suit.
“I did my apprenticeship at a CARSTAR shop in Winnipeg, where I did my Level 1 and Level 2 [training],” said Shamsher. He was also enrolled in a pre-collision course at the local Red River College campus in Winnipeg around that time.
When the owner of Amandeep’s shop told him that he had plans to retire and was open to offers on the shop, the Gaidhus got together and came up with the idea to start a family business.
To say that Town Autobody’s early days did not come easy would be an understatement, as Shamsher and his family found themselves thrust into a world of persistent advancement, and in turn, persistent investment of both time and money into the many certifications and qualifications a modern repair facility must satisfy.
“When we first bought the shop, we had no idea how quickly everything moves,” said Shamsher. “I did some I-CAR training and production manager training, but at the same time I was working at a KFC as a manager, so I did at least have some basic management skills going into it.”
Shamsher says that with every day he spends at Town Autobody, he learns something new, and rest assured, dear reader—he did eventually get his Red Seal. In fact, if you take your car in for repairs, there is a good chance that Shamsher will have a hand in the work at some point down the line, as he makes a point of playing an active role in all aspects of his shop’s operation.
“I’m in the back, on my feet, all day,” he said. “If I need something welded, I will do the welding.” This quite literal hands-on approach to processing repairs, in addition to daily morning and afternoon meetings with staff, are the ingredients to the open lines of communication that have built so much of Town Autobody’s success. Success that Shamsher says he often sees manifested right before his eyes, in the form of a strong word-of-mouth reputation informed by the mantra that “doing quality business will never let you down.”
“We haven’t done much advertisement over the past two years, and we haven’t needed to, because we have so many customers coming back with their relative and friends.”
Customers come from all corners of Winnipeg to visit his family’s north-end shop, according to Shamsher. “I never push our technicians to do the work in two hours…our first priority is always quality work.” To say that quality equipment for his staff comes as an afterthought for Shamsher would be far from accurate, however, as being an active technician in his own right, he ensures that the technicians on his team have access to industry-leading tools in their 10,000 square-foot production space.
“We use the PPG Aquabase paint line, a Spanesi Touch machine to measure vehicles, and several spot welders. I am also certified to repair air conditioners as well,” said Shamsher. Town Autobody is also a proud holder of I-CAR Gold Class certification, as well as a partner to Manitoba Public Insurance and the Manitoba Car and Truck Rental Association. For all the success the Winnipeg community has given Shamsher, his family and his business, he says he makes a point of returning the favour by contributing to several local charities, as well as by presenting the benefits of a life in the trades to students at nearby high schools, when the opportunity to do so arises.
Shamsher’s trajectory in this industry is highly unique and nothing short of admirable. Honestly, how many people do you know who immigrated to a new country, graduated high school and opened up their own body shop in the span of less than ten years? “It is because of my family’s support,” he said. “That’s why we are here right now.” For Shamsher, it really is as simple as that. In the same way that his father supported him and his brother in opening Town Autobody, Shamsher supports the technicians under him who are developing their skills, giving them opportunities to grow as tradespeople in a truly collaborative, family-oriented business environment. Should you find yourself in Winnipeg and in need of body repair, or in desire of an industry colleague to pick your brain, you can rest easy knowing that there is at least one shop in town where the owner can deliver.