Marcus Newman proves that ideas beat age in collision repair
Story by MAX REID
As we all surely learned from a popular TV ad campaign about taco shells, sometimes we need to look to our young people for the solutions that may go unseen by aged eyes.
Consider the little girl who first thwarted the binary choice between a soft- or hard-shell taco; so too does Capital Collision of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland cast off the chains of age prejudice and embrace a manager possessive of a rare combination of youth and experience.
Twenty-six-year-old Marcus Newman has only been in the collision repair game for about six years, but the wealth of industry knowledge and technical acumen he has under his belt would make even the most seasoned bodyshop foreman jealous.
In fact, under the young professional’s leadership, Capital Collision was recognized as Consolidated Collision Services’ (CCS) shop of the year, at the banner’s conference this past fall.
There were no tricks or special favours involved in this rapid stream of success— just a natural sense for efficiency and a hell of a lot of legwork.
When he got his start in the collision department of the local Mount Pearl dealer group back in 2017, Marcus hit the ground running as an entry-level apprentice and seemed to be set on an upward trajectory from there.
Eventually proving himself a highly capable technician around Capital, being one of the few on staff selected to pursue BMW certification, Marcus’ responsibilities began to expand alongside new opportunities for growth, such as in the estimating department.
“I was doing estimates, but I was also acting as the shop foreman, overseeing everything on the floor,” said Marcus. As his toolkit of technical skills grew, so too did his knowledge of the industry at large—and with a sudden change of leadership hitting the collision centre around the peak of the second COVID-19 lockdown in 2021—Marcus decided to throw his hat into the ring.
“I put it out there that I could do it,” he said. “I made it my goal to show that I could do it and that age shouldn’t really be a factor.” And luckily for him, his age really wasn’t a factor. Marcus says he is privileged to work with a team of technicians that he has trained alongside for his entire career.
The thought of some 26-year-old calling the shots for a stable full of seasoned Newfie body techs may cause some managers out there to scoff, but Marcus quickly proved he had a plan to get Capital back on its feet after a particularly rough lockdown period.
And if there was any doubt, his team had his back every step of the way.
“At the time when I took over, we had some structure in place, but we also had some issues with our insurance partners and relationships that had to be mended,” he said, alluding to some administrative changes made to the Capital Collision business over the course of his rise to management.
So, Marcus hit the bricks and started reaching out to all of Capital’s industry contacts, in the hopes of pulling in some consistent repair work and learning along the way how to back his grand plans with positive results.
“We put in place a couple of things, like keeping on top of vendor managers and trying to be open in showing our data and that things are on the mend. Your customer feedback, CSI scores—all that stuff plays a big role in that kind of decision from the insurance companies,” he said.
“You kind of have to go knocking on doors a little bit when you’re not already in with some of these people.” Knock and eventually you shall be let in, it turns out, as Capital Collision has since secured repair agreements with Intact and Aviva, which Marcus says was “definitely something we needed to help get back on our feet.”
Since then, Marcus and Capital have been on the slow and steady path toward modernizing the business, putting in place top-of-the-line estimating and calibrating software, measuring systems, and integrating Axalta Cromex Pro as a primary paint system. Additionally, Capital Collision’s 1,300 square metres (14,000 sq. ft.) production space features three prep stations, three paint booths and a full suite of Car-O-Liner welders.
The shop has completed the BMW and Mini Body and Paint Training Program, is a member of the Ford National Body Shop Network, and has certifications from numerous other major OEMs, including Hyundai, Genesis, Infinity, Subaru, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Nissan and Kia. While the last few years have put strain on the ability of many collision repair facilities to draw new technicians, Marcus is proud to report that Capital Collision currently has four apprentices working the floor, three of whom are first year apprentices, while the fourth is in their third year and on track to achieve journeyman and Red Seal status.
Some managers reading this may have just had a small heart palpitation at the thought of having not one, but four relatively green technicians working the production floor, but having been one not so long ago himself, Marcus understands the value of investing in his team’s skills early. “I’ve been leaning on them more as we’ve been getting busier and they have been doing really well,” he said.
“Efficiencies tend to struggle a little because of that, but I feel that in the long run what they are gaining in knowledge will benefit all of us—that way they won’t have to rely on the experienced techs for help.”
It is this sort of attention to quality and perseverance that Marcus attributes the centre’s recent shop of the year award win to, as he admits that Capital is by no means the biggest or most profitable shop in the area. What really impressed CCS enough to recognize Capital, was Marcus’ ability to pull the business from the brink and put what was once a repair centre in between networks, and during a pandemic, back on the radar and into good standing with the Mount Pearl community.
“We had a lot of work to do,” said Marcus. “They saw all the numbers and all the strides we had to take to progress over the last couple of years.”
If there is a lesson that could be taken from Marcus’ story, it is that when conventional wisdom is failing you—challenge it. Seek out new voices and new perspectives from within your team and you may find solutions to problems you didn’t even know you had. There are no awards for the most cynical shop manager, so there’s no sense competing for that. Why not try to be an open and collaborative manager and see where that gets you.