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Profitable Autodex set for AM50 top three

Company details
Name: Autodex Established: 1967 Turnover: £16m No of sites: Eight No of staff: 350 Throughput: 20,000 cars

Richard Fagan, managing director of Autodex, wants to add at least two sites to his eight-bodyshop business this year. This would move it into the AM50 top three.

Fagan says: “We are in realistic talks with three at the moment and we plan to acquire in the first, second and third quarters.”

The business, started by his father in 1969, employs 350 staff in Southall, Uxbridge, Rickmansworth, Aldershot, Slough and Reading.

“We feel we have a successful business model and there are many good sites available. We plan to grow in our existing area and around the M25,” Fagan says.

“The challenge is finding commitment and support from work providers; it has to be supported by insurance companies.”

The majority of work carried out at Autodex is insurer directed (65%), with about a quarter from carmakers and 10% from non-contracted work.

Its three largest insurer providers are Hastings, Zurich and Motorcare, while carmaker clients include Peugeot, Renault, Nissan, Mazda and Ford. Fagan uses a lean and efficient trading model that relies on Autodex keeping commercial and supply-chain control. “We must help manage the supply chain for it to be a successful relationship,” says Fagan. “Many insurers outsource and then remotely micromanage the repair process, but this doesn’t always make sense.

“There are many large bodyshops out there that are good at managing the supply chain, and the benefits of cost and service are then shared with the insurer.”

Though other bodyshops have complained of payment issues in the past, Fagan says he has avoided such problems by working only with suppliers with whom he has a good relationship. “Historically we have not targeted the Norwich Unions and RBSs,” he says.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# Turnover target of £19.5m

Ricky Fagan, father of Richard, founded Autodex as a Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist accident repair centre in Greenford. The business outgrew this site quickly and in 1971 moved to a larger site in Solihull, which is still owned by the company today.

Over the last 10 years, turnover has increased by £10m to just under £16m in 2006. This year the target is £19.5m, which incorporates the planned acquisitions.

Fagan says the key is customer and staff satisfaction levels. “We measure our customer perception by the service we provide,” he says.

“We use our own internal aspirations as our referral point, our standard is ‘are we happy with what we’ve done?’.”

Fagan adds: “Customers are more sophisticated than 10 years ago. The internet has made everyone an expert. We are constantly challenging ourselves to improve – we have to show customers that we are better than the alternatives.”

Having worked his way up through the ranks after joining Autodex in 1990, becoming MD in 1995, Fagan ensures profits are reinvested in staff and facilities.

He has introduced structured appraisals, while training and apprenticeship programmes are important. Some staff are recruited using agencies but Fagan says that the majority of key employees in senior positions have worked their way through the business.

“They come to us semi-skilled and we develop them,” he says. “They understand the business and what we’re trying to deliver. We try to retain as much staff as possible.

“Failing bodyshops don’t have bad staff, they have bad management.”

#AM_ART_SPLIT# Consistency is key

No matter which Autodex site a customer attends, it is the company’s mission to ensure the service is consistent in terms of customer service and quality of repair.

“This is very important to us,” says Fagan. “We could grow the business faster than we are, but we always strive to make sure the sites are replicated in quality.

“Otherwise we are not a multi-site company, but just a collection of bodyshops,” he adds.

Working for a better industry

Fagan has been involved in the ABP steering group for the PAS 125, which helped write the standard requirements bodyshops must meet when seeking accreditation.

He believes the PAS 125 should be the minimum standard for any insurer to look for in a bodyshop. “If the PAS 125 receives enough support from insurers then it will become the benchmark for the industry by default,” he says.

So far, three bodyshops have received the BSI Kitemark, with others going through it now. A number of insurance companies including RBS, Chaucer, Esure and Fortis have also expressed their backing of the scheme.

“We hope to have all our bodyshops approved as soon as possible. The target is to have them all done by the end of 2007,” concludes Fagan.

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