Friday, 30 April 2004 17:00

When a great idea collides with expertise and know-how!

Written by Janet Chaney
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When you're in Las Vegas for NACE this coming November, look out your hotel window at the Mandalay Bay and across the freeway you'll see a big red sign: "Body Shop." That would be Falconi's, the most visible leg of the Vegas auto body triumvirate known as the Auto Body Group (ABG). Formed in 1991, ABG consists of Green Valley Collision Center, Speed-way Truck and Paint, and Falconi's. 

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Falls
Described by President William R. "Bill" Falls as "the union of three highly regarded collision repair centers," each facility specializes in different makes of vehicles, but "all are expert in the repair of every make and model.... It's what you get when a great idea collides with expertise and know-how!"
Falls began his automotive career washing cars in a body shop in Florida during high school. He served in the Air Force, then rented some floor space and started fixing cars. After moving to Las Vegas, he hooked up with Angelo Falconi, a Las Vegas Acura dealer, beginning the collision repair empire that eventually became ABG.
 

Michael Spears, now president of Green Valley Collision Center and partner in ABG, joined up with Bill Falls at Falconi's in 1991. Falconi's specializes in the repair of Japanese manufacturers such as Acura, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota, Isuzu, Lexus and Infiniti.

Spears hails from the oil fields of Texas, where his late father worked as a driller. He attributes his strong moral and ethical fiber to his father's influence. Spears acquired his background in collision repair by studying auto body repair during his junior and senior years in high school. Coincidentally, his first job in the industry was washing cars - just like Falls.

Falconi's Collision Center
 
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Falconi's Acura-Honda Collision Center is visible across the interstate from the Las Vegas strip.

Falls and Spears have a tremendous amount of respect for one another and work well as a team, as evidenced by the success of their partnership. When Spears joined up with Falls at Falconi's, the shop was turning about $275,000 per year. By 1999, the successful team grew sales to a stunning $725,000 a month.

A future woman partner

Another key to Falconi's success is 32- year-old Vickie Dessaints, the shop manager and future partner. This petite mother of two started in the collision repair business through a family friend. She has been with Bill Falls at Falconi's for seven years - exemplifying another strong relationship.

Dessaints is a certified welder and has all her I-CAR and ASE certificates on the wall. More than that, she has the industry 'savvy' which enables her to think on her feet and keep over $700,000 a month in collision repair moving in and out the door. The Mitchell ABS management system gives her the reports required to benchmark and monitor key performance indicators. She says that leads to increased business. "Farmers, for instance, likes to do business with us because we give them better cycle time and they know our quality is good," said Dessaints.
 

Next up: Green Valley

With Falconi's rolling along, the duo decided to partner and build a new collision center from the ground up - Green Valley Collision Center, located near an auto mall in the Las Vegas suburb of Green Valley.

At a Glance 

Auto Body Group comprised of:

Falconi's Acura-Honda Collision Center
5935 S. Polaris Avenue
Las Vegas NV 89118
(702) 597-05723
 
Green Valley Collision Center
700 North Gibson Road
Henderson, Nevada 89074
(702) 450-4822
 
Speedway Truck & Paint Center
6825 Speedway Boulevard, Suite B-106
Las Vegas, Nevada 89115
(702) 651-0083
 
Owners: William R. Falls, President and Partner of Auto Body Group
Michael Spears, President of Green Valley Collision Center and partner in ABG
Established: July 1991
Size: Falconi's: 44,000 sq. ft.; Green Valley: 41,000 sq. ft.; Speedway: 30,000 sq. ft.
Employees: Falconi's: 42; Green Valley: 31; Speedway: 8
Paint Department: Blowtherm Ultra Downdraft booths with the smart cure baking system. 7 paint booths total with one at 66' long. Blowtherm prep stations with 3 mixing rooms
Paint: Dupont Chromapremier & Standox
Frame Racks: Car-O-Liner bench racks and Car-O-Tronic computerized measuring
Alignment Racks: Hunter dsp 400 4 wheel alignment
Welding equipment: Pro-Spot and Miller
 

The Green Valley shop is easy to find. A 30-foot tall sign with big red letters declaring "Body Shop" marks the spot, just like the sign at Falconi's.

"People know what a body shop is," stated Spears. "The sign brings the old and new together."

Green Valley is the division of ABG that is geared toward the repair of SUVs, vans, small trucks and European imports. "At Green Valley," said Spears, "we are expert in the repair of Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes, Volvos and Volkswagens."

The office at Green Valley could be the foyer to a Las Vegas casino - dramatic tall ceilings, lots of windows, arched doorways and a beehive of activity. The only sound missing is the clinking of coins from a slot machine. Some of the design elements were taken from Falconi's, which also has arched doorways and a wide-open feel. In planning the offices, Spears built cardboard scale models of desks and other furniture to create the optimal layout.

At Green Valley, Spears' operates out of the main office - no closed door here. He rolls up his sleeves and works shoulder- to-shoulder with his team.

Spears is the collision industry version of a renaissance man - he has a laid-back manner, yet drives an enormous amount of growth in this company. He is also the IT guy for all three businesses - he built the network and maintains all the technology, including the ABG web site.

Even with all this on his plate, Spears, with Falls support, spearheaded the effort to pass Nevada's new anti-steering legislation and organized the Nevada Collision Industry Association (NCIA). (See January 2004 ABN for story.)

Another cog in the wheel

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Speedway Truck and Paint has the elegant curb appeal that is Bill Falls' trademark.

Once Green Valley was up and running, Falls pursued another business opportunity - Speedway Truck and Paint. From palatial motorhomes to 18-wheelers, Speedway is the shop many choose to repair these specialty rigs. Speedway is the manufacturer's recommended facility for most of the luxury coaches.

The 66-foot Blowtherm paint booth was custom built for this shop to accommodate the larger vehicles. This facility also handles the fleet customers, including the U.S. Army. Nearby Nellis Air Force Base uses Speedway service their fleet of fuel tankers.

Las Vegas native Gordon Bailey brings 30 years of collision repair experience to ABG as manager of Speedway Truck and Paint. "It is a new experience, very interesting and a lot of fun. There is a big difference between a Honda hood and a Freightliner hood," he laughed. The newly- built ultra clean facility is a selling point to customers bringing in their high end coaches, some worth over a million dollars.

High-end customers feel comfortable leaving their vehicles at Speedway, in part due to its spotless condition, explained Bailey.

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Customer confidence is important, because the repair cycle on such vehicles can be long. "The luxury coaches are constructed very well," stated Bailey. "However, due to the fact that many contain custom crafted parts, there can be lengthy parts delays."

This 30,000 sq. ft. facility easily handles the luxury coaches and commercial vehicles with the ability to perform all the specialty repair requirements needed to offer this custom customer a guaranteed repair. They have done several coach front end repairs costing over $35,000.

With three facilities (soon to be four), ABG is able to benefit from the economies of scale. All the shops use Dupont Chromapremier and Standox. All the shops use Blowtherm Ultra Downdraft spray booths with the smart cure baking system. Each shop has a Blowtherm prep station as well.

Car-O-Liner equipment

Spears and Falls have a long history of success with Car-O-Liner frame equipment and all three facilities have chosen to rely on Car-O-Liner for their frame repair. The new Las Vegas distributor for Car-O-Liner is Robert Hornedo. Hornedo's first company, Pacific Collision Equipment, is located near Los Angeles and has been serving body shops in Southern California for over a decade. Hornedo recently opened the Car-O-Liner sales and service facility in Las Vegas.

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Spears recalls that he began working with Car-O-Liner in Texas in 1984. "I still remember the Car-O-Liner rep's name, Tim Curan," he reminisced, "and he was still with Car-O-Liner last year when I saw him at an industry event." The new shop being built by Falls and Spears will be exclusively Car-O-Liner also. "We will have at least two big benches (Car-O-Liner) and several speed racks," stated Spears.

Management system

ABG is also pleased with its use of Mitchell ABS Management. Spears gets the management numbers he needs to operate all the shops. All estimates were written on Mitchell's UltraMate until recently when Spears added CCC's Pathways. "The estimators like both systems," explained Spears, "but right now they use UltraMate more often because Pathways is still new to them.

Marketing strategy
Nevada assemblyman assumes PR role for Las Vegas Auto Body Group

By Janet Chaney

Nevada State Assemblyman Bob McCleary (Las Vegas District 11) comes to the Assembly with an automotive industry background. As parts manager for a large Las Vegas Toyota dealership, he earned the Toyota Excellence Award for Management. And his election was a real nail biter. He won his seat by the narrow margin of 11 votes over a six-term incumbent.

Active ImageAfter all the hard work and glory of victory - McCleary lost his job. The demands of the Nevada State Assembly precluded him from continuing to work full-time in the private sector.

While McCleary was running for the State Assembly, Spears was successfully lobbying along with Assemblywoman Vonne Chowning to pass Nevada AB 325 - the anti-steering bill. When McCleary explained his departure from Toyota to Michael Spears of the Auto Body Group - the two friends connected on a whole new level!

At this time, Spears and partner Bill Falls were growing their business at a fast pace. Spears was also very involved with the Nevada legislative process, spearheading the new Nevada Collision Industry Association. This symbiotic relationship epitomizes the situation "where two needs meet." The trust and respect from their previous business relationship was rock solid.
Assemblyman McCleary is now the Public Relations Officer for Auto Body Group, Las Vegas, as well as the executive director for the Nevada Collision Industry Association. This blends well with his civic responsibilities.

"Working with Michael and the Auto Body Group gives me the flexibility to attend legislative functions as well," explained McCleary.

McCleary is in his freshman term. Already, he is Vice-Chairman of Constitutional Amendments, serving also as a committee member in Government Affairs, Education, Elections and Procedures, and Natural Resources.

McCleary is married with four children. And what about his future plans?

"A mental illness is revealed," he laughed. "I want to stay in state politics!"

Assemblyman McCleary may be contacted at BmcCleary@asm.state.nv.us.

ABG has DRP relationships with State Farm, Csaa, Farmer's, Prudential, and Unitrin. ABG plans to maintain those arrangements "as long as the business runs smoothly and all parties benefit," said Falls. He reflected that, "DRPs were developed to expedite the repair process, but shop owners have changed that purpose. The shops need to get work in by their own means. Discount rates and discount parts are damaging the industry."

Marketing know how

ABG knows the value of marketing its services. The staff includes Bob McCleary as public relations director and Hal Crecy as marketing diretor. McCleary is also an elected official, serving as a Nevada Assemblyman. Before joining ABG threee years ago, Crecy was the top sales associate for Honda in Nevada for nine years. Crecy writes and publishes an informative monthly industry newsletter when he is not out calling on agents and claims offices.

Still growing

The dynamic duo of Falls and Spears is not through growing. Permits are presently being secured for a July groundbreaking for the newest addition to ABG. A 38,000 sq. ft. facility is scheduled to be completed by November 2004. It will be located in a brand new auto mall in Las Vegas where the flagship dealer group will be Chrysler. They will be replicating all equipment and products that are serving them successfully in the other locations. They also plan on replicating the business philosophy that has worked so well for them: Treating employees, customers and colleagues with dignity and respect.

 

 

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