Autobody News reached out to Perretta, an active industry player in the collision repair industry, who started Professionals Auto Body in 1979 and now has two locations in Duncanville and Altoona.
Q: Congratulations on receiving this great honor. What was your reaction when you received the award?
A: I was very surprised, emotional and happy — it was a mix of feelings. When you’re at a function like that, you’re there to see others being presented with their awards. Then you hear your own name being mentioned for the highest award given. Instantly, dozens of things went through my mind as I was on my way to the podium to accept the award and give a short speech.
Q: Can you share with other body shop owners what you think it takes to run a successful business?
A: When I started my business at the age of 19, I was adamant that I would only do business with all the traits instilled in me from a very young age — values, ethics and morals — the things missing in the way many companies do business. These are the things that I’ve built my business on.
Another trait that I think is very important in a successful business is not being self-serving. I believe in God and care about my family, customers, my staff and my community before myself and because I’ve done that, the things I need to operate my businesses and personal life have come back to me threefold. Being hypocritical will cost you at some point!
Most businesses, including body shops, only think about sailing or producing their product on a daily basis. One of the most important items that’s overlooked until it’s too late is understanding and knowing their numbers and financial health. They run from day-to-day hoping to get to the finish line and never getting close. They rely on the wrong people; they have become reliant on people that don’t care about them.
Most importantly and the advantage I have starting my business at the age of 19, I have the wisdom to understand how to build a great culture, I don’t just talk about it and teach it, I live it every day and have for all of my career. Continuing to work on the culture to me is what will bring my businesses to heights others can only wish for.
Q: What changes have you seen over the years?
A: The negative changes I’ve seen, and maybe I’m getting older and noticing it more, but I see corruption all over from the lowest to the highest levels. I see the self-serving people, companies and people I do business with daily, people I’ve known for years go down the wrong path. It’s frustrating and I wonder how people sleep at night.
It’s getting more difficult to run a business and repair todays vehicles. People are going to have to be more focused than in the past, along with the products they produce and the level of service they provide. Very few can and will be able to do it. I’m so ready for the next chapter in my career; it’s so exciting.
The other great change I’ve seen is the techie stuff being put in today’s cars. I love it and I have the equipment and people that can diagnose and repair these new, fun products drivers are experiencing.
Q: In addition to running your two body shop locations, what other businesses do you own?
A: I’ve run a consulting and coaching business since (2000) I work with only the people who want to understand how to operate their business at a higher level and I coach them to grow and be independent. I help shops be reliant on themselves, consumers and their staff — you don’t need much more. I often say I wish I would have had someone with my knowledge, passion and wisdom to guide me when I was learning the business.
Today, I provide that to businesses all over the country and into Canada. We have five people working on that side of things. We also have incorporated a spin-off business within the consulting business, a production company. We built a studio for production, radio, TV, print ads and pod casts. In most cases, we can produce an ad at a fraction of the cost as most and at a much higher level than most. I must admit there are production companies doing it much better at five or six times the cost. We tailor to most anyone, not just the businesses with the bigger advertising budgets.
I also operate a full mechanical facility and just finished a $500,000 expansion. We have to take care of our customers and subletting to outside entities aren’t an option. They don’t care about our customers. I must say the facility is beautiful!
In addition, we opened a glass company. It’s young but growing fast. I see many opportunities ahead and we’ve just started tapping into them.
I started a towing company (1995), which is another area of great opportunity. However, it’s more difficult than running most businesses. Some would see that as a bad thing. I see it as a challenge. Towing is only part of what we do. We grew this business 33% last year over the previous year thinking outside the box.
Q: Can you tell us about your involvement with other industry initiatives?
A: Other initiatives would involve helping to change the industry. Recently I’ve brought it back to my state, Pennsylvania. Dealing with legislators locally and around the country has been challenging. This is an area I will be focused on more this year. Being involved with those who sit in the seats that are making decisions needs to be done and I want to help in this area more.
We will be challenging the laws of Pennsylvania very soon!
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
A: I have seen the confidence people have in themselves in this industry take a terrible nose dive; it’s self-inflicted. No one is going to change that for you. As an industry, if you want things to change, it’s up to you only. If you want it to get better, start doing things differently. Trying to be like the shop down the street is a bad thing. Be influenced by great businesses not your paint company, the insurance company the good talkers, or anyone else that’s possibly using you rather than helping you. Be your own!
Ron Perretta at Professionals Auto Body can be reached at email@example.com or 814-931-7669.