Across all 3 locations the business has 60 employees, sees an average of 350 cars per month and grosses about $9 million annually. The business has about a dozen DRP contracts, some for nearly 20 years. The Santa Monica shop encompasses 16,000 square-feet, the Los Angeles shop is 21,000 and the El Segundo location is 32,000. All 3 locations are also I-CAR Gold Certified.
“We all try to run it as one, with a uniform approach” said Kirk, “My father and uncle are also still involved in the business; they’ve been around a long time so there are things that they add in a consulting manner that are priceless.”
The family all works together for the common good of the business by spreading themselves out among the three locations and meeting weekly to ensure unity.
“While our body shop family continues to grow, most people have been here a decade plus,” said Ross.
“We have very low turnover when it comes to our employees,” said Kirk.
Painter Sam Share, who is now in his eighties and started his employment from day one at LeMans, still comes in and helps out the painters in Santa Monica. He was head painter at LeMans for over 35 years, and now he still comes in to assist the paint department. His apprentice Oscar Flores took over 23 years ago and is still going strong, training his oldest son Eddie to take over paint production, while his youngest son Mario is now part of the office management team.
With 3 fully-functional locations the business can load level work and employees across the locations to even workloads and fill personnel gaps. The business keeps all of their digital information and bookkeeping on a cloud service. This way any information needed at one business can be pulled up easily at another. Recently their estimating system provider, CCC One, has also moved to a cloud format and with that all three shops can view each other’s estimates and performance from their respective offices.
LeMans has used PPG paints for the last 20 years—after changing to their Envirobase waterborne products about 6 years ago, Kirk says he couldn’t be happier.
“Everyone was afraid in the beginning that the colors wouldn’t come out right, etcetera, but we’ve had very little issue with using waterborne,” said Kirk.
According to Kirk, David Grande with PPG and Jim Williams from FinishMaster really educated him on waterborne technologies and advised him during LeMans’ switch in 2007. Kirk said it only took about a month to 6 weeks for his painters to get used to spraying waterborne and with the constant technical support and excellent service provided by PPG and FinishMaster he was able to stay focused on the front office instead of the paint production during the transition.
“We’ve enjoyed a great partnership with LeMans, and look forward to it continuing in the long term,” said David.
Kirk says their paint preparation process is also more important with waterborne than with solvent.
“A better quality prep is required with waterborne than with solvent,” said David. According to David waterborne is a thinner product and it won’t fill any small sand scratches like solvent. So more attention to the prep process helps to deter this, while the actual spraying process is basically the same.
Kirk also says the high cost of changing to waterborne is “a bit overblown.” At his shop, he said there wasn’t a whole lot of cost associated with making the change and he didn’t have to change everything about his paint area like some companies are suggesting. For his shop, he said he gave all the spray booths a deep cleaning and added additional fans to increase air movement. This helps combat waterborne’s longer base coat dry times. PPG has also been modifying their top coats to increase production.
Kirk also says he can’t wait for waterborne clear coats to come out to complete the process, because he thinks it will cut down a lot on the paint fume smell, which will really benefit shops in densely populated areas like their locations.
“It’s just about adapting to changes in the industry,” said Kirk, “My advice to shops making the switch to waterborne; don’t fear it—embrace the change and move on to the next challenge.”
PPG also guarantees LeMans paint work because their techs are PPG certified. Kirk says this is a nice safety net for the businesses and reinforces LeMans’ decision to use PPG products exclusively.
David said that PPG backs LeMans’ lifetime warranty on their paint jobs, which backs the overall paint job against all issues. Basically, if there is a product failure issue on a job done at LeMans, PPG will assist in getting the vehicle redone.
LeMans’ next step in their expansion will be a mechanical facility, slated to open in 2013.
“We’re trying to encompass all aspects of the collision repair and provide our customers with a one-stop full auto care experience,” said Kirk, “We also want to reduce cycle time by controlling more aspects of the repair.”
Ross’s attitude from a marketing stand point is once you capture a customer you want to retain as much work from them as possible.
Kirk says the fact that they have been able to remain family owned and operated for 53 years is a big feat; the group has done this by finding each person’s niche and letting them take on that role so no one butt’s heads. By finding where each person is strongest they have been able to work together with minimal conflict.
The fourth generation of Beetleys is coming out of their teen years and are beginning to learn the business; Kirk says he is excited to see the new ideas and energy that they will bring to the table.
“We have great managers and shop personnel,” said Kirk, “We are blessed to have found such great, experienced people and we do our best to promote a family atmosphere with mutual respect.”
Kirk also attributes a lot of the business’s staying power to their adaptability.
“We’re adaptable, unlike a lot of the businesses that have been around as long as we have,” said Kirk, “We’re not stuck in our ways, we embrace the industry changes as they come.” But Kirk says a lot of times with industry changes it’s best to do your homework.
“You’ve got to be patient,” said Kirk. “Everyone is out to invent or reinvent the next best tool or business practice! We need to focus on our strengths and what has worked for us, keeping an open mind and an eye on our competition.”
LeMans is also known for their ability to deliver top-notch customer service for a competitive price.
“We’re not the highest priced in town—but we’re definitely higher in service than most,” said Kirk.
For more information please visit www.lemansbody.com.
LeMans Santa Monica
2107 Lincoln Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405
LeMans Los Angeles
3040 S. Robertson Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
LeMans El Segundo
200 Nevada Street
El Segundo, CA 90245