Painters Collision Centers' Queen Creek, AZ, location.

In January, prolific industry veteran Jim Huard sold his latest successful venture, Painters Collision Centers, to Classic Collision. This exit caps off more than four decades of entrepreneurial accomplishments for Jim, who has led the start-up, growth and sale of several high-performing collision repair businesses across the U.S. Painters was represented in the transaction by Focus Advisors.

Jim started his collision career at 15 by working in his family’s shop in Whittier, CA. In 1978, his dad’s shop partnered with Allstate in the nation’s first-ever DRP. In the first of what would become many turnarounds, Jim was able to successfully transition his family’s business to a computerized system allowing them to maintain their high level of volume. This experience prepared Jim for a lifetime of guiding shops through complex changes and rapid growth.

After relocating to Portland, OR, for a general manager role at the age of 26, Jim was instrumental in the growth of two independents. Jim earned a partnership in the second independent, which he grew from about $270,000 per month to more than $800,000 per month. This location was then sold to Kadel’s Auto Body. Jim was retained as an operations manager, and assisted in its growth. In Jim's words, Toby Wiltse, owner of Kadel’s, is an entrepreneurial genius. This is where Jim decided what he wanted to be, following Toby’s footsteps on a smaller scale.

Ten years later, Jim brought his proven leadership and operational expertise to help expand MSOs in Southern California. Joining Caliber Collision first as a regional general manager, Jim later became its “turnaround specialist," spending nine years reorganizing dozens of shops in San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles. He was instrumental in helping grow Caliber’s footprint from 75 to 500 stores. He characterizes it as one of the most fun times of his career.

He then joined industry pioneer Erick Bickett at Fix Auto ACAB Automotive Group. As vice president of operations for Auto Center Auto Body (ACAB), Jim was solely responsible for the operations and financial growth of the Bickett MSO within the Fix Auto group, and he assisted in the growth of Fix Auto USA as well. Jim quickly earned an equity stake in the Bickett MSO and became an owner partner.

Jim met his future wife, Kelly, with whom he shared a mutual entrepreneurial vision and strong work ethic. With a long career in financial services from real estate underwriting to controller and CFO. Kelly deeply understood the organizational and financial structure required for starting and operating businesses. After the sale of ACAB and Fix Auto, also represented by Focus Advisors, Kelly wrote Jim a three-page letter encouraging him to start a collision business in Arizona.

In January 2021, at the age of 53, Jim started Painters Collision Centers in the Phoenix market with Kelly as his business partner. Their strategy was to acquire struggling shops with great potential. Their paint reps helped them identify the right acquisition targets. Jim and Kelly would quickly close on these targets and then implement their integration plans.

They started Painters in January 2021 by acquiring a location in Queen Creek, followed by their Chandler store in March 2022. In January 2023, they opened a dedicated ADAS facility and three months later, they bought their third shop in Apache Junction. With Kelly handling the back office and Jim directing shop operations, the Huards grew Painters to three locations with more than 100 employees -- all within the span of two years. They made each acquisition cash flow positive within 30 days.

“What Jim has been able to repeatedly accomplish across so many different shops and markets over four decades is just incredible," said Chris Lane, partner at Focus Advisors. "He is unmatched in his consistent ability to transform underperforming collision shops. The MSO that the Huards built in Arizona was one of the highest performing MSOs I’ve ever seen.”

In just 36 months, Jim and Kelly achieved their original goal of creating a high-performance three-shop MSO in Phoenix. With their reputation and exceptional financial performance, they drew substantial interest from many top consolidators. Focus Advisors guided them through the sales process with Classic Collision, allowing the Huards to exit their latest success story on excellent financial terms in January.

“I can proudly say that I’ve played a key role in positively shaping hundreds of collision centers over my career. Though it’s extremely gratifying to build successful businesses like Painters, I’m just as passionate about developing people and making this industry better,” said Jim. “I still have the fire in my belly to take on new entrepreneurial pursuits. With Kelly’s partnership, I’m confident there are still plenty of innovative pursuits for us yet to come.”

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