“I’ve worked with quite a few great suppliers and vendors over the years,” Haney, Jr. said. “If you can identify the best products and build an ongoing relationship with these companies, you can get an advantage in this industry. I’ve been very fortunate to be associated with companies like Chief. Without the proper equipment, you won’t survive long in this business.”
21st Century is a busy collision repair facility, but it’s not just a “body shop”, according to Haney, Jr. “I don’t like to call us a body shop, because we do so much more. In these times, with the technology we have, the industry has changed and body shop just doesn’t describe what we’re doing to get these cars back to pre-existing condition.”
21st Century Collision fixes approximately 250 vehicles monthly, Haney Jr. said. The business operates out of a 20,000-square-foot shop and employs 23-25 people. When the weather turns nasty, 21st Century sees a spike in business, when huge hailstones rain on the area.
“The storms are good for us, but we don’t like them, does that make sense? It’s not the type of work we like to do. It’s all hoods and roofs and fixing dents. I’d rather fix cars--I hate the bad weather. Our biggest thrill is getting a car in here that is totally destroyed but still fixable, and then returning it to 100% it original condition. That’s what we live for, but the storm work isn’t like that, to be honest.”
Haney, Jr. learned the collision business working for his late father, a life-timer in the collision industry who often imparted his vast knowledge about this industry to all of his three sons, he said.
“My dad taught us this business inside and out. He was a body man and a paint guy all his life. I learned a ton working by his side for more than two decades. Some of the best things he said were basic advice, but he was right on. He said ‘never get sleazy’ and ‘it’s not a problem, it’s a situation.’”
In 1988, Haney, Jr. left the family business, Flair Body Shop, and ventured out on his own to work for a Dodge dealership in Oklahoma City, he said. It was a great learning experience, because he got a chance to run a busy collision repair facility at the dealership level for nearly a decade, he said.
“It was a great job, because I was able to learn the business from a different angle.” Haney, Jr. said. “Working in a dealership environment helped me to realize some important things—how to motivate people and assemble a team. It was a useful experience because it showed me how it’s done in a different setting. Fixing cars is the same, but running a large crew gave me some invaluable experience. In the end, customer service and doing quality work is the most important thing, regardless of whether you’re running an independent shop or working for a big dealership’s shop.”
In his many years running collision repair businesses of different sizes, Haney, Jr. has owned more than 20 Chief Automotive pieces of varied equipment. “I was introduced to Chief in the mid-‘70s and I’ve never had a bad experience with their equipment. We’ve never had a safety issue and their support is world-class. Every time I see one of their reps at NACE, they remember us. Their people keep in touch with us and they’re an important part of why we buy from Chief.”
Haney, Jr. describes his Chief equipment as ‘virtually indestructible.’ “When it comes to any piece of equipment, my main concern is quality, for obvious reasons. My techs can’t break the Chief equipment and that’s the key. I want to buy something and then never worry about it again, and Chief is that way. In 2008 at NACE, I bought their newest machine. We spent a significant amount of money updating our equipment, in order to stay with the times and take advantage of the newest technology.”
Haney, Jr. currently owns three Chief racks: An Excalibur, a Fuzion with a hopper and an F21 EZ Liner, his newest addition to his Chief team. In addition, his shop features three computer measuring machines, two Velocities and one Vector. He also owns a Stingray Welding System manufactured by Chief.
“Chief has done an unbelievable job for us," Haney, Jr. said. “The support we’ve received from our distributors--the people at English Color & Supply--has been tremendous. They’re right here in town and if we need them, they’re here. The deal is—they don’t have to come down here much to service these machines, because they don’t break down.”
If you’re not familiar with Chief Automotive, it’s a brand of the Vehicle Service Group which is a subsidiary of the Dover Corporation – a Fortune 500 company, according to the company’s Web site. “That gives us the financial strength and stability we need to give our customers long-term service while continually developing innovative products and technologies,” their mission statement outlines.
Haney, Jr. likes the speed and accuracy offered by his computerized measuring systems. “We put the vehicle information in the system and it tells us the measurements instantly. It’s dead-on accurate every time and it’s very easy to operate. We rely on those machines every day, so we need them to work perfectly every time, or we’re in trouble.”
English Color’s Equipment Sales Manager for Oklahoma and Arkansas, Alan Vinyard, is Haney, Jr.’s rep for Chief and respects the way he runs his operation. “Lee must be doing something right, because he’s one of the busiest shops in town. He’s always looking to get the best and newest equipment he can find—including his paint booth, his lifts and everything in between. He knows Chief after many years working with their products, so we don’t need to sell him about the brand.”
The collision repair business isn’t easy, but after all these years out on the front lines, Haney, Jr. can’t encounter anything that will rattle him, he said. “It’s a great business for young people to get in, but it’s tough in many ways. I tell people owning a collision facility has tested me more than once, but I’ll never go postal.”
What has been the main reason for keeping 21st Century busy during a tough economic period? “The economy has changed, but we’re still fixing cars the only way we know. Things are a little leaner and money is a little tighter everywhere, but quality is always the most important thing and we won’t ever compromise that.”
21st Century Collision
6501 West Reno Avenue
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73127