Starting as an estimator many years ago, Joe Morella, now CEO of Puget Collision, would have never pictured the path he has taken in the collision repair industry to become the owner of more than 50 CARSTAR and Fix Auto USA locations in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California.
Through his education in business administration partnered with his longstanding industry experience ranging from estimator to operations manager and regional VP, Morella was able to build a career in collision repair. In 2022, Puget Collision became a part of the CARSTAR and Fix Auto USA franchise family with the purchase of 18 locations, and has since expanded the Puget Collision MSO group to become a dynamo in the Northwest.
Puget Collision’s most recent acquisitions included four CARSTAR locations in Colorado and 10 Auto Center Auto Body locations in California. For the Auto Center Auto Body locations, facilities that are part of the larger Fix Auto USA network, this was a coming home story for the brand, as these founding locations moved to the hands of another owner-operator.
“Erik Bickett, co-founder of Fix Auto USA, owned and operated these 10 locations and I’m honored to continue on his legacy with these stellar facilities,” said Morella. “I take great pride in building a family within my business and with each new store that becomes a part of the Puget network, we welcome all of the employees with open arms.”
Through his time in the collision repair industry, Morella has always operated his stores under one motto: people first. This vision holds true today as Puget Collision has built its brand by creating engaged and empowered teams dedicated to a culture of trust and collaboration. Without this mission in place, Puget Collision would not have the commitment and backing from all the employees to allow continued growth.
“From early on in my career, I saw what building a great culture can really do for a business. This shaped my outlook on becoming a leader and made me rethink the steps I wanted to take to push my business forward,” said Morella. “I knew that I wanted Puget Collision to grow, but I knew I wouldn’t be successful without a tremendous foundation of employees. The team we have in place today has brought me so much pride and have been the building blocks in our growth.”
New ownership can be difficult for the existing team members at a repair facility, but Morella’s leadership style, mission and vision have been the sole cure to keeping employees at ease through what can be a scary transition.
As an example, CARSTAR Ballard Collision, one of the first stores to join the Puget Collision brand, currently has all technicians and painters still on board as employees due to the sense of family built under the old leadership but maintained by Morella.
“After my father retired from owning our CARSTAR location, we were missing a true leader,” said Jay Middleton, general manager, CARSTAR Ballard Collision. “And then came Joe. Joe is exactly what the facility and I needed as a leader. He gives us a focus while helping us to find other areas to improve personally and professionally. Most importantly, he is present and easily accessible whenever we may need.”
“We want to grow with the right operators and Joe’s values rooted in people but fueled by a growth mindset are exactly what we look for in our collision family,” said Damien Reyna, COO, U.S. collision group, Driven Brands. “His dedication not only to his craft, but also to his people is unmatched and it shows through the culture and growth Puget Collision has achieved so far. I am thrilled to have Joe and his teams in our network and am anxious to see what new heights they reach in 2024!”