A devastating fire on Labour Day last year has given Hamilton’s foremost auto electrician an opportunity to reinvent itself into something bigger and better.
The fire at AH Franks Tyre and Auto in October destroyed the Anglesea St building while neighbour Collins Auto Electrical’s premises could no longer be occupied.
Six months later a bigger, better Collins Automotive Technicians – a one stop shop for auto electrical, mechanical and tyre services is operating from a bright, spacious new premises in Quentin Drive, off Kahikatea Dr.
Collins Automotive Technicians owner, Jason Land acknowledges it has been a challenging journey since the fire but he is thrilled with the outcome.
Incredibly, his business was only out of action for a week as he leaned heavily on the support of some friends who provided accommodation and storage space.
“Luckily a couple of good mates of mine helped out,” he recalls.
Collins moved into some space at Panorama Motorsport headquarters in Duke St, when good friend Derek Lovegrove instantly moved the race car operation out to offer Jason and his Collins team a place from which to operate. Jason believes this was probably the difference in making it through the tough time, being able to get operational so quickly, even if it was in a limited capacity.
“We moved in there from a 950sqm space to 85sqm. That was a challenge with six guys trying to operate out of there. But we got through it; they are a good team and they all knuckled down.”
Meanwhile, another friend Glen Collinson at PJ’s Panel & Paint in Grasslands Place provided storage space while Jason began looking for other sites.
The Quentin Drive site was perfect except for the size of the tenancies on offer.
“One tenancy wasn’t big enough, two was too big. We started looking at what we could add to complement our business to justify the extra space.”
One stop shop
Jason bought Commerce St business Automotive Technicians and combined with AH Franks in a merger like arrangement to create the new entity under the name Collins Automotive Technicians. The business now offers a complete automotive solution undertaking all mechanical servicing and repair work, auto electrical and air conditioning as well as providing comprehensive tyre and wheel alignment services. Former AH Franks owner, Jim Nolen and Automotive Technicians owner, Todd Brenssell are part of the team which has increased from seven to 15.
Jason says the new business builds on the outstanding reputation of Collins’ Auto Electrical which he has owned since 2011.
“We offer the high end of professionalism and accuracy, we get it right first time. It’s your ultimate one stop shop and the name you can trust.
“We like to think we are super good at what we do. Collins has been the go to place for years. We have built up that reputation. We have always marketed ourselves as the benchmark in diagnostic service, we will find out what’s wrong when others can’t – now that carries through with the mechanical work too.”
Jason says the industry is so technically challenging these days that it makes sense to invest in the latest technology which is often out of the reach of small businesses.
Also there is a natural overlap between all three businesses.
“Many times as an auto electrician we would outwork jobs to mechanics and vice versa. There is an overlap there often anyway. To have it all in one room and to have a team that gets on so well is a great dynamic, it just makes it easy.”
The three established businesses have loyal clienteles while Jason is finding new customers are discovering their Quentin Drive site every day.
“It’s nice and clean and light and spacious. We were wanting that new dealership look and that’s what it offers. Customers deserve a nice environment. Some garages can be quite intimidating when they are dirty and dingy.”
“Time is precious and convenience is important. With us, there’s only one place to go; customers can drop the car off on the way to work and they don’t have to take their car to three different places.”
Great culture and can do attitude
Jason is thrilled with the way the team has combined.
“We have a really good culture at Collins. The staff know what customers want and they work back from there and do a great job without mistakes.”
He says the attractive building and new high-end equipment and the fact that it is “a cool workplace” seem to encourage staff to go that little bit further.
Jason says he was initially cautious about moving outside the CBD which has been good to the business but with the high traffic count on State Highway One, the Bunnings Warehouse opposite and the growth of the area, he is rapt with the results.
Jason says he always had expansion plans but the fire last year “gave me a bit of a hurry up”.
He had to make some brave decisions quickly and acknowledges some of them were made “from the heart”.
He was passionate about making the businesses as good as it could possibly be and backed that with investment.
The bold approach sums up Collins Automotive Technicians’ approach to what they do and how they treat their customers.
“No is not an answer for us. Our staff here jokingly call me a ‘yes man’ because I always say yes. But that’s what I believe – especially when it comes to customers. We always accommodate our customers whenever we can. There’s always a way to make it happen.”