with: Derek Reed, Dent Wizard (Atlanta, Georgia USA)
How do you determine a price when selling paintless dent repair to individual retail customers? A lot of PDR guys will say, “Every dent is different, and I know how much to charge from experience.” There is some truth to that statement. Dents in cars are caused by random acts of impact. Thus every dent has a different shape, size, depth, location, and several other factors that make it more or less difficult to repair. If damage on a car is more difficult to repair and requires more skill and time, it should be priced accordingly. Instead of pulling numbers out of thin air, some PDR techs have developed systems or guides to help them determine proper pricing for varying types of damage. In the past year a growing momentum of using retail pricing guides has taken ahold of the PDR community. That charge has been lead by Paul Kordon amongst others. Paul did an awesome job explaining how he uses his guide to justify conventional body shop equivalent prices for paintless dent repair on a recent episode of the PDR College podcast. Derek Reed is another high level PDR tech who joined the discussion online and decided to implement a similar system in his daily routine of selling retail work in a service lane. Derek recently shared his paintless dent repair journey with PDRtalk and told us how he has used his guide to increase production and revenue.
When and how were you introduced to PDR?
I was introduced to PDR in 2002 by my uncle, Dennis Rorke Jr. at the age of 18. At the time I was an aspiring musician, and he set me up with an interview with Dent Wizard to try and give me a career with a future. Without going into details, the interview did not go as planned and I did not get the job. I spent the next few years as a full time musician with various part time jobs between touring and trying to “make it” with my band. In 2006 I realized I had made a mistake and asked Dennis for another opportunity. He was kind enough to give me another referral and this time I did everything correctly. I was living in Detroit at the time, and had very little in the way of possessions. I got a call on a Wednesday from Dent Wizard asking if I could be in Indianapolis Friday morning for an interview. I immediately packed everything I owned into a Ford Focus zx3 and drove to Indianapolis. I interviewed Friday morning, got the job, and drove to St. Louis that weekend to start training Monday morning. The next Friday was my 23rd birthday.
I’ve heard the training at Dent Wizard is pretty intense. How long did it last? Were a lot of guys weeded out during the process?
The training with Dent Wizard is definitely very intense. It is an 8 week training course and has a fairly fast paced structure without losing focus on detail. I had no previous experience in the automotive industry beyond the fact that all of the men in my family worked on the assembly line for one of the big 3 in Detroit, but by the end of the course I was #1 in my class and had the feeling that I was born to do pdr. The pass/fail rate fluctuates obviously, but I believe the average is around 40% passing. My class started with 23 and ended with 11 or 12. Some left early upon realizing it wasn’t for them, and others were dismissed later after trainers realized they were not getting it. The training involves weekly testing and it is not likely you will last if you are not able to pass. Despite popular opinion amongst pdr technicians, Dent Wizard does have very high standards for their technicians to get certified. It is a very well thought out and orchestrated training, but as with anything in life, it is then left up to each individual person to continue on that path or not. Some get it. Some don’t.
Have you always worked in Atlanta, or have you moved around?
I started in Indianapolis, IN. right out of training. I spent a while working an auction there before moving into service drive work at a Volvo/Land Rover/Jaguar complex. All three dealerships in one building with individual service drives. After a while there, I was asked to try to build a route in Fort Wayne, IN. I was doing my drives in Indianapolis every morning and then driving 2hrs to Fort Wayne to do my wholesale accounts. Eventually I scored a Mercedes drive in Fort Wayne and decided to move up there to focus on growing that market. Dent Wizard basically left me alone to build and maintain that market however I saw fit. After a while in Fort Wayne they asked me to move BACK to Indianapolis to take over a Lexus service drive. I ended up working that as well as landing a Porsche/Audi drive and a Mercedes drive across the street. They were all within visual distance from each other and I could basically roll my tools from place to place as needed. I did this for a few years before being forced to move after we lost the entire dealer group. Long story short; the owner passed away and left the group to his son. His son had a friend who had some pdr tools….. He got the accounts and I was pushed out. Dent Wizard offered me 7 choices of cities to move to where they needed a tech. I instantly declined anywhere that had regular snowfall each year or regular 100+ degree temps. I chose Atlanta. I was given a BMW account that our tech was having trouble with, and I’ve been there full time for 5.5yrs. Dent Wizard ended up getting the Indianapolis dealer group back within 3-4 months of me moving to Atlanta and is still maintained to this day by my uncle… Who I might add is an incredible technician.
You recently started using a pricing guide when estimating dent repair for individual retail customers. Before the guide, how did you come up with prices for PDR?
Honestly, like a lot of technicians, I did not have any system. When I started I was told “you probably want to get about $100-130 for this kind of repair. Anything above that is up to you.” Through my years of service drives I have always been playing with the prices. Trying to figure out where I should be at, and what people will pay. I had gone really high and really low and everywhere in between. I could never really dial in the “answer” and was always just looking at the damage and writing a number on a piece of paper that had a diagram of a car on it. This always felt weird to me, but that is just how most people are trained I guess. To me it always felt similar to if I was sitting on a sidewalk asking for spare money. It wasn’t until last year or so that I realized the actual number was irrelevant. The presentation and information is the key.
How did you develop the guide you are currently using? Explain the basics of the guide. Are repair prices based on size, depth, quantity, location, obstructions, etc?
In all absolute honesty, my guide was highly inspired by Paul Kordon. The idea of the guide had always been there. Dent Wizard has always given me a price guide for my drives, but the pricing system was weird, the guide was not entirely attractive, and it was just nothing special. After meeting Paul and discussing what he was doing, I realized how much better it could be with a little effort. He definitely had a system down, and as he is a hero of mine in the industry. I knew I needed to emulate his method a little. My guide was designed by my wife, who has a degree in graphic design. We spent a lot of time simply playing with the visual aesthetics. She is really into color stimulation in marketing and the difference that simple color and font choices can do to the brain. Once we had the design down, the rest was easy. The guide is very simple: a ruler on the right side with pricing by the inch. The left side has additional markup details such as aluminum, double panel/glue pull only, etc. The guide is used to measure the length of the damage primarily which gives a general PDR cost, and then that is up charged based on a % dictated by additional variables on the left. Depth is addressed In this variable section where I state that any damage deeper than 1mm may be subject to a 50% increase. Utilizing the Black Plague Dent Depth Gauge (a genius tool in its own right) I can then justify additional cost into the repair. Another thing that has been great was adding a simple 15% to any repair on a rear 1/4 panel. Some people called me crazy for this and said it would never work, but the simple truth is that 90% of all 1/4 panel repairs require some sort of r&i or have some added obstacle. This is especially true with my primary repairs being bmw, which the guide is tailored to almost specifically. I’ve tried to include as much info on the guide to accommodate for any scenario, without having it look cluttered or greedy. The guide has a vagueness to it that allows adaptability per estimate.