After expanding throughout Texas, Paceline Collision Centers recently became part of Gerber Collision & Glass, a division of one of the largest collision repair companies in North America. Standing
After expanding throughout Texas, Paceline Collision Centers recently became part of Gerber Collision & Glass, a division of one of the largest collision repair companies in North America. Standing

Paceline Collision Centers -- which began in 1994 with a one-bay shop in Killeen -- now is part of Gerber Collision & Glass, a division of the international company The Boyd Group Inc.

Gerber Collision's mid-December acquisition of Paceline included the Lampasas center at 609 Central Texas Expressway -- as well as Paceline's eight other sites in Copperas Cove, Killeen, Marble Falls, Abilene and Lubbock.

Those locations have 170 employees, and most of them are full-time staff members, said Lonnie Bear -- formerly Paceline human resources director and now a process trainer for Gerber.

ABOUT GERBER COLLISION & GLASS

Gerber Collision kept all the Paceline employees who wanted to make the transition, Paceline founder Shannon Martin said. Growth potential, compatible corporate visions and employee opportunities with Gerber were key reasons Paceline agreed to the sale after declining offers from other companies, Martin said.

He added that Gerber's scale and direct access to a large number of insurance companies will give local customers more efficient service and reduced waiting time for repairs. In addition, Martin said by joining Gerber, the Texas centers will have access to more advanced technology. He said that will help as new vehicles continue to add technological features.

The publicly traded Boyd Group Income Fund, through its operating company and subsidiaries, describes itself as "one of the largest operators of non-franchised collision repair centers in North America in terms of number of locations and sales."

Gerber Collision & Glass has more than 400 collision repair centers across 26 states -- including 12 sites in Texas, now that the former Paceline centers are part of Gerber. In addition, two other Boyd Group companies operate a total of more than 100 repair centers across five Canadian provinces.

Tim O'Day, president and chief operating officer of The Boyd Group, commented about the Paceline purchase in a Gerber Collision & Glass news release.

“This significant acquisition strengthens our presence in Texas and allows us to introduce our brand and leading service model to new markets and better assist our insurance clients,” O’Day said. “We look forward to these new teams maintaining the high level of service provided at these locations.”

THE ACQUISITION

Martin said since the beginning of his company, "it was part of the plan to get to a certain scale that we would be looked at as a platform for a company like Gerber."

He credited longtime Paceline leaders Scott McDowell, Jeremy Mulcahy and Charles Williamson with driving Paceline's expansion, as he said "they're the ones that really started building the thing out."

They remain with Gerber -- with McDowell serving as market manager for Central West, Mulcahy as market manager for Central East and Williamson as market manager for West Texas.

Martin also recognized the work of Bear and John Talbert, general manager of the Lampasas and Marble Falls locations.

Paceline "really started focusing on our processes and our culture and things like that about the time that Lonnie and John joined us," Martin said. "And we continued growth, but we really started driving process and culture."

Those key values, longtime Paceline leaders said, are personal accountability, constant improvement and honest, proactive communication. Gerber shares those values, and Paceline’s leaders said that match was one of the reasons the company decided to move forward with Gerber.

Despite the longstanding goal of merging with a larger company, Martin said in the last few years he "got so passionate about what we were doing and the culture we had that I really almost changed my mind."

Gerber contacted Paceline about a year and a half ago, and Martin said he initially declined the company's acquisition offer. Four other companies also approached Paceline, so the company’s leadership had many options to consider in the last six months of 2018.

After many discussions, Paceline's leadership became convinced the timing with Gerber was crucial and that "we either get on the front seat with this company or the opportunity was going to pass us by," Martin said. "And I really consulted the leadership, and we all made the decision together that it was really the best thing that we could do for our people."

DEVELOPING PACELINE

People, processes and core values have been the keys to Paceline's success over the years, Mulcahy said.

Martin emphasized that the commitment of the team that works alongside him is what has allowed the company to flourish.

The company began when Martin -- who was buying and selling cars while attending the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor -- rented a bay next to his father Dean’s office. A man who had painted a 1940 Ford pickup for Shannon Martin asked Dean Martin if there was work available, as the man had lost his job.

Shannon Martin had a few cars for him to paint, and the man worked on them while living in the bay for a time. Martin made deals with used car lots for additional work, and the need arose for a bigger space.

Jobs for acquaintances who had insurance claims led the small operation to form partnerships with insurance companies. Those partnerships proved essential as the auto repair company grew.

In 1997 -- at a new location -- Killeen Collision Center opened, offering work to the public for the first time. McDowell joined the company around that time as a body technician, and he soon became a manager. McDowell eventually rose to a regional vice president position with Paceline.

After referring repair work to Killeen for a while, Boyd Sharp -- who ran a State Farm Insurance office in Lampasas at the time -- encouraged Martin to start a shop here. Lampasas Collision Center opened in 2000.

The company grew, and in 2003, it acquired the Benny Boyd collision repair center on FM 580 East.

"We met with him," Martin said of Benny Boyd Jr., "and really I've got to give credit to him for helping us a lot, because that was our first acquisition we'd ever done. And I was just a kid, really, and he treated me with so much respect [that] it built my confidence to go and do more, and we ended up growing six other locations through acquisition after that. And it was all based on what we learned from that [deal with the Benny Boyd shop]."

More expansion in Lampasas came the next year with the acquisition of the Hoffpauir Chevrolet body shop.

In 2005, Caliber Collision made an offer to purchase the growing collision repair business. The company declined the offer and continued its own expansion, opening a repair center in Marble Falls and a center in Copperas Cove.

After developing its own specialized work process, the company rebranded as Paceline Collision Centers in 2007. "Paceline" -- a cycling term -- refers to teamwork, consistency and a linear process, company leaders said.

TRANSITION AND PLANS

FOR THE FUTURE

Some of Gerber's processes are a bit different than what Paceline used, but the focus on service and quality will continue, McDowell said.

"We're going to adopt Gerber's culture ... which is closely aligned with ours," he said, "but it's still about serving our customers, still about serving our teammates. It's still about serving our [Direct-Repair-Program insurance clients] and making sure that we perform for them. So all of that's the same."

The initial transition around Christmas was a bit "bumpy" because of a lack of software training, Martin said, but he said the two companies have addressed that so the collision centers can maintain high-quality service.

"They basically rebooted integration at our request and sent new trainers out after the holidays, and things are getting back on track now," Martin said.

Gerber has "a roadmap of markets" to consider for future growth, Martin said, adding that the company desires to be in every major market in Texas.

"It's just really how fast we can do that and still maintain the level of performance and culture that we've had," he said.

Some of the former Paceline stores are at capacity, and others will be able to add staff, Martin said.

Williamson said the team is like a family, and McDowell said there is a constant emphasis on developing leadership.

"And we're always looking for great people," McDowell said. "We're always looking for great potential leaders -- people who want to learn, grow, have opportunities."