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April 2, 2024

Focus Advisors Facilitates Sale of Painters Collision Centers

Focus Advisors announced it was the sell-side advisory firm that represented Painters Collision Centers in its sale to Classic Collision in January 2024.

Painters Owner Jim Huard’s exit capped off over four decades of entrepreneurial accomplishments, including leading the start-up, growth and sale of several high-performing collision repair businesses across the U.S.

Huard started his collision career at 15 by working in his family’s shop in Whittier, Calif. In 1978, his dad’s shop partnered with Allstate in the nation’s first-ever DRP. In the first of what would become many turnarounds, Huard was able to successfully transition his family’s business to a computerized system allowing them to maintain their high level of volume. This experience prepared him for a lifetime of guiding shops through complex changes and rapid growth.

Relocating to Portland, Ore., for a general manager role at the age of 26, Huard was instrumental in exponentially increasing revenues for two independents. Huard earned a partnership in the second independent, which he grew from $270,000 per month to over $800,000 per month. This location was then sold to Kadel’s Auto Body, and Huard was retained as an operations manager and assisted in their growth.

“Toby Wiltse, the owner of Kadel’s, was an entrepreneurial genius, so that is really where I decided I wanted to be and follow Toby’s footsteps — but on a smaller scale,” said Huard.

Ten years later, Huard brought his proven leadership and operational expertise to help expand MSOs in Southern California. Joining Caliber Collision first as a general manager, then regional manager, then their “turnaround specialist”, he spent nine years there, reorganizing dozens of shops in San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles. He was instrumental in helping grow Caliber’s footprint from 75 to 500 stores and characterizes it as one of the most fun times of his career.

Huard then joined industry well-known industry entrepreneur Eric Bickett at Fix Auto ACAB Automotive Group as vice president of operations. He was solely responsible for the operations and financial growth of the Bickett MSO within the Fix Auto group, assisting in the growth of Fix Auto USA as well. Huard quickly earned an equity stake in the Bickett MSO and became an owner/partner. He also met his future wife, Kelly, with whom he shared a mutual entrepreneurial vision and strong work ethic. Kelly — with a long career in financial services from real estate underwriting to controller and CFO — deeply understood the organizational and financial structure required for starting and operating businesses. After the sale of ACAB and Fix Auto (also represented by Focus Advisors), Kelly wrote Jim a three-page letter encouraging him to start a collision business in Arizona.

In January 2021, at the age of 53, Huard started Painters Collision Centers in the Phoenix market with Kelly as his business partner. Their strategy was to acquire struggling shops with great potential. Their paint reps helped them identify the right acquisition targets. Jim and Kelly would quickly close on these targets and then implement their integration plans. They started Painters in January 2021 by acquiring a location in Queen Creek followed by their Chandler store in March 2022. In January 2023, they opened a dedicated ADAS facility and, three months later, bought their third shop in Apache Junction. With Kelly handling the back office and Jim directing shop operations, the Huards grew Painters to three locations with over 100 employees — all within the span of two years. They made each acquisition cash flow positive within 30 days.

“What Jim has been able to repeatedly accomplish across so many different shops and markets over four decades is just incredible,” said Chris Lane, partner at Focus Advisors. “He is unmatched in his consistent ability to transform underperforming collision shops. The MSO that the Huards built in Arizona was one of the highest performing MSOs I’ve ever seen.”

In just 36 months, Jim and Kelly achieved their original goal of creating a high-performance, three-shop MSO in Phoenix. With their reputation and exceptional financial performance, they drew substantial interest from many top consolidators. Focus Advisors guided them through the sales process with Classic Collision, allowing the Huards to exit their latest success story on excellent financial terms in January.

“I can proudly say that I’ve played a key role in positively shaping hundreds of collision centers over my career,” said Huard. “Though it’s extremely gratifying to build successful businesses like Painters, I’m just as passionate about developing people and making this industry better. I still have the fire in my belly to take on new entrepreneurial pursuits. With Kelly’s partnership, I’m confident there are still plenty of innovative pursuits for us yet to come.”

For more information on Focus Advisors, visit focusadvisors.com.

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