March 2015 Issue 23
PDR Nation Tech Spotlight
I grew up in a blue collar working class community in Westchester county NY in an Irish Catholic family. My Grandfather was an engineer at the GM Tarrytown facility for 30 years. My father was an engineer for Metro North rail road where he ran construction of bridges, tunnels, and RR track design. My mom was a traditional stay at home wife. My mother’s father was a cop. My parents always had nice cars and my father built hot rods in his free time. He opened a small Body shop when I was little, and when I was 8 he taught me how to do a brake job on my mother’s 1970 Nova. I began restoring my 66 Chevelle when I was 14, I still have that car.
I took my First job when I was 10 pumping gas and doing a general apprenticeship at a shop in Croton, NY called Luposello’s Garage. They were three Italian brothers and they rode me hard. Before I ever worked on a car I had to feed dogs, make coffee, clean up the coffee bar mess, sweep the floors, clean up oil spills with gasoline, oh, and I cleaned toilets too! All for 4 dollars an hour. But hey, they made me who I am today and I owe them everything! Young people no longer do apprenticeships.
My wife and I now live in upstate NY in Columbia County, we’ve been here since 2000. Coincidentally that is the year I became a full time PDR tech. Before PDR I was a collision tech working with Car-O-Liner frame machines. I have a college degree in Applied Automotive Science, and numerous ASE and I-Car certifications. I’ve restored vintage cars and built several hot rods, and I’ve also rebuilt high end European cars that were destroyed in high speed accidents on the Saw Mill Parkway and Route 684. I even did some custom work on a Chevy Tahoe that was featured in Motor Trend magazine June 1999.
I first discovered PDR around 1994, that’s when I fixed my first dent without painting the repair, just to impress a girl. Around 1998 I began really tweaking my auto body/metal finishing skills and realized there was actually an Industry called PDR. After becoming ill due to exposer to Isocyanate, a chemical in automotive urethane catalysts, I decided to try doing PDR full time. I took the leap in 2000.
My market is kind of bonkers, I fix everything from mild collision damage, hail, and everything in between. As far as who I service I guess it’s all the above, wholesale, retail, dealers, and body shops. I’ve done PDR on all types of cars and bikes, even coffins and refrigerators. This year I’ve committed myself to fixing hail, mostly just for a change of scenery. I like traveling and I’m in my 40s now, so I guess I just want to take on a new adventure. I’ve been fixing Hail every year since 2000 so why not see the country while working for a living?
I feel PDR as an industry has many challenges; percentages, pricing, quality, etc. One thing I think should change is the process of training. I think prospecting techs should do some type of apprenticeship. I don’t necessarily mean they need to clean toilets, but still they need to prove themselves. I fear that in our near future insurance companies will turn our trade into an hourly pay scale, so part of training should include providing prospective techs with an understanding of not giving away the bank. Also we need to draw some young people in, otherwise this industry could actually die. Like Body men and mechanics and all the other trades in this country there is a shortage of motivated young people who are willing to begin a career working with their hands. This is an amazing trade with many rewards, we must nurture it.
by Greg Ogborne PDRNation.org/greg-ogborne/
New PDR Blog Aims to Gather & Share Knowledge
Education is one of the main focuses of PDR Nation. Our mission is to educate consumers, body shops, insurance companies, and dealerships about the benefits and possibilities of paintless dent repair. A new industry blog has launched that has very similar goals to that of PDR Nation. PDRtalk.com is an online magazine created, contributed to, and curated by expert level PDR technicians. The idea is to gather knowledge related to our industry from all over the world, and archive it in a clean and easy to navigate website. PDRtalk has two categories of articles, public and pro. The public articles are geared towards everyone. Their focus is to inform and spread awareness about paintless dent repair. Some articles include:
My Car was Damaged in a Hail Storm, Now What?, written by PDR Nation member Dan Ontrop
Top 10 Reasons to Choose PDR Over a Conventional Body Shop Repair, written by Paul Kordon
The Pro articles are written with the independent technicians in mind. These articles aim to share helpful information that will allow all of us to become better technicians and run our businesses more efficiently. Some of these articles can viewed by anyone, while others are restricted to PDRtalk members only. In order to view all of the pro articles, you must sign up and log in. Once logged in, members can view all of the articles, as well as submit an article they wish to have published. This is where you come in. Do have some expert level knowledge you think will help your fellow dedicated dent techs? If so, why not share it? PDRtalk is looking to gain a balanced catalogue of articles on all aspects of the business, from all over the world. Here are just a few articles that have already been published:
Moving Metal with Wide Directional Pushing, with PDR Nation member Sal Contreras
4 Keys to Unlock an Effective PDR Website, written by PDR Nation member Richard Routson
Another feature that comes with your PDRtalk membership is a public profile page with all of your business information, photos, social media links, certification links, and review page links (PDR Nation included). You can also specify what kind of operation you run (route, retail shop, hail local, hail US, hail Europe, etc.) Once potential customers view your page, they can call you directly or submit an online estimate or appointment request that is emailed directly to you. The membership is currently free. However, as the site grows and more value is added tiered membership levels may be created. For more information and to become part of the conversation check out PDRtalk.com. Share your expert knowledge and help advance the PDR industry!
Do you want to learn more about PDRtalk? Click here.
Be the Expert, Submit an Article.
by Richard Routson
Do I Need Workers’ Comp?
Workers’ compensation is important to employees in many industries and provides wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured at work. It is also important to employers because they are protected from being sued by employees for those injuries. But do paintless dent repair companies, which often use contracted workers instead of employees, need to offer workers’ compensation insurance to serve body shops? The question has been asked at an increasing rate, as PDR methods become a more popular alternative to traditional dent repair.
A few years ago, during the busiest period of my company’s history, I was continually asked by my larger body shop account to provide documentation for workers’ compensation. The problem was, I didn’t have any. I never thought it was necessary.
I did some research and found that workers’ comp was only for employees or a large group of contractors for a specific project. I didn’t have employees; I had contracted technicians. Apparently, that was where the problem was. Around the same time, my accountant told me that the large amount of revenue I was making required my technicians to be on payroll, filing taxes twice a month on the commissions they were making.
I didn’t know anything about this world of employees, workers’ comp, and employee taxes. To say it was daunting is an understatement. I had thought that everything I was doing was sufficient on every level. My 1099s were always filed completely and on time.
Because major upheavals never happen just one at a time, not long after, our work vehicles were dropped by our insurance company. We didn’t have proper commercial insurance. So within a span of a few short months, we had to completely change the way we were doing things. Our techs (who had been working exclusively for me for years) needed to be employees in the eyes of the state. Our vehicles, which had always been under my personal insurance, needed to be under the company’s name and covered differently. It was a significant learning experience. I’m incredibly grateful that I had several people around me, who were smarter than I am, to guide me through the process.
Here are some of the lessons I learned. Hopefully, I can use my experiences to help guide others through the same process. If you are wondering at this point if any of your dent technicians are employees, know that an employees is anyone who is using your name to do business consistently. It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter if he is going to various shops in your area or crossing state lines. Rules vary from state to state on who is considered an employee. Workers’ comp regulations, however, are consistent. You need to have it for your employees. You need to file taxes and W-2s indicating how much employees are making. Generally speaking, sole proprietors and partnerships aren’t required to purchase workers’ comp until they have employees of their own. But regulations warn that employers may have workers who qualify for employee status. Most states will treat an uninsured contractor or subcontractor as an employee if he or she is injured while doing work for your company.
The body shops you do work for have the same liability issues and they have workers’ comp for their employees. Those body shops are hiring companies, which they expect to follow the same workers’ comp rules that they are. It is the law to have workers’ comp for your employees.
Although not thrilled about the changes at first, my technicians understood that in order to be a legal company in the state of Kentucky, we had to do these things. It was partly my fault for not being more proactive and making sure that what we had thought was sufficient was, in fact, sufficient. But there were only two options: make the technicians legal employees or dissolve the company and go out on our own as independent technicians. We all agreed that becoming legal was our best shot at success.
My office staff worked with our accountant to get us all set up as employees. We filed with the federal and local agencies to get the technicians’ taxes direct deposited into an account. The techs filed W-4s. We set up to file a K-1 every month to fulfill our state tax obligations. We then called our local insurance agency and got workers’ compensation insurance. What has come with it is the security and confidence that we are doing the right thing. We get the opportunity sleep in our own beds every night knowing things are legal. Sure, we have all the guys that are on unemployment and have no insurance doing cars for $50 during the winter. But the steps we have taken to be properly insured matter to our big accounts. They will let only us touch their cars because of it.
We did have to cut back on the commission percentage that we pay our technicians to be able to file their taxes for them every two weeks, but they reap the benefits at the end of the year when their taxes have already been paid throughout the year. Previously, they owed a large sum at the end of the year when they reported their endings.
We still hire contracted technicians from time to time, when demand exceeds the amount our technicians can cover. When we bring in techs, we require a signed W-9 form, a copy of their general liability and a copy of their driver’s license. Our insurance requires that for them to do any work in AcuDent’s name.
With all the recent conversations about workers’ compensation insurance that have developed in the PDR community, we hope that this can shed some light on the issue. PDR Nation would like to thank Gavin for taking the time to share his experience with the rest of us.
by Gavin Reherman