Who are you and what is your business?
Martin Collins: MD & owner of Collins Group Limited, which is the holding company for Aldridge Accident Repair Centre and Superite Tools Ltd. AARC was founded in 1921 by my Grandfather William Bunn, then known as Aldridge Garage. Superite Tools was founded in 1955 by my father Alan Collins. For the last 30 years my brother and I have worked together to grow the businesses. In August of 2014 my brother retired to pursue personal ventures.
AARC is a leading, independent accident repair centre & Superite is one of the few precision tool making businesses left in the UK now specializing in repair, reworking & re-commissioning of large [up to 20 tonnes] plastic mould and pressure die cast tools.
Which solicitors do you use at Glaisyers and how do you rate our service?
I have worked with Russell Brown for Staffing, HR, Employment Law and Julian Bond for all commercial aspects of the Collins Group, property conveyancing and Contract Law amongst various other projects. I have also worked with Chris Burrows on personal, family law. Having encountered Glaisyers just a couple of years ago at the ABP, I was immediately impressed by the friendliness of all, down to earth attitude and people you feel you can do business with in a pragmatic way. Everybody I have encountered at Glaisyers, from the marketing department to senior partners, all have the same positive attitude and are very pro-active in approach. There seems to be knowledge and expertise for every eventuality. They really are a one stop legal shop!
What are the biggest challenges you face in growing your business and maintaining profits?
Superite and AARC, both require a high level of skill in our operations, we are fortunate to have many very skilled, long standing technicians on both sides, however the problem of a skill shortage will soon become apparent with retirement in the not so distant future for a some of the guys. Due to the global market during the recession there hasn’t been investment made in training, I feel it’s time to start offering apprenticeships.
With AARC, we work to very tight margins on our contract work, meaning we are always having to look for new ways to increase profitability. Another challenge we face is consolidation of work provision as numerous large organisations are monopolising the industry. Work is increasingly being awarded to multiple site body shops.
What is your greatest achievement in your business and personal life?
With my brother and latterly as head of The Collins Group maintaining family ownership and control of the Business despite numerous hurdles over the years. On a personal level being `custodian` of a vibrant and growing enterprise that is welcoming the fourth generation, my daughter Jessica who is operating the marketing function for the group and my son William who has started an apprenticeship with AARC. My single biggest achievement was a property deal with Bellway homes in 2005 as it enabled me to substantially expand both Superite and AARC. Although I see my businesses as a substantial achievement, my greatest achievement in life is my children. I have a wonderful relationship with them both, we are best friends. I am proud of everything they have achieved and the polite, intelligent and well-rounded young adults they have become.
Do you find social media assists your business and if so, how?
Being non-retail the immediacy of social media has been slow to benefit us, however that old adage `by word of mouth` is fast becoming `by comment on social media`. The new language of `Likes`, `feedback` `digital exposure` etc. is now beginning to draw a wider audience for vehicle refinish & refurbishment as opposed to a solely distress purchase accident repair. I have to be honest, I’m a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to Facebook, twitter etc but my daughter has bought us up to date and over the last few months I have seen the results of her efforts, which has proved the need to move with the times and embrace the trend.
Where do you see Collins Group International in 20 years’ time?
Superite Tools Ltd; consolidation of the shift to repair & refurbishment of large mould tools, investment in updated Plant & Machinery > 5 years. Senior Management succession 5>10 years with a unique place in the Market. > 20 years a strong evolved business, `Greener` with a lowered carbon footprint.
Aldridge Accident Repair Centre; there will always be a place for repair of vehicles cost of repair being less than capital replacement? However, the industry is changing faster than ever, new technologies & propulsion systems, lower accident rates, even the potential for zero driverless vehicle collisions! Inside 20 years, who knows, what is certain is the need to be forward thinking and adaptable to the market to succeed.
Collins Group; essentially a property based enterprise, commercial & residential, a portfolio for growth as the economy moves forward in the coming years. As day to day involvement with other business arms passes on probably my last commercial involvement to satisfy my entrepreneurial passion & drive.
Legacy; to ensure there is a sound and diverse business to bring my family into should they wish, I am very pleased and proud to say my son and daughter are beginning to learn what we do, my son is one of the youngest body shop apprentices in the UK. A skills grounding from the bottom up, as with my daughter coming into the group marketing function, there are great challenges for both but the potential to grow from 4th generation now. As the business approaches its centenary in 2021 I wonder what challenges the next century will bring.
What are your passions away from business?
Away from the business I enjoy spending time with my children, going to dinner and having movie nights. I enjoy holidays with family and/or friends. I enjoy motor racing which I have been doing from a young age. I also enjoy golf with my son or friends. And clay pigeon shooting. My favourite type of holiday is a cruise.