CAT Bodyshop Lives: MDS Accident Repair Centre

MDS_inside-2Barrie Dudey on operating a successful bodyshop in what he calls the North London ‘warzone’.

MDS Accident Repair Centre’s location is unique and offers them a huge advantage. It is just minutes away from the A1, M1 and M25, with North London on the doorstep.

Business Manager Barrie Dudey, who has been in the aftermarket for more than 45 years, explains that MDS has been developed in what he describes as a ‘warzone’ in North London.

Dudey first heard about the business when he was the CEO of a national paint company and was asked to speak to a gentleman who had recently opened a bodyshop. Quickly Dudey realised that he was simply an investor who had acquired MDS but had no idea about the automotive aftermarket. But Dudey thought he might be able to help.

“I was involved with a growing insurance company that was looking to reinvent its repair network chain, and I said that a garage in London who I have been working with could be used as a guinea pig site.”

“We would help MDS get a bit of work,” he added. “And put a proper supply chain in place, and it was the start of our working relationship.”

MDS_Barrie-Dudey-2The business was running along nicely, when Dudey received a phone call from the insurance company. It had struck a deal with Tesco and together they would be expanding rapidly with the expected volume of work increasing by 168 percent.

“I thought there was no way I was going to be able to do that volume,” Dudey says. But within two weeks of that conversation a suitable building came up for sale. Dudey persuaded the owner of MDS to invest. He agreed but only under the condition that Dudey would henceforth run the operation.

So Dudey became the Business Manager at MDS and oversaw more than £500,000 of investment revamping the newly leased unit, which included branching into servicing and repair with MDS aiming to exceed £3 million turnover in this financial year.

MDS focuses heavily on ensuring its staff is trained, with each technician being ATA-accredited and using up to date equipment, but one area that Dudey says the business excels in is the customer service it gives.

He added: “Garages were always dingy not very nice places to go to. If you wanted to use the toilet at a garage, you took your life into your own hands.”

Not so at MDS. A lot of the changes implemented by Dudey over the years have been aimed at ensuring the customer experience is the best it can be with sofa, toys and a TV screen for customers in the reception but also office facilities with free Wifi and outside telephone for those who wish to work while their car is in for a service.

All these decisions have required the employees at MDS to embrace a new approach and way of thinking, which Dudey believes is probably the biggest challenge he faces, as he explains: “Getting employees to embrace the change and move away from what was traditional is always a challenge. Tradition has its value without a doubt, and I have got a variety of age groups that work for me and you can’t be without any of them. You need the youth to come out and be educated, but in the same breath you need the experience and the wealth of knowledge of the existing guys which they pass on to the youngsters. The transition between what I see as what was, what is, and what needs to be has been a re-education process.
But everyone has taken ownership of it.”

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