Meet Andy Patterson, Founder and Managing Director.
The founder of Automotive Repair Systems built the business from a single man-in-a-van into an international concern. This is how he made it what it is today.
Andy Patterson founded Automotive Repair Systems (ARS) in 1997, and the former food and beverage manager has never looked back. “A man I knew started working in paintless dent removal, the art of removing a small dent without needing paint or body filler. I saw what he was doing and thought I like the idea of that, so I looked into it a little more.”
What attracted Andy in those early days was the idea that his success could be quantified by his earnings. “Financially, when in hospitality I was salaried – I was paid the same regardless of however much effort I put in. But I’m ambitious, and I wanted to have the ability to make something grow if I worked hard at it. I had a good six or seven months of training before I felt I was good enough to approach dealers and work on real life customers cars.”
Andy started the hard way, by going to all his local dealers, speaking to the sales managers, and selling the concept of Paintless Dent Removal on a case by case basis. By 1998 Andy had taken on his first member of staff, as word had spread about his talent. “I was only a man in a van, but things started to snowball when people found that I would do what I promised, when I promised it. In the 1990s the motor service industry was poor, but my background meant I delivered consistently. It left a good impression.”
It didn’t take Andy long to add other strings to his bow, from Paint Scuffs to Alloy Wheel Refurbishment. “By 2001 we were the only SMART repair company in the UK offering the full suite of repair techniques – the others were doing just one or two things at a time.” Andy was still working from home, but by now he was managing a fleet of 8 vans from his home office near Bromley. Two years later came Automotive Repair Systems’ first permanent base in Crawley near Gatwick Airport.
Due to the size of the organisation Andy rarely handles dent removal and paint correction himself – he now controls a UK based fleet of over 111 vans and over 150 staff, with two permanent bases in Orpington, Kent and Liverpool. With coverage spanning the whole South East from Hampshire to Norfolk, most of the North West, and areas of the South West from a small base in Cardiff, Andy has built the business from a single van to the majority of the UK in less than two decades.
Andy’s sharp business sense has stood him in good stead in times of adversity too – in 2008 his main supplier went into administration, so he ended up buying it. “It made a lot of sense for us to buy Bradleys – our overheads became cheaper, and we made links with a lot of companies globally. We sold it in 2013 because we had no further use for the company and there was an element of conflict supplying competitors.”
Andy is always looking for new challenges, which is why ARS expanded into the UAE. While he was running supply company Bradleys, he was approached by Dubai-based entrepreneurs Adrian Bell and Mike Wain. Adrian and Mike had been supplying SMART repair products to dealers in Dubai, and felt that there was potential for a partnership to generate a market for professional SMART repair in a nation with a new and expanding used vehicle market. Following a discussion, Andy decided that this would be a good venture and accepted Adrian and Mike’s proposal.
So, Automotive Repair Systems LLC was born in Dubai. Since 2013, it has become one of the primary suppliers of SMART Repair services in the UAE – with over 35 technicians and a full management team based in Dubai along with regular links to the UK head office infrastructure. What’s next for Automotive Repair Systems and Andy Patterson? He’s happy with the UK and UAE operations and is focusing his efforts on strengthening these. If in just twenty years he’s gone from sole trader to Managing Director of his own international company, the next two decades are likely to be equally promising for the business.