Rich Harrison might be out of the glass industry, but he’s carried the skills, influence and lessons from that career well into his current role.
He’s now CEO of Dublin, Ohio-based CollisonRight, a consolidator of automotive collision repair shops he co-founded in 2020. The company recently announced a majority investment from growth equity investment firm Summit Partners.
The new capital will help support CollisionRight’s growth plan, which is focused on acquiring and operating high-quality, customer-friendly collision repair shops across the Central United States and Mid-Atlantic regions.
Harrison will retain significant equity ownership in the business by investing alongside Summit, as will several other members of the company’s senior management team. He’s got his eyes on the future and sees many opportunities ahead.
While he’s been focused on collision for the past few years, Harrison knows the auto glass industry well. He spent 18 years with Belron, working with them around the world, and sees a number of differences and similarities between the collision and glass industry.
“The big differences are the collision industry in the United States is much larger than glass at $45 billion a year. And it’s much more fragmented,” he says. “In the collision industry, the top 10 multi shop operators combined have a 30% market share. There’s now more than 40,000 collision shops in the U.S., so it’s much larger than glass.”
With a background in developing strategies to grow companies, he was excited about collision, “because of the amount of whitespace and how highly fragmented it is to grow through acquisition.”
He continues, “The average price for a collision repair is close to $5,000, which is much higher than the average price to replace a windshield, including calibrations–which has been a game changer in auto glass and in the collision industry.”
Margins are also strong in collision, he says, and there’s less seasonality.
“I remember my days in auto glass where you almost dread the fall; it’s like when kids go back to school, and everything gets quiet. We don’t really have that in collision. There’s a little bit of seasonality, but it’s minor.”
There are also competitive dynamics between the two industries.
“In the collision industry, if you own one shop or two shops or 90 shops, you can have relationships directly with insurance carriers and receive work from them. There’s no TPA [third-party administrator] that handles billing,” he says. “It’s much more open in the collision industry where there’s not a large retailer also managing claims and controlling payments. I find that to be very attractive about the collision industry. If you perform really well for customers you’ll get more work and that’s a highly attractive playing field.”
Harrison also sees a number of similarities between the two industries.
“The experience I had working for Belron for 18 years, I learned so much that I was able to apply to my own auto glass business that I started called TruRoad, which became the second largest auto glass business, and then was sold to Belron in 2019,” he says. “You’ve got to make customers happy.”
He also continues to look for acquisition opportunities that create a win-win for the seller and the buyer.
“I’ve done that my whole career,” he says. “It’s leading teams and creating a highly effective team, communicating a vision, and then getting great results through people. That’s what I did in glass, and that’s what I’m trying to do now in collision.”
And consolidation, he adds, is another common theme.
“When I first started in the auto glass industry in the early 1990s, there were four national players. And I was part of the consolidation that brought it to one in Belron, the owner of Safelite,” he says. “I think we’re going to see similar consolidation in the collision industry where the economics are very attractive to roll up and consolidate. We’re going to continue to see smaller independents sell to larger consolidators. And, I think over time we’ll see collision businesses provide auto glass services.”
But as far as whether glass is in his future, Harrison doesn’t have a definite answer.
“Maybe is my answer,” he says. “I’m a big believer in focus, and there’s so much growth opportunity in the collision industry, I pinch myself every day. Part of me wishes I’d have been in the collision industry my whole life–although I had so many great experiences and made so many lifelong friends in auto glass.
“It was an amazing journey, and I don’t regret that. But the collision industry is so robust and dynamic. Instead of trying to get into glass, which I definitely would have some thoughts on how to do, it’s more about how do I scale the collision business quickly.”
And that focus comes with some big goals.
“I’d like to double the size of the business in the next two to three years. We’re at 89 locations and our revenue is $350 million,” he says. “And then I’d like to take it to a billion dollars. That’s my personal goal for the business and revenue.”
Having spent the bulk of his career in auto glass, Harrison still stays connected to many of the people in the industry.
“I have a lot of good friends and great memories,” he says. “I think the common theme is around the fundamentals of being the best place to work for your people. Your folks should love coming to work every day. That’s what enables excellent performance and results … doing things to make it a great place to work and being connected to your folks. I think that is part of the success formula in collision, glass or any other industry.”
He continues, “I know there’s a ton of great people in the glass industry who are committed to doing that … that also has to translate into an outstanding customer experience. Investing in those two things–what are we doing to make this a great place to work and then how do we keep our relentless focus on the customer experience–applies to collision or glass.”