When Bernhard Rubbert relocated his business, False Creek Collision, from Vancouver to Burnaby last year, he found his Vancouver clients were reluctant to come all the way out to Burnaby.
So he began to offer a pick up/drop off service, where he would go to them and take the vehicle to his shop.
"They love it," he says. "I think nobody else is doing that.
"The old traditional way is people always have to come to a body shop for assessment of the damage, and have to claim it with the insurance company, wait on that approval, come back, pick up a courtesy car," Rubbert added. "And after the repairs, you have to return the courtesy car back to the shop and pick up your car. We want to make it easy for our customers."
Rubbert now plans to offer that service to Burnaby customers, as well as others in the western Metro Vancouver area, he says.
He moved his business from Sixth Avenue and Fir Street in Vancouver, where he'd been located since 2006, to Burnaby in July 2011 after the city chose not to renew his lease.
The City of Vancouver planned to build a park on the site, according to Rubbert.
So he bought the shop at 6660 Royal Oak Ave. from the previous owner, who had another shop, and moved his clients there.
"It was an absolutely new restart," he says. "For me, that means you have to invent something in order to survive."
So he added the valet service. Rubbert has been innovative throughout his career, something that is not always common in the industry, he says.
He was a chemical engineer with BASF in Germany, and was marketing water-based paint for finishing in the early 1990s, he says. He then spent four years with a team marketing the new paint in the United States\ and launched the market there.
He came to Vancouver during that time, he adds, but there was no interest in it here.
So when he immigrated to Canada, his became the first body shop in Canada to use the paint, Rubbert says.
"You have to have a push for a change," he adds. "This is a very conservative industry."
Since then, Environment Canada has required businesses to change to the new technology and stop buying high volatile organic compound paint, according to Rubbert.
"From now on, everybody has to use that technology," he says, adding shops can use up their stock of the old paint but cannot buy it any longer.
The changes have had an added benefit for shops, though, he adds.
"There's no smell in the body shops now," Rubbert says. "In old days, a body shop was always full of solvents."
Rubbert is also working on networking through business and neighbourhood organizations to build up his clientele, but added it's most important to prove the business is trustworthy to his clients.
"It's always a relationship you have to build up," he says. "If you trust somebody, you want to stick with them."