As one of Babcox Media’s inaugural Vehicle Care RockStars, Michael Bradshaw of K & M Collision embodies a new voice in the collision repair industry, fighting for the rights of consumers and body shops.
Seeing Michael Bradshaw’s eyes light up when we enter the record store, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the same reaction he gets when he digs into the insurance laws in North Carolina. In this remnant of the past stuffed with vinyl records and music memorabilia, he’s like the proverbial “kid in a candy store” — and at 34 years old, he really is a kid to most aged veterans in the collision repair industry.
I watch as Bradshaw meanders through the uneven, creaky aisles, rifling through the albums while the classical tune “In the Hall of the Mountain King” blasts from the speakers of this tiny store that smells strongly of old cardboard and wet rot. Occasionally, I pull an album and regale Bradshaw with a memory it brings up; other times, he points out a bit of trivia about a band or singer.
“It’s always neat to get to look through old records and see what stands out,” says Bradshaw, a huge rock and country music fan who not only collects vinyl but attends at least six concerts a year with his wife. “When I go look for them, I never really have something in mind. I’m just kind of looking to see what will grab my attention.”
If vinyl record collecting is one of Bradshaw’s hobbies, another one might be educating himself on the rules and regulations that govern the collision and insurance business in North Carolina — the state where his collision repair facility, K & M Collision, is located. After all, it’s something he does outside of work hours in which he takes great pleasure.
“Far too many owners within the collision repair industry want to go to work from 8 to 5 and then go home and not learn and grow outside of that,” Bradshaw says. “So, one of the things that I’ve done is continue to grow — I’ve personally been doing it for 16 years now. And I’m still growing — still traveling, attending seminars, listening to presenters educating on [auto insurance] policy language, appraisal laws, things like that. From my perspective, the more educated you are when it comes to those things, the greater chance of success you’re going to have in today’s industry.”
That’s one of the reasons Bradshaw was named a Vehicle Care RockStar: his willingness to go the extra mile to learn the rules and regulations, not just for his own shop and employees but the rest of the industry.
“I think I just question things. I don’t take anything at face value and want to seek the answer on my own. And I think that’s really what led me down this road. So many times I was told no, but I wasn’t really given an explanation for why I was being told no.”
Part of going the extra mile was also forging relationships with the N.C. Department of Insurance, a task he and the Carolinas Collision Association have worked hard at.
“We’ve spent a great deal of time interfacing with the Department of Insurance [DOI], trying to educate them on what the issues are and help them better understand how the insurers are not meeting their requirements under the policy or the statutes or regulations,” says Bradshaw. “Far too many shops have their head in the sand. It’s too important not to have a relationship with the DOI, because ultimately, they’re going to be your biggest advocate if a carrier’s not living up to the contract they’re supposed to uphold.
“When it comes to repairing a vehicle, there’s only one correct way to do it. I think largely in our industry, there’s a third party that many times will dictate to a collision repair facility the way repairs are performed that is not the proper way. I decided early on in my journey in the collision industry that I wasn’t going to accept anything less than the correct way to repair a vehicle — which is ultimately what the manufacturer says.”
A lot of Bradshaw’s strong work ethic, commitment and focus on doing things right comes from his parents, who started K & M Collision in their backyard and watched Bradshaw grow it to a $10-million-plus business with numerous luxury OEM certifications.
“My dad is very old-school and instilled a strong work ethic in me,” says Bradshaw. “So, from a very young age, I understood that I was going to get out of things what I put into them.
“That’s something that has really driven me: wanting to live up to the example and the standard that my dad set. Being young and watching him work countless hours and sacrificing his body and doing what he needed to do to provide for his family has been a shining example to me and something that has made me strive to try to work as hard as I could.”
Bradshaw also watched his dad get taken advantage of by insurance companies and struggle to get compensated fairly, which started him on a crusade to add a new tool to his toolbox: intimate knowledge of the auto insurance regulations in North Carolina.
“Watching my dad struggle with that really gave me an appreciation for how difficult it was. So, as I became more involved in the business and started to learn how to combat those things, it was just kind of a natural instinct to share that with everybody I could because I don’t want anybody to have to struggle. I want to lift everyone up.
“I feel like if I’m able to implement a process, follow that process and make it profitable and ensure that everybody within our company can earn fair wages, I think anybody can do that. So, anything I can do to help others or guide others down that path has just always felt very natural to me.”
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