In 1994, Walker Group Ventures took over a small collision repair shop in Vancouver, British Columbia. Not long after this, brothers Scott and Robert Walker started shifting their skills in the shop to a direction that aligned with their passion: luxury vehicles. What started as a single facility has now evolved into No. 1 Collision Group and Mercedes-Benz Collision, which has four locations in the Greater Vancouver Area and one in Bellingham, Washington.
Growing in an uncertain environment
There are several challenges when it comes to running a business, but it really all boils down to one concern for the Walkers: “The real obstacle [for businesses] is if you’re going to continue your growth. If you’re not growing, you’re going backwards,” says Chief Operating Officer, Scott Walker. Constantly growing is the number one goal of Walker Group Ventures. And they clearly demonstrated that commitment to growth when they opened their state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot facility in Richmond, BC three years ago. “We went from small facilities, about 10,000 square feet, to the 70,000 square foot facility. It’s hard to take the plunge and invest a lot of money into a massive building and then cross your fingers and hope that it’s going to work,” says Scott.
The Walkers are not only concerned with growing their business, but are also constantly monitoring the growth of the companies making the vehicles they service. “They’re growing at a phenomenal rate, and we have to keep up,” says Scott. Another developing area in the industry the Walkers are keeping top-of-mind is autonomous vehicles. And it’s possible they may be a concern for the company moving forward. “Cars are evolving, and you have to ask how many [autonomous cars] are going to be on the road, and what is the accident rate going to be,” says Scott. “It’s a little uncertain what the future looks like and how to plan for that in the industry. But you can’t always dwell on the what ifs.”
Partnerships are the key to providing great service
Staying on top of the ever-changing luxury automobile industry is no easy feat, but the Walkers have maintained strong partnerships with some of the industry’s leaders to ensure that they’re never left behind. Companies such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi are always available to offer training to their staff to help them stay up-to-date. “Our guys go for training on those cars all the time,” says Scott. “With more sensors and more computers, you need to be on top of your training.” Carefully selecting the cars to service while continuing to hone their expertise has given them a competitive advantage.
Training employees to be skilled in repairing luxury vehicles can be costly, but the return is worth it for the company. “We go all over the world [for training]: Germany, California and Washington,” says Scott. This not only creates strong partnerships with their luxury manufacturers, but amazing relationships between the business and their staff as well.
“Our employees are very good. They’re very dedicated to the brand. They see what we do and what we fix and they buy into it,” says Scott.
Ensuring that employees are equipped with the tools they need to effectively solve problems ensures that their partnerships don’t just remain intact but are set to flourish.
“They can tell us what we do”
Walker Group Ventures has been banking with CWB for almost 10 years. Scott credits the relationship they've built with their bank manager as the key to a healthy business primed for growth. “That’s what keeps the relationship with CWB going; you form a good relationship with your banker. It comes down to rates, but also them being able to work with you — seeing your future with you and being willing to grow with you,” notes Scott.
While Robert and Scott see similarities in the many banking options that are available to businesses today, they feel that CWB has added a more personal element to their banking experience. As Scott highlights, “They have adapted with us.”
CWB is here to support companies throughout every stage of their business. Speak to a CWB advisor today to see how they can help your business grow.