Service King Collision Repair Plans National Expansion

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Service King plans national expansion and appoints a new president, Cathy Bonner.

Dallas-based Service King plans to embark on an ambitious national expansion led by new president Cathy Bonner that could double revenue over the next five years.

The chain of collision-repair centers, founded in 1976 by company chairman Eddie Lennox, recently opened seven shops in Houston and the success of those centers – some were profitable after three months – prompted Lennox to consider the leap outside Texas.

Most of Service King's 31 shops and 1,000 employees are in the Dallas area. The privately held company, which says it has a 20 percent market share in the area, expects to repair about 70,000 vehicles and earn $150 million in revenue this year.

"We were able to experiment with a lot of things in Houston that might work for us nationally," said Lennox, 57, a former body-repair man who started Service King in a three-bay tin building in West Dallas.

Bonner, a Dallas native, has no experience with auto repair. But she served as executive director of the Texas Department of Commerce from 1991 to 1994, founded The Women's Museum in Dallas and has started and managed three marketing and communications firms.

She also is Lennox's sister-in-law – a fact that was important because she knows the Service King culture, Lennox said. Bonner's primary responsibility will be to develop a strategic plan for growth, determining which markets Service King should enter and overseeing that plan.

"This relates to growth and getting someone who can help us achieve it – and not ex-technicians like myself," Lennox said.

He believes that planning for major growth requires knowledge that he and his managers don't have.

"Eddie approached me and convinced me I don't need to know how to fix a car," said Bonner, 60, a finalist in 2007 for The Dallas Morning News' "Texan of the Year" award for her work to pass legislation creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. "I just get to build on their success."

Bonner said she intends to have a growth strategy plan completed by the first of the year.

"I had a lot of experience identifying new markets and bringing in corporations when I was with the state," said Bonner, who was part of a team of officials in the early 1990s that helped convince General Motors Corp. to not close its assembly plant in Arlington.

Service King offers several programs that Lennox says are unique – including a computer program developed by vice president Jeff McFadden that allows insurers to monitor and audit the entire repair process.

"We also have some operations programs that [vice president] Danny McKinley put into place that no one else does, and those products really made me more bullish on growth," Lennox said.

Bonner, who will not get stock in Service King, says she doesn't view her job as a long-term position. Lennox's 34-year-old son, Jeremy, will serve as her assistant.

"I'm not going to dilute the stock," she said. "I see my role as being short in terms of achieving the goals we want to attain."

Despite its moves to get larger, Service King has no interest in going public, said Lennox, who holds 80 percent of Service King's stock along with his wife. Managers throughout the company own the remaining 20 percent.

"We're well capitalized, and we have good banking relationships," he said. "We envision doubling our revenue in three to five years."

By TERRY BOX / The Dallas Morning News
tbox(at)dallasnews(dot)com

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