Christopher Ray is the owner of Dentless Touch, a thriving PDR business with a number of repair facilities across Maryland and Virginia. He also runs one of the most successful PDR YouTube channels through Dentless Touch. Read on to learn how he found his passion and his learnings and tips on how to build a successful PDR business.
Getting His Start Working with Cars
Christopher has always had a passion for cars, but he originally had his sights set on becoming a mechanic. His first step was to surround himself with successful people in the auto reconditioning industry. And even when one of his mentors warned him of some of the job’s challenges, Christopher wasn’t deterred.
He got a job as a security guard at his father’s Mercedes Benz dealership with a goal to become a mechanic there once he’d completed his training. But when a space opened up on the dent team, Christopher’s dad saw an opportunity for his son to learn PDR. Christopher was reluctant, because he had his sights set elsewhere. But his dad made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: if PDR didn’t work out, he would buy mechanic tools for him.
Starting PDR Training
Christopher found that he loved PDR, and so he focused his efforts on becoming the best he could be. He went through the Dent Masters training program, which helped him learn the technical and business aspects of running a PDR business.
“They want you to build your own route, with some guidance,” he explains. “It’s really the mentorship from the guys around you. You spend a lot of time around other techs and see how they do things, then come up with your own routine, plan, habits.”
Christopher considers himself lucky to have been surrounded by industry leaders, like mentors at Dent Masters and Paul Kordon, at such a pivotal time in his career.
Christopher Ray’s 8 Tips for Business Success
After a few years of training and learning, Christopher was ready to branch out on his own. He went on to start Dentless Touch, and it has grown and expanded steadily. Today, he has 4 Dentless Touch repair locations across Maryland and Virginia.
1. Keep Moving Forward – Even When It’s Scary
Christopher encourages anyone thinking about starting their own business to “get comfortable being uncomfortable”. If you let fear drive you, you will never have the tricky conversations or take the necessary steps to start and grow a business. But by putting yourself out there, you’ll find the right opportunities.
“I’ve seen that the people who ask more questions—and are receptive to the answers—are more successful,” he says.
“I’ve seen that the people who ask more questions—and are receptive to the answers—are more successful.”
There are always going to be challenges to starting your own business, but Christopher believes that you shouldn’t let that stop you. In other words, keep moving forward even when it’s scary. When he opened his first PDR shop, he had a lot on the line personally. But he also had a plan, so he felt ready.
“No risk, no reward,” he says. “But it was a calculated risk.”
By month three, he was already questioning his own fear and thinking about taking his next steps. In his view, no matter what it takes, you have to be able to adapt in order to grow.
“The thing with a stairwell, to get to the end—I don’t think it’s endless—you’ve got to keep climbing up,” he says. “So, if you have to get a new vehicle, if you have to redesign your logo, if you have to change your name, you just have to keep going to the next step.”
2. Give Back
Christopher feels fortunate to have found an industry that he loves, and he has worked hard to help others. When he first started Dentless Touch, he focused on finding people who he felt could benefit from the industry.
“I hired people so they could grow and possibly get out of situations they were in,” he says. “I felt like I worked hard but it was almost like luck. I stumbled across an industry that was pretty lucrative and rewarding at the same time, so I wanted to give that back.”
3. Location, Location, Location!
When Christopher was ready to open his second shop, he thought carefully about its location. He opened it in a place where he knew there was work that he couldn’t reach previously. He spoke to few of his contacts at the dealerships to confirm the new location would work better for them and then signed the lease the next day.
His four shops are now strategically placed around the D.C. area.
“We wanted to position ourselves so that a customer is always 10 minutes away from us,” he says.
But he also notes that you may have to adapt your operations depending on your location. When he opened the Virginia store, he realized that there were different fees and taxes, which then impacted his pricing. They actually had to adapt the invoicing system they were using to ensure they were charging and paying the correct amounts.
4. Re-invest in Your Own Business
He describes his approach to his finances as simple; any additional income is put straight back into the business. But investing means spending money, and successful investing takes a well thought-out strategy. Christopher’s strategy is to use data to measure the return on his investments (ROI). This helps him make smarter business decisions going forward.
For example, to measure the success of his marketing campaigns he relies on Google Analytics and Mobile Tech RX Analytics. He uses these tools to track how much he spends on marketing and what he gets from it.
“I’m trying to figure out exactly how much my advertisements cost to get a customer in the door.”
5. Manage Your Accounting
Christopher recommends getting help with your accounting if you need it. The old way of using pen and paper can quickly become stressful and inefficient. Christopher was lucky in that one of his mentors was a CPA. He also now uses QuickBooks, which is fully integrated with the Mobile Tech RX software and helps him to ensure he’s not late with his taxes.
6. Get Creative with Your Marketing
With almost 500,000 subscribers, 280+ videos, and a combined 8-million views, Christopher has one of the most successful YouTube Channels in PDR. He started making videos when he saw the opportunity to combine his passions for videography and PDR, and using it as a way to give back to the industry.
He puts a lot of time into creating the video content, because he also recognizes that it has been an effective way for him to market his business. After all, YouTube is the second biggest search platform after Google. Every month, he tracks how many of the customers who come into his shops have seen his YouTube videos.
7. Find a Balance
While Christopher is passionate about the work, it takes more than being a great tech to be successful in business. For this reason, the tech side of his job has had to take a back seat as he’s grown his business. He was confident in being able to train the techs, but when it came to his office staff, he had to adapt.
“I had to recalibrate how I talk to them, how I motivate them, and how I can be a leader for them,” he says.
He actively took the time to sit down with his office staff and coach them, so that he could then delegate tasks. Now, he’s able to split his time between doing what he loves—PDR and creating video content—while also managing and growing his business.
“I had to find my rhythm,” he says. “It took about two years to find that. But now it’s a combination. I’ve got a great schedule now. I can do a little bit of pushing that I enjoy and I can also produce more content.”
8. Look For Inspiration Outside the Industry
Christopher Ray credits his father with instilling a hard-working attitude in him. And he recognizes that building a network of mentors and successful people around him has been a great driver for him. But Christopher has also looked outside of the PDR industry for inspiration.
“I do not follow a model for any PDR business,” he says. “I follow models from industries that are more competitive.”
For example, he mentions his respect for Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, for his perseverance and relentlessness. When Christopher first started making videos for YouTube, he was sometimes only getting 10 views. But Christopher didn’t let that stop him from doing what he loved. He persevered and made some tweaks, and eventually it paid off.
Looking Ahead to an Exciting Future
Christopher is excited about the future of PDR, which has already seen huge growth in the last few years. He plans to open two additional stores and hire more techs at all of his locations. He would also like to offer a training program and continue making videos, as his way of giving back to an industry he loves.
“At this point, the PDR industry can do nothing but grow,” he says. “So I’m just preparing for that.”
This is one feature of Prescribing Growth – a series of interviews with auto recon industry leaders. In this series, we share the experts’ stories and they get to talk about their tips and tricks of running a successful business.