By Evelyn Pyburn

One of Billings’ most creative entrepreneurs, after selling one business, is well on his way to creating another.

Matthew McDonnell who transformed the family business in Billings into a leading edge business that attracted the attention of a national chain, is on his way to creating another leading edge company with huge potential. For a number of years McDonnell assumed the ownership and management of  Big Sky Collision, which was founded by his father. He transformed the business into a very modern, leading edge service company with several locations in Montana, which was purchased by Crash Champions. He has since launched another enterprise with even greater potential which will be headquartered in Billings, Montana — Collision Vision.

Collision Vision is an SAAS (stands for Software as a Service) company – a software platform that can do eight basic things for the industry, which will completely change how the collision repair business conducts business, said McDonnell.

As the manager of an auto collision repair shop, McDonnell became well acquainted with problems that impacted the business and the fragmented nature of the whole industry. After selling his business, McDonnell had time to really reflect upon the problems and realize the tremendous costs they impose as well as inefficiencies. He set about creating a new business by finding a way to solve those problems.

In the process, McDonnell acquired eight stockholders and people with the skills and expertise to establish a new company and develop a unique software program. The new technology happens to use AI, to facilitate a centralized point of information, accessible to everyone involved in a business, saving many, many hours that is commonly spent in trying to gather data to accomplish one task or another.

For example, a shop technician is faced with doing a unique repair on a vehicle for which he needs specific information. Because the industry is so “fragmented,” explained McDonnell, the technician could easily spend four hours or more to first figure out where to get the information and then how to apply it. Those hours are really “unbillable”. They become a cost that is essentially a loss to the shop.

The losses are even greater to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in the routine necessity of conducting audits on shops which are certified as being qualified to do repairs on specific kinds of vehicles. Not only does the OEM have to spend a lot of time gathering data but so does the shop in preparing for an audit – but with Collision Vision all that information is constantly gathered and maintained “in the Cloud” and readily available to a subscriber.

And even more – in compiling that data, Collision Vision can monitor the on-going acquisitions, training or advancements of a shop, and inform the owner about trends or significant opportunities they might not otherwise readily realize, such as the fact that they are near achieving the prerequisites to become certified for another kind of service.

The eight basic “niche offerings” in the new platform are asset management, third party vendor management, shop certification audit, OEM management, repair audit, shop employee training scheduler, employee platform, and a unique parts rebate program from which savings can more than pay for the cost of the platform.

Collision Vision is a “win, win, win” for everybody, said McDonnell. The industry has been asking for this kind of tool,” he said. His biggest head scratcher is wondering why it has taken so long for someone to come up with a solution. Collision Vision isn’t all that complicated, but its holistic nature in addressing so many problems makes it unique.

It doesn’t take much explanation about what it can do to generate excitement for people involved in the various aspects of the industry – from shop owners to OEMs, from vendors and suppliers, to paint and tool companies – they all instantly “get it” and readily recognize its potential in being able to make numerous kinds of jobs easier and save lots of money – really lots of money.

The fledgling company has an ambitious mission statement but one that is already coming to reality: “To revolutionize the collision repair ecosystem by creating a unified platform that streamlines communication, optimizes processes, and empowers stakeholders – ultimately driving significant cost savings and risk reduction for OEMs, body shops, and the entire supply chain.”

There are 30,000 shops in the country that could be potential subscribers to Collision Vision and McDonnell’s goal is to get 10,000 of them on board. He already has 20 companies which are currently using the platform and helping to prove the innovation. “It is happening,” said McDonnell, who has been working to develop the idea for the past three years.

McDonnell’s experience as a shop owner not only provided him with a deep understanding of the issues faced by the industry but connected him to many people across the country with similar experience and understanding. Those connections have proven to be of great value in his process of developing Collision Vision. As McDonnell transformed Big Sky Collision to be recognized as one of the top 50 shops in the nation, he was asked to serve on numerous “inner oval” boards including those of Nissan, Subaru, Chrysler, and Volvo.  There he met many owners of shops including a few who have become part of his new enterprise – individuals who understand the significance of what the new technology holds for so many aspects of the industry.

One high-profile individual in the business, Dan Dent, who has been with Nissan for 17 years, recently left his position to join Collision Vision.

“We are already looking at international markets,” said McDonnell — another new venture for McDonnell.


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