Expanding, Equipping and Adding PPF Services

By Tyler O’Hara

So you currently own a shop or want to expand your existing business into paint protection film (PPF). There are many things to consider and plan out before you order material and start trying to sell PPF jobs. In this column, I’ll outline my thoughts and some of the steps I’ve taken to propel my startup company, American Wrap Co., to rocket-like success in three years.

Knowing Manufacturers

My initial thoughts for newcomers is to check your local markets. You should know your competition and what brands of PPF they carry. This is important because it affects a lot of things. Some PPF manufacturers are territorial and you may not be able to represent a manufacturer because they are represented at other facilities around you. So get the lay of the land, then make a choice that fits you and your company. I have chosen to stay with one of the US made films. In any event, you need a reputable company that will stand behind their warranty should there ever be a warranty issue.

Once you have a manufacturer locked down, you need to get certified. This will usually allow you to purchase film and be an authorized dealer for the company. Then I would recommend purchasing the basic hand tools needed to start practicing installs. DO NOT think that just because you have a manufacturer’s certificate that you are now a rock star capable of “selling” PPF jobs to customers. This is a marathon, not a sprint!

Proper Training

Seek out a world class trainer who is willing to come spend a week teaching you everything they know. The cost of private training can vary, but I assure you it will be the best money a newcomer can spend. Think of yourself as an athlete. I used to race motocross, but I wasn’t a pro right out of the gate. It took years of training and paid coaching. PPF is a commitment—both of time and finances–and it takes sacrifice. After training, try to stick with one system and master it. Don’t get caught up in what Joe Shmoe on the Internet says about this new knife or squeegee. I do installations with a very simple set of tools that I have used since I first started 13 years ago.

Once you’ve completed the following I would start by practicing–you can offer very low priced jobs to friends and family. Practice going through the motions and learn how to approach body panels on cars. If you do offer jobs to customers, I would highly encourage you to be honest and up front about your skill level. I have tried to help installers over the phone who had promised the world and then were failing to deliver. It’s okay to start small and practice on side mirrors, door cups and door edges. These are the first things I teach someone because a lot of fundamental skill is learned on these small tricky pieces.

Wise Investments

All of the aforementioned things can be done with low initial investment. When the time is right, you need to start equipping your business with larger more expensive tools. A plotter, for example, is a must-have. Most people have a computer but if you don’t, you’ll need a basic laptop. The laptop I still use to run my plotter is just a super cheap PC with low RAM. But it gets the job done. For plotters the only one I would consider is a 64-inch model from Graphtec.

Save, hustle, do whatever it takes and buy the big dog! If you’re in the auto biz or a detailer you probably already have a pressure washer and detailing supplies. If you are a complete newcomer, you need to research that. You need detailing products, washing equipment and chemicals to prep the vehicle. I could talk for days but those are must haves in my opinion to properly execute a PPF installation.

Expanding your PPF empire takes work. There were times I didn’t have any work at all, so I hopped in my truck and went to meet people. I researched other tint shops and detailers that didn’t install in-house, then offered wholesale pricing to them. I did what I needed to do to network and constantly push my brand forward physically. If you don’t feel comfortable selling yourself, then maybe the Internet is a better outlet.

You need to have a killer website and pay a reputable company to build it. At the end of the day this will only go so far and can cost a lot of money. Networking is the most powerful tool possible. Hook up with car shows and sponsor them, go to car meets, tap into everything car related possible. If you’re in this business, chances are you’re a car person. So make sure your car is a representation of your company.

I have a BMW M2 with a custom PPF installation on it and some of the best ROI I’ve been able to capture was from taking my car to events and just simply talking to people. Another great avenue for expansion is car dealerships. I have cold-called many dealers. I just walk in and start asking questions until I get what I want or they push me out the door.

In reflecting on my 13 years of installing PPF, owning my own business and being in this industry, one thing comes to mind: hard work. If you want to be successful you need to be willing to put in the work, make sacrifices, hone your skill set and never stop attacking. I hope this helps any newcomers or old dogs like me! Wrap On.

Tyler O’Hara is the owner of American Wrap Company in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He won the gold in the 2018 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ PPF competition and has also competed and placed in the last four WFCT competitions.

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