Owner Troy Gates developed a unique body shop concept while studying business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The plan was based on adding exceptional customer service to the quality repair standards that his father, Dale Gates, had established at his previous body shop business. Troy put together a business plan and managed to obtain a business loan to buy an abandoned building seven miles outside of Sun Prairie. Dale provided the initial equipment and 26 years of industry experience. Operations started on March 15, 1990. Troy continued to run the business by himself for the next three years. The business plan was working but the collision repair growth was far slower than forecasted. Troy obtained a dealer’s license and focused on creating volume by buying totaled vehicles at insurance salvage auctions, repairing and then selling them through the newspaper.
When Dale rejoined the business in late 1994, the focus shifted away from selling repaired salvage vehicles and back to collision repair. An aggressive growth plan was put into action in July of 1995 so that by September of 1996 the company had grown from 3 to 13 employees and the size of the building had doubled. The growth created a need for a computerized management system to keep the business organized so Troy and a programmer friend started to convert the company’s paper-based business systems into a database program.
An electrical fire then totally destroyed the building, equipment and records of the company as well as Dale & Karen Gates’s attached home on Friday, May 9, 1997. The disaster could very easily have bankrupted the company, but a decision was made that weekend by Dale and Troy to try to overcome the financial risk by borrowing heavily and pursuing rapid growth. The business was closed for only one day. Langer Body Shop allowed Dale and Troy to re-start operations in their building to give Dale and Troy the time they needed to find a permanent solution. Three weeks later they moved out to two different warehouses located in the countryside.
On July 12, the company moved to a warehouse used to store buses near the Expo Center in Madison. Dale and Troy rushed to convert the building into a body shop within weeks so that they could handle the volume needed to pay for the massive loans required to start the business again from scratch. The calculated risk paid off and the company grew from 13 employees to 28 in 6 months. They then expanded to a second location in June of 1998 by adding the Sun Prairie body shop that they had operated out of for three weeks after the fire: Langer Body Shop.
Shortly after opening the second location, Dale Gates died in a car crash on August 2, 1998. Troy considered an offer to sell the business, but decided to continue operations without his partner. Rapid expansion continued as it grew to 49 employees in July of 2000 and branched out into different operations: Gates Software Solutions and Gates Truck & Body Repair. Gates Software Solutions was started in March of 1999 with three full-time employees: two programmers and one tester to finish development of Gates Auto Body’s custom-built computerized management system for retail sale to other body shops. Gates Truck & Body Repair was started in September of 1999 in a third building that it outgrew, resulting in an expansion to our third collision repair facility on the east side of Madison in July of 2001.
In 2007, three dealership shops became Gates Auto Body shops; in April, the Middleton location was added and in October, the Monroe, Wisconsin, and Freeport, Illinois, locations were added. In 2008, Gates Auto Body acquired a shop in West Allis and in 2012, they acquired a shop in Rhinelander. Gates Collision Centers is now the largest independent collision repair company in the state of Wisconsin.
In 2001, Troy Gates approached DuPont Performance Coatings with a concept that eventually turned into the DuPont Performance Alliance (a network of high quality repair facilities). The focus of that program is on helping collision repair facilities to implement best practices with customizable training programs, management software and customer satisfaction indexing (CSI) services. Gates Software Solutions became Gates Business Solutions in June of 2002. Gates Business Solutions expanded into the insurance industry in 2004 with an assignment processing application known as Performance Claims.
In February of 2008, Gates Business Solutions became the administrator of the Jaguar and the Land Rover Body & Paint Programs in the United Kingdom. GBS opened an office in France that provides central billing services to the insurance company, AGF Allianz, in August 2009. October 2009 saw the launch of the Performance Alliance network in Australia and New Zealand. Gates Business Solutions currently employs almost 100 employees and operates in 6 countries.