January 9, 2024

MSO interviews: Fortress CEO, Peter Taylor

In case you missed our multi site operator feature in the January issue of the magazine here's the chat we had with Fortress.

Sites: 11

Employees: 300

Type of work: Complex repairs

Established: 2020

No of apprentices: 55

Funding: Privately funded

Sites in: QLD,NSW

By Sam Street | 1 March 2023 I PAINT & PANEL MAGAZINE

The Fortress Group appointed Peter Taylor as Executive Chair in August 2022. He is the founder of Autoco Group in New South Wales and sold the smash repair division to AMA Group in 2017.

Fortress specialises in complex repairs and has impressive success with apprentices with a ‘grow your own’ approach to staffing. “Our niche is in complex repairs and we are ensuring our staff are trained and [equipped] to respond to this ” says Taylor. “We are heavily focussed on training and have a full time training team that regularly takes our body repair apprentices off site to Fortress’s FSR training centre. The Centre allows senior and highly-experienced mentors, Scott and Sean to work closely with Fortress’ apprentices on complex repair jobs. We also run a similar program for refinishing.”

“Some of the work these apprentices are doing is amazing. They can perform complex repairs in their second year, their skill levels are incredible. The program that Mark Reid, Joe Walsh and team devised, puts us, our staff, and the industry in an optimistic position for the future”.

Floods were a major challenge in 2022. “COVID affected us earlier on in the year, but it was the QLD floods that slowed us down,” Taylor said. “While only one site was directly affected by the flooding, our sites experienced extended disruption due to the surrounding road closures which prevented vehicles and parts being delivered, as well as staff being unable to reach their workshop”.

“There’s no doubt that the parts procurement and the delays have affected production. It has affected Fortress’s ‘key to key’ badly but our partners have been understanding and we value our strong relationships with them. We’ve been concentrating on consolidating our sites – making sure our metrics are good, on quality of work and volumes, and that we are building our base” Taylor said.

Looking forward the Group isn’t planning to grow for growth’s sake. The focus is on developing their workforce.

“We’ve identified the need to move our younger staff in to management roles quicker in order to retain them and their industry knowledge without losing them to other trades or disciplines. Creating these career paths, providing alternative opportunities when staff want to move away from being on the tools, or grow other skill sets, supports not only the Fortress business but the entire industry”.

“We’ve got a saying, if you grow, we grow, and if we grow, you grow. So, we develop our people, and we contribute to the industry because the industry has been very good to us.

“I believe Fortress will grow organically, with strategic acquisition, by maximising what we have. We want to do it well, we want to do it fairly and at a reasonable profit. We don’t have to be the biggest, we don’t have to be everywhere, we need to be sustainable for the future of the industry.”

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