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Learning PDR: The Dent Dominator Success Story

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Ken Mori: PDR Tech of 20+ Years

When you dial 919-816-5059 Ken Mori picks up the phone. “This Ken, the Dent Dominator,” he says. Mori has been working in paintless dent repair since 1993. After 14 years serving the St. Louis area, he moved his family and business to Raleigh, NC in 2007. Mori recognizes that while there are obstacles to his trade, everybody is looking for quality and reliability.

Getting into paintless dent removal is not something that happens overnight. Mori compares the industry to being a doctor. You need to have somebody who can show you the ropes and teach you the trade. Customers expect professional service from the start, and learning on your own is the recipe for disaster.

Before he developed a reputation, Mori said that grinding and going to extremes allowed his business to get off of the ground. He made cold calls, went door-to-door, offered free demonstrations, and offered to do more difficult jobs that other similar companies shied away from. In what is a bit of a niche field, Mori says that owning and operating your own company is ideal.

The "Dent Dominator"

The “Dent Dominator.” Raleigh, NC.

If he were to go back during his career and change anything, he would have opened his own company sooner. His says that the technician is the guy doing most of the work and all of the selling anyway, so while it certainly involves risk, being on your own makes the most sense.

Mori is satisfied with his income and career, particularly last year when hail created a significant need for paintless dent repairs. While obstacles like thinner metals being used in modern cars, and the economic downturn have affected business, his company is growing, and he loves the industry.


How is business?

Business right now is good. The economy is so so. It’s not what it was seven years ago before ’07, but we’re plugging along ok.

Why did you choose to become a PDR professional?

I’ve been in the automotive industry since leaving high school other than maybe two years in the Air Force. Even while I was in the Air Force I was in the car business a little bit, I had a side job, but when I got out of the service I started selling cars. I was living in the St. Louis area at that time, and one of the guys that was doing the paintless dent removal there at that car lot that I worked at was coming by on a regular basis and kind of dangled the carrot in front of me. He really enjoyed what he did, and I started in July of ’93, and have enjoyed it ever since. To answer your question I guess I saw the opportunity for making a large, decent living, so that’s why I did it.

How did you get your first five customers?

Well it’s kind of funny. I started out back in ’93 and a lot of my customers at that point when I was with a different company, the company I initially joined up with, they were given to me. They gave me enough business when I first got into business where it was as much as I could handle, and then once my skills improved, then I needed more customers and I had to go out there and cold call and knock on doors and give a free demo. The business was still it its infancy back then. People were very receptive. If you had a set of dent tools and a little know-how you were king. When I moved to Raleigh seven years ago it was another story. I had to start all over again. I had no reputation that I could use and basically I had to just cold call again, and knock on doors, and survive by looking at the opportunities that the other dent guy didn’t want to do. They wanted to do the easy stuff instead of the hard stuff, so I started doing some of the more difficult, challenging things, and that was kind of my way of getting my foot in the door.

What has been your greatest challenge?

I suppose right now on the wholesale side of the business the biggest challenge is being able to get a fair price. On the retail end that’s not as difficult. People want quality and will pay for quality. But on the wholesale side some of the car lots like cheap labor until they see what they’re getting and then they want somebody better but they still want you to be the same price as the cheaper person. Trying to get people to realize that you get what you pay for might be one challenge on the wholesale side. It happened more with the recession that hit back in ’07. Places are looking to cut corners or whatever, but it is not insurmountable. Certainly some of the other things that have been challenging are the cars change. The metal is getting thinner in order to accommodate better fuel mileage, they make thinner sheet metal cars now, and thinner metal sometimes has a tendency to not dent as nicely as thicker metal parts so it becomes more of a challenge on thin metal especially on imported cars from Japan or Korea. They have a tendency to dent more sharply than thicker, older vehicles like Mercedes or Volvo for example.

If you could start again, what would you do differently?

Probably the only different thing looking back, and we don’t get to go back, but if I could, I probably would have been independent. I worked with a company for the better part of 14 or 15 years and I shouldn’t have stayed with them for so long. I probably would have become independent earlier on. Probably that’s the only thing I would really change. The organization that I was with made a lot of promises that they didn’t deliver on. To be honest with you, the technician is the guy doing most of the work and all of the selling anyway. Having a company name behind it sometimes maybe that would seem appealing I suppose to a potential customer but really I don’t think so . Having been out on my own now, and having the reputation that I have, according to my website, if you look on Angie’s List, we get a lot of great reviews, myself and my business partner. You have to take care of people and that’s the most important thing, for sure.

What’s your single favorite PDR tool and why?

The one that works when I need it. That’s a tough question. We go down to the Florida Trade Exposition in January, and it’s always fun to go down there because a lot of the tool manufacturers they exhibit their tools, they show their tools, and it’s fun to see what’s new. But in all reality our process is very simple. The number of tools that a person needs to have is not that vast, it’s more of knowing how to use the tools than how many you have. As far as my favorite tool and why, I can’t really say that I have a favorite tool as much as my original joke, the one that works and it’s right in my hand working on the first time. They’re all necessary, but you don’t necessarily have to have a lot of them to be successful. You just have to know how to use them.

Are you happy with your income?

Yeah I’d say that overall I’m happy with that. Last year for example the nation had a lot of hail, more so than what we’ve had this year, so we had some phenomenal numbers, and any person that is in the dent business who is even halfway good, you know, you had to be as dumb as a box of rocks not to make a good living last year. This year the hail isn’t there so therefore the amount of workload isn’t there, so you know what you’re capable of , and you don’t see yourself hitting the same numbers. I’m not going to say I’m disappointed as much as I know I am capable of doing more. But on the flip side, I have a little bit more time to live my life this year. So yeah I’m satisfied with my income and the direction that the company is going. There are two of us and we’re ready to add our third person, and he’s going to be going to school here next month. So, we’re looking forward to that also.

So business is so good that you need more help?

Our business is probably not a lot different than other businesses. We have competitors, and there is only so much work out there. Those two things are a given no matter what type of work you are in, or service, or what you sell. But, I like to think we do our job a little bit better and myself and my business partner are busy most of the time five and even six days a week so our reputation is growing. Our retail business is growing because of the internet and our website, so I guess maybe we’re catching work at other people’s expense, but I think that there are a lot of things that our competitors don’t do that they could do a lot better, and we’re focusing on that and that’s why we’re able to grow.

What advice can you offer beginning PDR techs?

This is a very tricky business. I think the best analogy I can give for someone that wants to become a paintless dent removal technician and be good is it’s like going to become a doctor. You can’t just take all of the books, study, and go out there and start doing brain surgery. And it’s the same thing as going to school, you cannot go to school for two weeks and immediately be a good dent person. You have to mentor with somebody, or intern as they would say in the medical career field. I typically will have somebody mentor with me, they’ll ride with me for at least three to six, to maybe even eight months, and by the time we come to the end of that time period, we do slow separation, and that’s very important because you can’t just grasp this. The level of expectation is so high today versus what it was 20 years ago when I got into this. If you’re not very proficient at what you do, your reputation will not be good.

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How We Started

It was 2006. A car detailer couldn't find affordable, easy-to-use add-on equipment to grow his business. So he made it himself.

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