Karen Knight – Crash Management

How does a smart, savvy successful businesswoman create New Zealand's first accident management company?

Well, in Karen Knight's case, you are a 20-year veteran of the panelbeating industry and already exceptionally experienced in business management.

"Panel beating is a young woman's trade and for 20 years I ran the biggest panel beating business in New Zealand, called The Body Shop Ltd," she says.

"Then I sold the business and took a break. I travelled and worked in a few other roles with Babbage Consultants and Esanda, while I thought about what I wanted to do next."

"The idea of accident management as a business model came to me, and for a while I thought that I had invented the idea in its entirety!" she laughs. "But I discovered that although the idea was unheard of in New Zealand, it was a well-established industry in the UK, Europe and America."

So Karen applied what she learnt in the trade as well as her knowledge of car leasing and insurance, took the plunge and started her revolutionary NZ-new business, Crash Management, in 2004.

Crash Management offers a one-call solution to anyone involved in a road accident, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Clients who phone 0800 2CRASH have all their car needs taken care of, at no charge to themselves. The company makes money by charging its repairers a modest fee.

"We coordinate with insurance brokers and repairers to pick the client's vehicle up, provide the client with a replacement vehicle, then have their own vehicle repaired and returned to them with a minimum of fuss," Karen says. "We are there to do our best for people, so no job is refused."

She admits that because the concept is new to this country and because kiwis are great do-it-yourselfers, it has taken some time for the business to gain traction.

However, now they "have thousands of retail clients, as well as servicing corporate and government fleets and are building some great business partnerships with insurance brokers and companies like Protecta Insurance."

Karen says the biggest challenges are dealing with client expectations, and managing the repairers as they coordinate with different operators around the country.

"We have 100 sites around the country and we are careful which service providers we work with because we need to manage the quality of service we provide our clients – it has to be spot on," she says. "It is especially important that we maintain consistency across the country when we are dealing with fleets.

Crash Management also has to deal with the occasional funny job. "One recent job involved a four-wheel drive going off the road in the Hunuas," Karen says. "The driver didn't have a clue where he was, so the towie had no idea how to locate him. Then they both worked out a way of coordinating their GPS apps via their iPhones – problem solved!"

Surprisingly, Crash Management manages their national business with a small, highly skilled team of just four people. "The key," says Karen, "is to ensure you have a fabulous IT system [ours is amazing] and outsource the different steps involved in each of the jobs, such as the 0800 number.

"Essentially it is a numbers game. We make a small amount of revenue per job, multiplied by lots of clients and we get through a lot of work.

"The scale available in NZ is tiny, so opportunity is limited – but we take a long-term view of the business and know we are here to stay!"

Karen's future business goals are focussed on being a dominant player in the New Zealand market, beating the pants off the opposition (two other competitors have entered the market lately) and then taking a look at breaking into the Australian market.

Karen's top five tips for being successfully self-employed

  1. Have determination and tenacity – if you give up you lose, so don't accept no for an answer
  2. Know your market inside out.
  3. Nurture good quality business relationships. They are extremely important. Find the key players and ways of working with them and turn your competitors into business partners.
  4. Know a good opportunity when you see it – then adapt it to make it fit.
  5. Ensure you are well capitalised.

Karen enjoys spending her limited spare time with great friends and good wine – "they are a must!" She also schedules a regular winter holiday break and heads for the sun (although in the past she's enjoyed skiing holidays). And some of her precious time is also devoted to the Board of GABA (Gay Auckland Business Association) where, amongst other things, she fundraises for tertiary scholarships and special projects.

tools Tools & Resources

We offer a range a range of free, easy
to use online resources including
calculators, Key financial dates, tax facts and useful internet links.
contact Contact Us

Call us on 09 360 8425 or send us an email           
41B Sussex Street
Grey Lynn
Auckland 1021 
New Zealand
PO Box 8034
Symonds St
Auckland 1150
New Zealand