We feature some of the best columnists in the industry including Toby Chess, Rich Evans, Tom Franklin, Mike Causey, Dale Delmege, Walter Danalevich and Lee Amaradio.

We have contributing writers from different regions of the country: Ed Attanasio, David Brown, Chasidy Sisk and Rachael Mercer.

We also have guest columistslike Richard Steffen of the CRA, and David McClune from CAA.

Collectively they represent a unique perspective with hundreds of person-years of experience. Let us know what you think, by posting responses to their columns.


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Lee Amaradio

Lee Amaradio, Jr. is the president and owner of “Faith” Quality Auto Body Inc. in Murrieta, California. Lee is president of the Collision Repair Association of California (go to CRA at their website ) as well as an advocate for many other industry groups. He can be contacted at

To read Lee's columns prior to last January search "Amaradio" on this site from the home page

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Hey Toby! by Toby Chess

Toby Chess is an I-CAR program instructor, Training specialist, and former salvage yard operator. Toby is universally known in the collision industry for his work with first responders and advocacy for body shops and consumers. He can be reached at

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David M. Brown

David M. Brown is a native of Philadelphia who has lived in Arizona for 30 years. He writes about subjects he is passionate about, including the car industry. A father of two, he is mentored by his border collie/pointer, Haylie, who is much more concerned with thrown tennis balls than with a beautifully repainted Aston Martin.

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Dale Delmege

Dale Delmege has a wealth of industry experience and shares his management tips by answering questions in this column. Dale has been Collision Industry Conference Chairman 1999–2000 and is a Lifetime Member (since 2001) of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS). He is also a National Auto Body Council Founding Member and Director; a CIECA. Founding Member, Director, and Chairman.


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Gonzo Weaver

Scott "Gonzo" Weaver owns a Tulsa Auto Electric Shop and has a knack for telling true stories of his adventures in auto repair. The following short stories are excerpted from his book, "Hey Look! I Found The Loose Nut", which provides a Good Laugh for Mechanics of Any Age. For more information, Contact Scott Weaver at and see his website at

You can purchase his book from Amazon at: Hey Look, I Found the Loose Nut

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Tom Franklin

Tom Franklin has been a sales and marketing consultant for forty years, specializing in automotive and auto body. He has written numerous books and provides marketing solutions and services for many businesses. He can be reached at (323) 871-6862 or at

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Stefan Gesterkamp

Stefan Gesterkamp is a  Master Craftsman and BASF representative who has been in the automotive paint industry for 27 years. He started his career in a custom shop before turning to collision repair. Stefan graduated from the University of Coatings and Colorants in Germany and is the author of “How to Paint Your Show Car.” You can order Stephan's book from Amazon. Contact him at:

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Mike Causey

Mike Causey is a consumer advocate and lobbyist for the Independent Auto Body Association (IABA) and healthcare groups, as well as Organic farming and Healthy Eating. Mike is a writer and speaker on numerous consumer issues and legislation. Contact him at: Causey & Associates, P.O. Box 16725, Greensboro, NC 27416 Email:  Phone: (336) 210-1947

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Dan Espersen

Dan Espersen is ALLDATA® CollisionSM Program Manager. Dan is a Gold Pin Member of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) and holds an AA Degree in Automotive Technology. He has 17 years of experience in the collision industry and 17 years of experience in the automotive industry.

Dan writes the ALL OEM INFORMATION semi-monthly column with Tom McGee, who writes the alternate month.

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Tom McGee

Tom McGee is National Account Manager for ALLDATA Collision. He has had a long career with I-CAR, including as President & CEO. Tom is an ASE certified Master Collision Repair/Refinish Technician. He has also run his own collision facility and been a career and technical school instructor. He can be reached at For other Tom McGee articles in Autobody News, go to:   —   JEFF WEBSTER is an ALLDATA Technical Writer.

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John Yoswick

John Yoswick is a freelance automotive writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the collision industry since 1988. He is the editor of the weekly CRASH Network (for a free 4-week trial subscription, visit

He can be contacted by email at

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Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist based in San Francisco. Ed enjoys sports of all kinds and is a part time stand-up comedian. He can be reached at

See also Ed's Shop Showcase columns.

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Janet Chaney

Janet Chaney has been a long-time contributor to Autobody News. She's a former shop owner and now owns and operates Cave Creek Business Development in Stevensville, Montana. Janet supports many auto body associations can be reached at

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Walter Danalevich

Walter Danalevich, AAM, has owned Santa Barbara Auto Refinishing in Santa Barbara, California, since 1979. He enjoys sharing his shop management tips with other shop owners and would like to hear about yours. Contact him at

See also his shop website:

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Insurance Insider

The "Insurance Insider" is a corporate-level executive with a Top 10 auto insurer in the U.S.. Although he needs to remain anonymous, he will answer questions emailed to him in future columns. Got a comment or question you’d like to see him address? Email him at

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Rich Evans

Rich Evans is the owner of Huntington Beach Bodyworks and an award winning painter and fabricator. He offers workshops in repair and customization at his facility to share his unique talents. He also appears on a new show on Speed Channel, Car Warriors. See his Twitter (left) and Facebook (right) feeds for more on Rich's active projects.
For contacts and design samples visit

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Williams, Larry

Larry Williams is an innovative, award winning parts manager who has been managing profitable parts departments for over 30 years. He recognizes the importance of OEM parts management to collision repairers and now works as a consultant to the industry. He can be reached for consultation at

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Business Beat

Business Beat is a new column launching May 2012 in Autobody News. It will focus on investment activities in the automobile and collision industry and will feature guest columnists on a regular basis. Opinions herein are strictly those of the author. Autobody News accepts no responsibility for investment actions taken or not taken based on this column.

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Sisk, Chasidy Rae

Sisk, Chasidy Rae

Chasidy Rae Sisk is a freelance writer from New Castle, DE, who writes on a variety of topics. She can be reached at

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Alicia Basteri

Alicia Basteri is Online Editor at Autobody News. Contact her at

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David Luehr

David Luehr

David Luehr is the owner of Elite Body Shop Solutions, LLC a collision business consulting firm based in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a 30-year veteran of the collision repair industry and has served on several industry association boards across the USA as well as leadership positions with companies such as Manheim and ABRA. David is an expert in Body Shop Operations and specializes in Lean and Theory of Constraints methods. Email him at


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The Wisconsin Auto Collision Technicians Association (WACTAL) held the 2014 WACTAL Conference and Trade Show Friday–Saturday, February 21–22, 2014, at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI.

The conference began on Friday morning with a slew of educational seminars. Greg Horn, VP of industry relations for Mitchell International, educated attendees on the current state of the collision repair industry by exploring claim frequency trends and key performance indicators (KPIs). He also touched on advancing vehicular technology in terms of changes in vehicle construction and the increase in cars being manufactured with accident avoidance systems.

Mark Mueller of PPG Refinish followed with "The New Collision Repair Administrative Paradigm." This seminar sought to teach participants a better way to deal with the pressures related to an increase in administrative responsibilities for managing claims.

After lunch, Tony Passwater, president of AEII, presented "How Have We Gotten Where We Are Now?" during which he examined the strategies used to force the collision repair industry into its current state, as well as how to identify and counteract these practices to improve the industry’s future.

WACTAL members met for a brief meeting before opening the trade show on Friday night. This was followed by the Hospitality Social, which provided attendees and exhibitors a chance to relax and network while enjoying the hors d’oeuvres sponsored by BASF, Body Shop Supply Co., Broadway Automotive Group, Finishmaster, Motors Service & Supply, PPG, and West Bend Mutual Insurance.

In "Salvage Vehicle Inspection – What You Need to Know" on Saturday morning, trooper Quinn Sieber, salvage vehicle inspector for the Wisconsin State Patrol, reinforced the illegality of removing VIN tags.

With the conclusion of the informational seminars, the trade show reopened on Saturday, an exciting expansion from previous years when the show was only open one day.

Nearly 30 companies exhibited at the 2014 WACTAL show, including 3M, Akzo Nobel, Axalta Coating Systems, Mitchell, BASF, PPG Industries, FinishMaster, and many others.

All aspects of the event were well-received by participants, though stormy weather on Thursday and Friday impacted attendance slightly.

Much of the agenda at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) held in Palm Springs, Calif., in January was devoted to CIC’s biennial planning session, where participants discuss what topics CIC committees will take on in the coming year or two. But the quarterly meeting also included a number of informational sessions for attendees.

I-CAR CEO John VanAlstyne, for example, offered an update on not only his organization’s training activities, but also its efforts to improve the availability and accessibility of OEM technical information for collision repairers. He said that I-CAR had budgeted over $1 million on that ongoing project over two years, and that the website portal I-CAR is developing to improve access to OEM technical information is being beta-tested and will launch soon.

He said I-CAR also has worked to make its training more affordable. For the fourth year in a row, he said, there would be no price increase for training for Gold Class businesses, and pricing has been reduced for I-CAR newly-renamed “Welding Testing and Certification.” The welding program discounts increase based on the number of students a company is registering, part of I-CAR’s effort to get training to more technicians, VanAlstyne said.

He said I-CAR soon will be rolling out aluminum welding and other training courses specific to Ford’s 2015 F-150 pick-up, which hits showrooms late this year.

About half of the I-CAR training that students choose to take is now online, up from just 3 percent three years ago, VanAlstyne said. That and the expanded focus on being a source of technical information beyond training is part of I-CAR’s shift in scope.

“We’re working to make information on-demand and accessible, so people get the training and information they need when they need it,” he said.

Also during the meeting, CIC committees offered a preview of some of what they hope to address at upcoming meetings. Steve Regan, chairman of the Governmental Committee, said his committee will have a presentation on the topic of “most-favored nation” clauses at the next CIC, being held April 9–10 in Portland, OR. The clauses are often found in insurer direct repair program agreements, requiring participating shops to give the insurer the best pricing offered to any other. Several states have now banned the clauses in health insurance contracts, and the Automotive Service Association has urged the U.S. Department of Justice to review most-favored nation clauses in DRP contracts.

Regan said his committee is also planning a presentation for later this year on legal and liability issues related to autonomous (or “self-driving”) cars.

Gene Lopez, chairman of CIC’s Education and Training Committee, said his committee is working on presentations related to coaching and developing mentoring and peer-to-peer training relationships within an organization.

CIC Chairman George Avery led a discussion about the future of CIC’s Data Privacy issue, which may be renamed to incorporate a broader scope of “information technology” issues. There appeared to be general consensus the committee is still needed. Several attendees noted the recent controversy when a Ford marketing executive said the automaker tracks customers through vehicle GPS and other technology—only to later retract the statement. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that automakers and navigation system providers gather a lot of data on where drivers have been, and there are no standards for how long the data is retained nor a way for drivers to ask that their data be destroyed. Avery said he would be seeking a new chairman for the CIC committee that works on data privacy issues.

Chris Northup of the CIC Parts and Materials Committee cited a laundry list of topics still to be addressed by subcommittees, including: aftermarket parts certification standards, parts inventory/availability issues, recycled parts clean-up times, multiple recycled parts standards, impact of OEM price-matching policies, etc.

Randy Hanson of Allstate this year becomes chairman of the CIC Insurer-Repairer Relations Committee. Outgoing chairman Rick Tuuri said the committee will continue to “identify areas for insurers and repairers to work together for efficiencies.” CIC attendee Rick Sherwood suggested that the committee go back to some of the recommendations the committee developed – such as best practices related to digital images, which was finalized in 2010 – to find out if insurers are aware of them and whether or not they’ve adopted them.

“So rather than just bring a recommendation, which I understand is CIC’s mission, get some feedback that might assist in refining these things as we go forward so they are more actionable at the end of the day,” Sherwood suggested.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 01:47

The Sci-Fi Shop of the Future

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The week of Jan 13, 2014, Ford Motor Co. announced the completely re-engineered Ford F-150 pickup truck featuring aluminum from the hood to the tailgate, 700 pounds lighter than the previous model. Mercedes Benz introduced the next C-Class sports sedan with a body built mostly of aluminum, and Audi’s A8 luxury sedan had an aluminum chassis almost 20 years ago. At the time an Audi executive said, “there are only a handful of shops capable of repairing it. It has to be shipped to one of those centers to be fixed.”  For them the next step is the doors and the body. And aluminum isn’t the only challenge for collision repair centers. The BMW Electric 13 is mostly made from plastic-like carbon fiber.

If this wasn’t enough of a challenge, Ford has teamed with MIT and Stanford University to make self-driving cars more intuitive. Radar-like LiDAR infrared sensors bounce infrared light off objects as far as 200 feet away to generate data to make a 3-D map to plan a path to safely avoid pedestrians, bicycles and other vehicles. Recently a blind “driver” at the Santa Clara Blind Center” made a completely safe shopping trip in a self-driving car, preprogrammed by a Google engineer. The repair facility of the future will also be faced with vehicle programming systems, radar-like systems, mapping devices and more. These technical advances will strain collision shop finances as more tools, equipment and highly trained technicians are required. But how will this affect a shop’s marketing strategies?

The most forward looking shop owners may well realize the great marketing potential that these technical advances offer. The new generation of young adults is already more tech-savvy than most shop owners. The Internet and cell-phone advances have made this generation well aware of the need to keep on top of new technology. The shop that positions itself as a leader in new automotive repair technology can capture the “hearts and minds” of this generation if handled correctly. What should a shop do?

Because more and more people are turning to the web when shopping for a repair facility, a shop should turn the home page into bold advertisement for the shop’s technical know-how. While young people may be keenly aware of applications for their tablet, cell phone and computer, they are not likely to know much about repair challenges a shop faces when repairing their late model vehicle. Images of damaged aluminum and carbon fiber parts with captions explaining a little about these challenges may capture their attention. A little research should let you know how many shops in your area are equipped to deal with these repair challenges. If you are one of the few that can do it, this is a prime time to shout out your superiority over the competition, not just in general but with specific numbers.

Photos and information about equipment may not impress a vehicle owner looking for a repair, but insurance executives who check out your website will definitely be concerned with the makes and qualities of your frame machine, welding equipment, electric and hybrid handling processes and more. It’s important to provide educational information for these different publics on your site and in your printed literature. Most of what you put on the web can also be inexpensively reproduced in some simple printed handouts for less web-savvy customers who come to the shop.

The next step in demonstrating a future-orientation can be accomplished with employee uniforms, data-entry pads and display screens that can show a repair prospect shop areas where his or her vehicle will be processed in a way that is different from the competition. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to put technicians into star-trek-like uniforms with labels that say “hybrid specialist”, “autonomous vehicle specialist” and more. Customers should feel confident that this shop can handle the vehicle that has become a sort of robot, sensing the driver/passenger’s preferences in temperature, seat position, music, lighting and destination.

As a shop moves more into servicing late model vehicles with these futuristic advances, it would be wise to re-imagine the shop in a futuristic way. Even the furniture in the waiting area could be fashioned after airport seating and modernistic showroom designs. Large blown-up photos on the wall of late-model vehicles with captions can complete the image of a forward-looking shop of the future. Website and social media sites are great places to capture images of a space-age shop, service areas and personnel. Shops that grabbed the position of first to have water-borne paint, aluminum welding and frame machines, and high-tech sensors to handle on-board computer systems, could now be the first in the area to be recognized as the Sci-Fi shop of the future.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 01:37

Get your Brand Out There by Going Outdoors

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Outdoor advertising used to primarily consist of billboards, but now with new technologies and other emerging types of media, the signage industry includes bus boards, taxi advertising, car wraps, trade show booth advertising, bus stop and train stop mini-billboards, video kiosk advertising, sport events advertising and even grocery cart advertising. It’s gotten to the point where almost everywhere we look we see an outdoor advertising message for some brand.

Body shops and collision centers all over the country utilize billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising to get their message out there while engaging their existing and potential customer base right where they want them to be—in their cars or on busses and in cabs, etc.

But, not everyone appreciates outdoor advertising and many call it “visual pollution.” Last year, São Paulo in Brazil was the first city to enact a ban on virtually all outdoor advertising. Billboards, neon signs, and even buses and taxis have been wiped clean of advertisements in the municipality, the world’s fourth largest. According to Mayor Gilberto Kassab, the city’s so-called “Clean City Law” meant attacking pollution in every form, including air, water, noise and annoying signage.

Since its adoption, the law has eliminated some 15,000 billboards as well as other ads citywide and has generated more than $8 million in fines, according to David Evan Harris from Adbusters. While some advertising and business groups complain that the ban limits free expression, costs jobs, and makes streets less safe by reducing lighting from signage, the move has won more than 70 percent approval from São Paulo residents, many of whom appreciate the aesthetics of a city with less advertising.

São Paolo is not the only city to take action against outdoor advertising. This spring, the municipal government of Beijing, China’s capital city, began reducing ads by targeting billboards for luxury housing. “Many [of the ads] use exaggerated terms that encourage luxury and self-indulgence which are beyond the reach of low-income groups and are therefore not conducive to harmony in the capital,” the city’s mayor, Wang Qishan, told The Wall Street Journal.

Well, as long as it’s still legal, outdoor advertising is an ideal way for collision repair companies to continue their ongoing branding efforts. Getting your name in the brain of the consumer in your area is key and if a billboard or an inflatable gorilla standing on your roof will reinforce your shop’s name and lead to people coming through the door, why not do it?

Zara’s Collision Center in Springfield, IL, has been using billboards for the past seven years and its owner, Brad Zara strongly believes they bring him business, he said, although he has no specific numbers.

“Most of the billboards we do here in Springfield are not near our shop, because we want to pull business from other parts of the city,” Zara said. “We do four different themes every year and run each one quarterly, so that there’s some variety. We usually donate one billboard per year to a local charity or cause we believe in. Our logo is there on those charity-based billboards, but in the end we give the organization or cause most of the space.”

Are his billboards worth the cost, we asked Zara. “I have no idea, actually,” he said. “But I can tell you this—our customers mention them literally every day. People say things like ‘I saw this billboard yesterday,’ etc.—but that billboard was from three years ago. But they think it’s still up there, which is good, because it shows that they’re thinking of us and they still have that message in their brains.”

Zara’s gets their billboard designs and coordinates the placement of the billboards through HIP Advertising is a full-service central Illinois advertising agency offering creative, marketing, Web and media services. Mark Butler, a corporate communications executive at HIP Advertising has been working with Brad Zara on his billboard campaigns since day one. “Our relationship with Zara’s came from a cold call back in 2005, as I recall,” Butler explained. “The campaign has grown from there and by now, we have the process down. At the end of each year, we sit down with Brad and his people and go over the creative concepts for each billboard for the following year. Then we do the final designs and start scheduling the billboards for the coming year.”

When it comes to billboards in general, the key is obviously visibility, but the message is also a big part, Butler said. “It has to be simple and direct with a large graphic supporting the message. A common mistake is when companies try to convey too much information on a billboard. Drivers aren’t going to sit there and read it, so you have to convey your message quickly. If you’re going get 10-15 seconds of their time, that’s pretty much the max. So brevity is crucial if you want your billboard to get response. With Zara’s, we like to use a fun, whimsical and humorous approach and it really seems to work.”

Jon McKnight is the business development manager at Fife’s Auto Body, with two locations in Ohio. Rife’s has been buying billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising for the past five years and the results are positive, he explained.

“People around here know who we are, and by asking each customer through the door how they heard about us, we know that the billboards are being seen,” McKnight explained. “That’s pretty much what you want from any form of advertising or marketing. We partner with charities and give us our billboards, at least one every year and we also do promotions via our billboards. We gave away a round of golf one time, by asking people to like us on Facebook and we always try to do timely things. For instance, right now we’re running a Winter Olympics theme. We’ve used every technique to get consumers to look at our billboards. We put our dogs on there and we even ran one billboard upside down, just to create a buzz and entice the public—and it seemed to work!”

Question: What is the major difference between the two Honda Accords?

Answer: The “A” Pillar reinforcement, “B” pillar reinforcement and Rocker panel reinforcement are constructed of one of the highest strengths steels seen in passenger cars. They have an 1500 MPa steel rating.

Question: What does Honda say when these parts are damaged from a side impact?


Friday, 07 February 2014 18:50

How to Improve Your Success with Google in 2014

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I tell marketing people at body shops all the time that if you pay attention to Google and stay on top of its periodic algorithm updates, you’ll be way ahead of the game. It may not sound that important, but when you think about the fact that every website in the world is affected by Google in one way or another, you can see that those who know how to use it right will obviously have a distinct advantage over their competition.

Friday, 07 February 2014 18:24

Re-Think Your Marketing For The New Year

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When you’re running a busy shop, it’s necessary to have many systems and procedures more or less on automatic. There’s no time to address every situation newly every time. Lean processes and procedures have been carefully thought out so if everyone adheres to the system, the shop runs smoothly.

It’s easy as a shop owner to get so caught up in day-to-day operations that it can be a challenge to follow just the news directly affecting collision repairers.

But there’s plenty of insurance-related news that shops also should know about, because it can help them educate their customers, market their business, and maybe even alter how they vote or shop for insurance themselves.

Over 120 Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes A-Plus Network members—representing both dealerships and independent collision centers from Canada and the US—attended the annual North America A-Plus Network Vision Groups conference at the La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs, CA, from December 11–13, 2013.

Download a printable PDF of this article.

Attendees started the conference on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, with a golf outing at the PGA WEST Greg Norman course, followed by a welcome reception at the La Quinta Resort & Club.

On Thursday, December 12, 2013, Tom Hablitzel, president and general manager at Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, Troy Neuerburg, director of sales and excellence at Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, and Elainna Sachire, president at Square One Systems, Inc., welcomed attendees and introduced the conference theme: It comes from within.

Building on that theme, John Lusardi of The Ken Blanchard Companies delivered his interactive keynote presentation about activating optimal motivation to achieve and sustain high performance in the workplace.

Following lunch, Ted Matthews of Instinct Brand Equity gave every attendee a copy of his book, Brand: It Ain’t the Logo, and delivered a special presentation about how to foster your brand—or what people think of your company.

Further tying into the conference theme, Thursday ended with a roundtable discussion about “owning the customer” by managers of business consulting at Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes—David Dewalt, Steven Feltovich, Lee Rush, and Ted Williams—and founder and CEO at Collex Collision Experts, John Gagliano. The roundtable discussion was moderated by manager of global OEM and business consulting services at Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, Rodes Brown. Key takeaways from the discussion included the importance of hiring the right employees, training employees properly, implementing and following a process, measuring results, committing for the long-term, and providing leadership. The roundtable discussion was followed by a dinner reception.

Wrapping up the conference on Friday, December 13, 2013, attendees participated in a series of individual group breakout sessions that focused on composite review and 2014 business planning.

The Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes A-Plus Network is an exclusive group of collision repair specialists who reflect the highest industry standards. The mission of the A-Plus Network Vision Groups is to facilitate the business success of all members through teamwork, adaptability, and innovation. Administered and moderated by Square One Systems, the A-Plus Network Vision Groups focus on the latest industry trends, topics, and strategies in operations, sales, and marketing. Learn more about Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes A-Plus Network Vision Groups.

At their recent Team PRP (Premium Recycled Parts) Midterm Training and Sales Conference held at the Crowne Plaza Galleria Hotel in Dallas, TX, more than 200 automotive recyclers were on hand to discuss issues such as warranties, sales, the state of the recycling industry as a whole and how they can best serve the collision industry better and more effectively.