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.
To read Lee's columns prior to last January search "Amaradio" on this site from the home page
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.View items...
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 email@example.com
See also his shop website: www.sbautobody.comView items...
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 Auto.Insurance.Insider@gmail.comView items...
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 www.huntingtonbeachbodyworks.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.View items...
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.View items...
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 email@example.com
You’re the owner, estimator, painter, front office person, receptionist, marketing director, technician, and detailer. Oh, and I also forgot janitor, psychiatrist, and a shoulder to cry on. As a marketing person, I wouldn’t know how to write an estimate or paint a fender, so why do you insist on trying to do it all when it comes to your marketing, public relations, and advertising? Wearing too many hats means you’re doing too much, and marketing should be the first hat to remove from your busy life as soon as you possibly can.
In some cases, you may already have someone in your crew that can help you in your marketing efforts. Maybe one of your estimators or front office people can play a role in your marketing scheme. One body shop took a newbie office assistant and turned her into a confident and extremely efficient marketing professional, and now she does all of their email marketing, blogging, social media, and online advertising. All it took was one day of training and she was up and running and ready to take on the world.
Without a strategized plan and an annual marketing budget, you’re shooting in the dark, and the first casualty could be your business. Too many body shops get fat and happy when the cash flows in, but all of a sudden—wow, the competition comes to town or they lose a DRP and jump into panic mode. One body shop owner freaked out when three MSOs moved into his city, so he borrowed $50,000 and asked me where should he spend it? Use it for your retirement, I said, because marketing is something you do all the time—not just in emergency mode.
Marketing moves quickly, and if your competitor is working faster and harder than you are, they will obviously capture more market share. There are only so many car accidents in your area every year, so why is the shop down the street fixing 150 vehicles monthly while you’re doing half that? Maybe because they’ve made their marketing a priority while many of your marketing projects are sitting in a constant state of limbo. “We’ll get to that next week…next month…next year,” and then it never happens. Marketing is not a part-time thing reserved for evenings and weekends, it’s fast-paced and ever-changing, and that’s why it needs to be full-time and on the front burner.
If a marketing company says that they’ll get you ranked number one on Google within one month’s time, listen to what your father used to tell you—“If it looks too good to be true, well…” Some so-called marketing agencies can get you involved in what they call “black hat tactics” while promising you the world, which can lead to Google sanctioning you and shutting down your website. If any company promises you anything—get it in writing and don’t pay them until they deliver.
Too many business owners (not just body shops) develop a “checked box” mentality when it comes to their marketing efforts. “We updated our website, created a blog, and did some SEO, so we’re good.” Well, maybe you’re good right now, but how about three months from now? Just by checking things off on your marketing to-do list doesn’t mean you can stop or slow down. New content should be added to your site all the time to enhance SEO. Your blog needs new articles, photos, etc. on an ongoing basis. I hate to see a collision blog that hasn’t been updated since 2012, for example. Marketing, advertising, and public relations is not a start-and-stop thing, and that’s why you should never even look at the finish line.
You have some nice cozy DRPs that bring you tons of business, but if they make up more than 80 percent of your total revenue, you’ve got too many eggs in one basket. What happens if you fumble a couple repairs and suddenly you’re no longer the insurance company’s flavor of the week? A healthy balance between DRPs and non-DRP business should be close to 50-50, but too many shops don’t get it until they get the axe. By continually hammering away at the big three—marketing, public relations, and advertising—one DRP won’t be able to make or break you.
If you’re DRP-dependent, you might want to do more consumer marketing and advertising, such as radio and TV broadcast, outdoor advertising, direct mail, online advertising, and social media. You can continue relying on your DRPs, but when times change and the DRPs are harder to attain, you’ll be in a better place and more prepared for a life with fewer DRPs. Plus, it all works together to brand your business, so that when consumers do have a choice, you’re on their radar.
Perform your due diligence and talk to a lot of marketing experts before choosing which way to go. But once you find the right company or individual, let them do their job and step aside. Too many body shops owners listen to everyone about marketing—their wives, girlfriends, the postman, and the guy at the deli down the street. Hire the right people and let them perform. Sit down with them every three to six months to check the results of their work and re-assess things at that point, but don’t jump the gun when you don’t see instant results. Marketing takes time, like fine wine—but in the end, you’ll start seeing positive results because solid marketing is an investment and not an expense.
Learn as much as you can about marketing, advertising, and public relations and then pass it on to the people who will actually be doing the heavy lifting. If you’re knowledgeable, you won’t have to take advice from people who read something somewhere and aren’t afraid to share it with you. You need to be the final arbiter when it comes to your marketing. You may not have the time to do it yourself, but at least you’ll know what’s going on. The paint companies, professional organizations, and marketing firms offer classes, training sessions, and seminars all the time and many of them are free, so be a sponge and suck up as much of this information as you can because knowledge is power.
The association representatives at the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) Leadership Conference meeting were in unanimous agreement on one issue: insurer involvement in parts purchasing. A resolution, passed unanimously, recognized the right of insurers to pursue programs they view as cost-saving, but called for the insurance industry to consider repair industry concerts when developing any such program.
The resolution listed some of the industry’s concerns regarding insurer involvement in the ordering or purchasing of parts, specifically that:
—as reported in Collision Expert
How much more money can the insurance industry squeeze from collision repairers? Try $2 billion to $4 billion. That’s the figure presented in an article called “Achieving World-Class Claims Performance Using Innovative Supply Chain Management” in McKinsey’s Property-Casualty Insurance Annual.
How could the insurance industry realize this savings? By creating super direct repair programs.
“In general,” the report said, “channeling more repair volume to fewer network participants leads to better prices and other concessions.”
David Friedman, one of the authors of the report, amplified the point.
“Let’s say State Farm says to their DRP providers, ‘We think you’re the best of the best and we’ve got a new higher-grade program where we’ll channel even more work to you, and we’ll have less inspection.”
—As reported in The Golden Eagle. By mid-2000, State Farm was piloting a “Select Service” program with Sterling Collision shops (prior to that chain being owned by Allstate) in several markets; the program eventually replaced the insurer’s “Service First” program, significantly reducing the number of participating shops.
Tom McGee would like everyone in the collision industry to ask themselves two questions: What led you to get into this industry, and did you ever expect when you started out to be doing what you’re doing now?
McGee, the CEO of I-CAR, posed those questions to about 60 people attending an I-CAR “industry forum” in Chicago, IL, as a way to introduce his concept for some websites to help attract more young people into the industry.
“Nobody ever explains the career opportunities,” said McGee, who said he’s now the head of an international training organization but started out in the auto body “hobby class” in his high school. “I use the example of touring the DuPoint lab and looking at people who used to be technicians now working in the chemistry area in product analysis. Guys who worked in the stall next to me at my first job out of college now work for GM and Daimler-Chrysler. Did I expect them to go there or me to go here? No. But we don’t show parents what these opportunities are to allow them to understand that kids can make a good career and living in this industry.”
McGee, drawing on his own experience as the father of three kids, ages 7 to 12, suggested that I-CAR develop age-based websites that would include such interactive activities as racing and other games, drag-and-drop customizing of vehicles, trivia and printable coloring books that would give kids reasons to visit the sites…The sites would let kids tinker with cars “virtually,” and also help them see that collision repair skills can lead to rewarding careers not only within shops, but also with paint companies, information providers, and insurers.
—As reported in Autobody News. I-CAR launched two such websites in 2005. CollisionCareers.org is still live, though it is fairly static and offers little in the way of career path “stories” as it did in the early days. CollisionKids.org is no longer an active site. McGee left I-CAR in 2008 and is now with the Automotive Training Institute.
Tony Aquila, CEO of Solera, Inc. (the parent company of AudaExplore), told the 250 IBIS attendees (shops, insurers and vendors from about two dozen countries) that businesses moving forward can take one of two roads.
“I think you can just focus on ‘faster, better, cheaper,’ but to me, that’s a dead-end,” he said. “It really doesn’t take you anywhere, because eventually, you can’t make it that much cheaper, and you start to erode your profitability, then you start to lose your enthusiasm and vision, and everything kind of unravels. Or you can focus on what we believe, which is ‘faster, better, more valuable.’ Focus on high-value things that allow you the opportunity to innovate. Because then price is not the issue. It’s about the value you are delivering. We make no bones about it: When we do something, we want to get paid for it because we’re doing something high-value.”
Aquila was asked how his company’s shop customers can use that concept when they feel continually squeezed by insurers.
“If the customer is saying they want cheaper, then I would argue to my people that we’re not doing a good enough job providing more value,” Aquila said. “When you focus on just price, the value curve is out of the equation. That means innovation is not happening. You’re not giving them more services. When customers say to me, ‘We need it cheaper,’ then I immediately think: What do I have to do to add more value so they stop talking about cheap. Because cheap sucks. It’s not good for any of us. What we need to concentrate on is how do we get the waste out of the process.”
—as reported in CRASH Network, June 29, 2009.
Recently, the president of the local California Autobody Association (CAA) chapter renamed his shop. It had been J & L Body Shop for many years, but he chose to rename it Fix Auto Sun Valley. Obviously, he chose this name to reflect a relatively new relationship with the Fix Auto organization. But there may have been a deeper reason for the renaming. When all a prospective customer has to judge a shop is the name, a name like J & L really says nothing about the nature or quality of the shop. And this shop name is typical of many shop names that just reflect the owner’s name or names. But even those shops that intend to convey some degree of quality in their name—like Elite Auto Body, Precision Auto Body, Superior Auto Body, Supreme Auto Body, Ace Auto Body, etc.—are so commonplace they are no longer noticed. The effect can be the exact opposite of what was intended. Ideally, you need to create a name with a trademark image that no one can ever mistake as someone else’s! And that image has to convey quality and uniqueness at a single glance—not an easy task.
In my first article for Autobody News, I’m going to write about winning. That sounds simple, you might think, but there’s a problem: Everything you know about winning is wrong. The moment of triumph, the congratulations, and the final score—those are the basic components of winning. Right? Wrong! If this surprises you, you are not alone. Until I learned the true secret to winning, I thought I knew all about the subject. I was totally wrong. I had a lot to learn. Now I’ve discovered the real sources of success, in both business and sports.
As a newbie to the collision repair industry, I was one of the 65 new Women’s Industry Network (WIN) members attending their first WIN Annual Education Conference, which was held May 5–8, 2014, at the Paradise Point Resort & Spa in San Diego, CA.
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect—and was more than pleasantly surprised!
Even before arriving, after joining WIN and registering for the conference, I received a personal email from a WIN member warmly welcoming me to WIN and offering assistance with any conference questions. This was to set the tone for my experience.
The meeting kicked off on an uncharacteristically blustery day (for San Diego, anyway). I received another warm welcome at the registration desk, and was super stoked to unwrap a stylish black pashmina from my welcome packet—it certainly came in handy!
As I walked into the conference room and looked around for a seat, I paused and smiled as I realized that it was a room full of women (well, there were a few men). I settled in next to friendly faces as the emcee, Michelle Sullivan, welcomed a record number of 178 conference attendees.
“When I think about why I get so excited about WIN, for me it is all about camaraderie—camaraderie is the spirit of WIN.” Sullivan then introduced the theme of the conference by inviting attendees to “Power Up!”
Next, 2013-2014 WIN Board of Directors chairwoman Margaret Knell recognized WIN achievements over the past year, the 2014 WIN Conference sponsors, as well as committee chairs, co-chairs, and other members. In addition, she presented Denise Caspersen and Ruth Weniger with the 2014 WIN Cornerstone Award, which is awarded to individuals on the WIN Board of Directors who exemplify the values and vision of WIN.
Laurie Cusic, senior facilitator for Brody Professional Development, then presented “Bridging the Generational Gap,” which addressed the need to understand generational differences in a workplace with four distinct generations—traditionalists, baby boomers, generation Xers, and millennials (or generation Yers)—and attendees participated in a related networking event.
My overall first impression was that there was great energy in the room, and, unlike a lot of other conferences, everyone seemed genuinely excited—and “powered up”—to be there, friendly, supportive, and proud.
This feeling was solidified during the welcome dinner at Paradise Cove, where attendees mingled with old friends and new over a luau-themed menu, followed by roasting marshmallows in a bonfire to make s’mores.
Attendees started day two with the annual WIN Scholarship Walk to raise funds for the WIN Scholarships.
Following a continental breakfast, charismatic keynote speaker Dr. Verna Cornelia Price, CEO of The Power of People Consulting Group and author of “The Power of People: Four Kinds of People Who Can Change Your Life,” tapped into the WIN “Power Up!” theme with her message of “The Power of You!” Dr. Price explained that you are born with power; no one has more power than you; no one can take your power (but you can give it away); and your power multiplies when you use it. She also talked about the four types of powerful people: adders, subtractors, multipliers, and dividers.
Next up, the engaging Colette Carlson, founder of “Speak Your Truth”, talked about “The Hard, Cold Truth—Working Hard Isn’t Working,” including how to communicate successes, cultivate connections, and develop strategic relationships.
After lunch, attendees went to one of three workshops about technology (“Mastering the Muck of Your Technology” by Kathi Burns), negotiation skills (“Truth About Negotiation: A$k and You Shall Succeed” by Colette Carlson), or sustainability (“The Green Revolution” by Mike LeVasseur).
The day ended with the WIN Annual Membership meeting, which provided the 2014 Report to the Industry including reports from the Communications, Membership, Finance, Scholarship, Nominating, and Governance committees. In addition, the WIN Board of Directors, new WIN Executive Committee, and WIN Scholarship winners in attendance were recognized.
The evening festivities started with a cocktail reception, followed by the annual WIN Gala and Most Influential Women Ceremony. After dinner, WIN colleagues and friends recognized and introduced the honorees: Frederica Carter, president of F. Carter Events, LLC (former communications manager at AkzoNobel); Jordan Hendler, executive director of the Washington Metropolitan Autobody Association; and Leanne Jefferies, director of Collision Programs for AIA Canada. And last but not least, dessert was served!
After a continental breakfast, John Kett, president and CEO of Insurance Auto Auctions (IAA), presented “The Increasingly Interconnected APD System,” covering the operational and technological forecast for IAA and key information about the direction of the industry.
Following the break, Jane Hylen, senior vice president of North Central Operations Enterprise Holdings, presented “Keys to Success” within the automotive industry.
Tracy Holberry from Sherwin-Williams presented the 2014 Scholarship recipients in attendance, Stephanie Baker and Suzanna Hernandez, with a certificate for tuition and travel-related expenses paid in full for any automotive training course at a Sherwin Williams Training Center of their choice.
Margaret Knell closed the conference with a summary of the events and officially passed the torch to Denise Caspersen, newly-elected chairwoman of the WIN Board of Directors.
If you’re a woman in the collision repair industry, I highly recommend that you join WIN and attend the 2015 WIN Annual Education Conference.
If you’re already a WIN member, WIN asks that you please consider joining a committee as WIN is entirely volunteer-based. Sign in and click on the Committee description to find full descriptions and contact information.
If you missed the 2014 conference but will be attending the 2014 NACE/CARS Expo and Conference, stop by the WIN booth.
Gender marketing—it sounds like it would be prejudicial and maybe even illegal. But in many collision repair shops, the marketing is already heavily gender-oriented. A shop that focuses on race cars, muscle cars, classic cars, and sponsoring events around these interests are already marketing to a mostly male audience. Add to that emphasis all-male estimators, and you have a shop that has a definite male gender focus. Considering that as many as half of the collision repairs coming into the shop are brought in by female customers, adding a female focus to marketing would hardly be prejudicial.
I ran into someone at the 2013 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show who apologized profusely.
“I was meaning to call you back,” he said. “I know you left a message.”
“The one from 2012 or the one from 2013?” I inquired as nicely as I could.
Why don't people call each other back anymore? What is the psychology behind not returning phone calls? Do you have a group of friends or business associates in your life who will NEVER call you back, no matter what? The sad fact is that most of us do.
For many years, body shop owners in general weren’t enamored with the idea of hiring a company to design and develop their websites, thinking that they cost too much and would not bring enough new customers to their shops. But now most of those naysayers and doubters realize that a good, easy-to-read website that has intuitive navigation and is leveraged for searchability is a necessity, rather than a luxury. And that’s why companies such as Autoshop Solutions, an automotive website design and Internet marketing company based in Apex, NC, are flourishing.
Looking for tips, tools and resources to help your business, defend your positions or do your part for the industry? Here’s a collection of links to sites, documents and information you may find interesting and useful.
Retired Automotive Service Association (ASA) lobbyist Don Randall told the group that current antitrust laws are strangling collision repairers by giving insurers an unfair advantage to meet and set policy language and contract definitions. In essence, he said, insurers have the ability to set market prices while collision repairers do not.
“Our system is control losses, which sounds like a pretty good idea,” Randall said. “But that system is destroying the free enterprise system in this state.”
Insurance policies, he said, are laden with loopholes that give insurers the opportunity to change a $100 deductible into one costing much more.
“In the event of a loss, ‘We will make you whole,’ but who decides what is whole,” Randall said. “You have a variable. If you take the car to the shop of your choice, and it isn’t one they choose, they may say to you, ‘You just pay the difference between the one you picked and the one we picked.’ They may also say, ‘We don’t pay for…’ or “It is not customary…” or ‘It is not usual and ordinary.’ They are now engaging in ‘dancing around the contract.’”
Randall railed against the current direct repair programs, saying they breed corruption and cheating.
“It’s wrong and it ought to be stopped,” he said. “But it will not stop until this industry gets organized.”
– from coverage of a forum in Portland, OR, sponsored by Fairness in Auto Insurance Regulations (FAIR)
Could the computerized estimating systems be improved to improve the ease and accuracy of estimating? Three Collision Industry Conference (CIC) committees continued exploring this issue at the CIC meeting in Denver in April 1999.
Bob Matejzel of the CIC Estimating Committee said his group has identified an initial list of about a dozen procedures that it believes the estimating systems should automatically remind users about. As an example, Matejzel said that if replacement of a lower control arm or other front-end suspension part is entered on an estimate, the system should in some way prompt the estimator to also include an alignment on the estimate.
Matejzel said the industry information providers are focusing much of their efforts this year on Y2K compliance issues. But he said his committee, which includes insurers and shops, will continue to meet with the estimating system providers to discuss these changes throughout the year.
“If you’d been at one of this committee’s meetings, you’d have actually seen a group of repairers and insurers stand up and face the information providers and say with one voice, ‘This is what we want,’” said CIC chairman Dale Delmege of the committee’s meetings earlier this year. “That was a magic moment in this industry.”
Linda Holcomb said the CIC Write It Right Committee’s discussions with the estimating system providers has also focused on the need to make the systems easier to use.
“Our estimators are really spending a lot of time writing estimates, and we’d like to see that done quicker,” she said.
– as reported in Autobody News
A videotape of an interview with one vehicle owner about his experience with an auto claim generated some discussion when shown at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in Nashville TN, largely because of who the vehicle owner is: Joe Maxwell, the lieutenant governor of Missouri.
“The thing I was most amazed by was how quickly I was contacted by [the other driver’s] insurance company, which almost immediately called me and said they already had the check in the mail to pay for my automobile,” Maxwell said. “I asked ‘How did you even know how much damage was done?’ They said, ‘Well, from the report.’ So I was offered a settlement before anybody even viewed the damage to the vehicle.”
Maxwell said that while the insurance company representatives were pleasant and that he never felt harassed, they did refer him to a shop in Columbia, MO, 45 miles away. When he told the insurer the first check they sent would not cover the cost of repairs, they made an appointment to send someone out to look at the vehicle at his office. Maxwell doesn’t know if that happened. The shop received a revised estimate—still insufficient to cover the cost of repairs—but Maxwell said the adjuster never contacted him.
“They claim the guy came and viewed the car, but he never came into the building, never jacked the vehicle up,” Maxwell said. “The car was parallel parked on the street and the damage was on the driver’s door side so the guy would have had to lay down on the street to look under the car, which wouldn’t have been safe. And clearly without opening the door, which was locked, they could not have seen all the damage. So that troubled me some.”
Maxwell said he’s concerned that many people in his situation would have accepted that first check and “in doing so accept settlement on the claim and then discover it wasn’t enough to have a professional, quality job done.”
He said he’s also concerned about insurers steering work or owning shops.
“The idea of having an insurance company that would control where I repaired my car is kind of like having a fox watch the chicken house,” he said. “You may wind up with less chickens.”
– as reported in Autobody News
Under a settlement agreement reached last week, LKQ Corp. will be the only company allowed to sell certain non-OEM collision parts for Ford vehicles. The non-OEM parts involved are those designed to replace parts for which Ford owns design patents.
As part of the agreement, LKQ will pay Ford a royalty fee for each part sold, and has agreed not to challenge the validity of Ford’s design patents during the term of the agreement (which extends until October 2011, but may be renewed). Other details of the agreement were not disclosed.
Ford said the settlement “does not endorse the quality or use of non-OEM replacement parts sold by LKQ Corp.”
The agreement ends two legal battles Ford has waged to protect its design patents on collision parts for its F-150 pickup and Mustang. It also is likely to split the non-OEM parts industry which has been working as the “Quality Parts Coalition” to limit automakers’ rights to hold design patents on collision parts.
– As reported in CRASH Network, April, 2009. LKQ currently faces a lawsuit from Chrysler over the sale of parts that the automaker claims violate its design patents. The Quality Parts Coalition continues to back proposed federal legislation that would slash (from 14 years to just 30 months) the time that automakers can use design patents to prevent other companies from producing replacement crash parts.