Columns

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 lee@faithqualityautobody.com

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 tcspeedster@yahoo.com

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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.

ASK DALE at DaleSR@cox.net.

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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 Gonzosae@aol.com and see his website at www.gonzostoolbox.com.

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 tbfranklin@aol.com.

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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: stefan.gesterkamp@basf.com

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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: gocausey@aol.com  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 Tom.McGee@alldata.com. For other Tom McGee articles in Autobody News, go to:
http://www.autobodynews.com/tom-mcgee/index.php   —   JEFF WEBSTER is an ALLDATA Technical Writer.

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John Yoswick

John Yoswick is an 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 www.CrashNetwork.com).

He can be contacted by email at jyoswick@SpiritOne.com.

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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 era39@aol.com.

See also Ed's Shop Showcase and Company Connections 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 janet_chaney@earthlink.net

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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 sbarbody@earthlink.net

See also his shop website: www.sbautobody.com

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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 Auto.Insurance.Insider@gmail.com

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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 www.huntingtonbeachbodyworks.com

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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 ljoew2@gmail.com.

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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 crsisk@chasidyraesisk.com.

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Alicia Basteri

Alicia Basteri is Online Editor at Autobody News. Contact her at abasteri@autobodynews.com.

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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 dluehr@msn.com

 

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Every insurance company knows that their profitability and loss cost expense relative to auto claims has many independent variables. We often have no control over them. For an obvious example, we can’t ask Mother Nature to reduce the number of hurricanes that ravage areas bordering the ocean. And we have no control over the number of accidents that our policyholders are involved in.
On the flipside, there are some variables within our control—to varying degrees, to be sure, but within our control nonetheless. I’m referring to our staff adjusters. If our staff is well trained, if we maintain strict operating procedures, and if we provide proper oversight of our employees, we can reduce our overall loss cost expense.
Therefore, most insurance carriers spend a lot of time and money to train and supervise their staff. In addition, they regularly make large capital investments to purchase or develop tools to automate an additional level of oversight. The challenge is that even the best electronic tools can’t replace the effectiveness of a human being.
Several insurance carriers have made a especially significant commitment to education. Allstate is one example. They are the largest insurer that requires their staff to be I-CAR Platinum. That’s quite an investment for a company that was recently reported as being on the verge of dropping into the third spot among the largest carriers in the United States.
(Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Not so long ago, Allstate was a lock solid No. 2 and looking for ways to knock State Farm off its pedestal. Instead, Allstate finds itself being pulled down by an otherwise benign English-accented lizard. Er, I mean gecko. At any rate, I’m sure it’s creating mayhem within Allstate.)
One thing is for certain: When a company begins losing market share, it causes them to ratchet down on expenses. Let this serve as your advanced warning: Allstate likely will be stingier than ever.
What makes Allstate’s investment in educating their staff even more interesting is the fact that other large carriers (including several I’ve worked for) don’t require any training. Some may wonder if they are taking an opposite strategy, sort of a “survival of the dumbest.” As Forrest Gump famously said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” If you don’t know how to properly write an estimate, nobody can blame you for trying to cheat them.
There are dozens of other independent variables that impact loss costs, but let’s focus on “dependent variables.” A dependent variable is loosely defined as those things that insurance companies depend upon a collision repair shop for. I never thought I’d say that we depend upon shops but we do.
Most of you are probably guessing that we depend on you for proper part selection or cycle time. Although both of those are critically important to controlling loss costs and improving profitability, there is one even more key variable. An insurance company’s loss costs have less to do with your standard operating procedures or part type selection than they do with your estimator.
Your profitability and our loss cost expense ultimately are based on your estimator’s ability to write an accurate estimate, manage a claim and follow our guidelines. If you have an experienced estimator that understands a particular carrier’s program guidelines, you are better off than 90 percent of the people reading this article. You should make sure that he or she is well compensated. The skills they have are about as rare as you receiving labor time for prime, block and fill on a repaired panel.
That individual can turn a company around and make a historically unsuccessful shop successful. I’ve seen shops that have performed at a high level for years fail miserably when their lead estimator left. Collision repair shops that have the most astute owner, ironclad operational procedures and long-tenured technicians have come to a screeching halt when they lose the glue of the operation provided by a good estimator.
I’m sure it is going to cost some shop owners money when their estimator realizes he’s worth far more than you are paying him. Great technicians are probably more difficult to replace, but you can overcome the loss with an average technician and strong estimator.
I’ve been in meetings where shops beg to remain on a program after a few months of poor performance. They are quick to indicate that they have lost their best estimator. Without trying to sounding heartless, I don’t care about that. My job isn’t to help you manage your operation. Our goal is to make sure that the best shops are repairing our customer’s cars. If you can’t do it, we’ll gladly take our work to the shop owner that realizes that having only one All-Star on your team is poor planning.
So do you have a contingency plan? If you don’t, today would be a good day to start making one.

This month we begin a new type of column that takes a look back at this month in collision history 20, 15, 10 and 5 years ago. You may be surprised how many issues we think of as recent concerns were in the news back then. Keep in mind that these stories may have turned out differently than the way they were reported at the time. Where they did, we attempt to clarify the later outcome.

20 years ago (August 1993)
Collision repairers may soon be hearing about EXACT, a Colorado-based foundation that wants to see body shops take part in an early trial of its autobody repair standards.
So far, the foundation’s executive director, Phil Freeman, has sent out applications for membership to repairers in Rochester, NY, and Chicago. If they take part, shops pay $3,160 after undergoing extensive training, testing and certification. While shops may balk at paying yet another fee for another organization that’s supposed to bring them success, EXACT wants to establish comprehensive industry standards that will be for autobody work what building codes are for building contractors.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is keep it out of the hands of lawmakers,” Freeman said. “A legislator could come in and try to establish something for an industry he’s not too familiar with.”
Already EXACT has spent three years writing up 140 pages of repair standards that Freeman expects to become even more refined over the years. Called the Uniform Autobody Repair Code, the standards will have to be approved by the collision repair industry.
“They’ve been through a technical committee of 27 shop owners,” Freeman said. “We anticipate approval around the first of the year.”
►The EXACT Foundation subsequently reached an agreement with I-CAR under which that organization would continue to develop, manage and market the code under the name Uniform Procedures for Collision Repair (UPCR)

15 years ago (August 1998)
I-CAR also made two significant announcements about its Uniform Procedures for Collision Repair (UPCR) at its annual meeting. First, Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., has agreed to provide its Toyota and Lexus collision repair manuals for inclusion with the UPCR. Beginning with the January update to the UPCR, subscribers will have access to the same collision repair technical information made available to Toyota and Lexus dealers.
I-CAR’s Tom Mack said he hopes Toyota is just the first of many vehicle manufacturers to make their collision repair manuals available to UPCR subscribers.
The second announcement about the UPCR made at the meeting was that 20th Century Insurance Company has become the first insurer to purchase the UPCR for widespread use by its employees.
John Bierer of 20th Century said he was charged earlier this year with improving the consistency of the estimating, adjusting and reinspection efforts of the insurer’s staff. He said after reviewing the UPCR with his claims office management, he presented it to his superiors as the solution they were looking for.
“Each one of our adjusters, our quality control reinspectors, our supervisors and mangers will have a copy of UPCR on their laptops to use in their adjusting, inspecting and quality control,” Bierer said, adding that he hopes other insurers will follow 20th Century’s lead. ”I think it’s what we’ve been looking for for quite some time.”
► I-CAR one year later shelved its UPCR product, which included collision repair procedures as well as vehicle and product manufacturer- specific information, saying sales were “reasonably underwhelming,” but a revival of UPCR has been raised by some during more recent discussions of collision repair standards.

10 years ago (August 2003)
(From Autobody News): Aftermarket parts manufacturers and CAPA are likely vexed by the newly-released “Crash Parts Certification Study” published by the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). The report blasts the parts certification process, concluding that “certification has no value to the customer…If there are problems with the certified product, the certifying entity does not stand behind their own certification process.”
Legislation enacted in 2001 authorized $125,000 to be spent by the BAR, a sub-agency of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, to study the best process for certifying crash parts, and to designate the agency to bear responsibility for overseeing crash parts certification. For two-and-a-half years, the BAR held meetings with repairers, insurers, OEMs and aftermarket parts certifiers. It sent out surveys to auto body repair shops and conducted field test on crash parts. In the end, the BAR reached several conclusions, most notably:
● Elimination of non-certified aftermarket crash parts is not a viable option. Outlawing non-certified aftermarket parts (as suggested by CAPA) would make the market less competitive and leave a shortage of such parts.
● Certification does not protect consumers from poor quality parts… If the certifying entity warranted their certified parts it would provide ‘added value’ to the certified part, and protect consumers against poor quality parts.
The study compared the CAPA Quality Seal to the well-known Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. The Good Housekeeping seal carried a limited warranty stating that if any product bearing the seal proves to be defective within two years of the date of purchase, the product will be replaced or the purchase price refunded. “If CAPA or Global Validators feel their certification parts fit the criteria of their certification program, why don’t they stand behind their certified parts?” the BAR report asks.
5 years ago (August 2008)
The Progressive Insurance fraud lawsuit against Greg Coccaro and his New York shop, North State Custom, was dismissed. When Progressive concluded presenting its evidence and testimony, Coccaro’s attorneys moved for a directed verdict (a standard practice in many cases) and Judge Mary Smith granted the motion, dismissing the case, saying Progressive had not presented sufficient credible evidence for the trial to continue.
Coccaro issued a press release saying he was “elated with the Judge’s decision” and “extremely grateful and touched by all of the support and encouragement shown by fellow members of the collision repair industry.”
“We are disappointed by the court’s decision, and we plan to appeal,” spokeswoman Cristy Cote of Progressive Insurance.
► Progressive indeed appealed and the case was retried, only to have a jury find Coccaro not guilty in 2010; Coccaro earlier this year reached an out-of-court settlement with the insurer just days before trial was set to begin in his tortious business interference lawsuit against Progressive (terms of the settlement are subject to a non-disclosure clause).

To view a pdf file of this article with photos, click HERE.

When I see a body shop that doesn’t have a website, two things happen. First I have to recover from my surprise, then I start asking questions.  I sat down recently with Angel Iraola, the owner of Net Business Consulting & Solutions in Santa Rosa, CA, and he blew huge holes in the following arguments, each of which is a common misconception about websites. Here are the top five:

To view a pdf file of this article with photos, click HERE.

Many of the decisions we make at key decisive moments determine the course of our business thereafter. Buying expensive equipment, hiring a high-priced employee, investing in a management system—each of these decisive choices may be what I like to call “pivotal decisions.” The cost of making a wrong decision could set back the progress of your entire business. But the value of making the right choice may launch your shop into a significantly higher profit position. The future of your business may balance on this pivotal moment. Unfortunately not many shop owners or managers regard a marketing decision as having this powerful, pivotal effect, but considering the cost of deciding badly I suggest that this choice is as important as any.

To view a pdf file of this article with photos, click HERE.

Body shops continue to wring their hands over insurance companies imposing their will on their business and profit margins. Shops contend that insurance companies have no right meddling in their business. I can understand shops wanting to protect their profit margins on parts. And who wants anyone telling them what to do and how to do it? For those of you who are married, you know what I am talking about.

Thankfully, I learned early on in life that taking orders was something I wasn’t good at. Thus, I am happily divorced, and the only person I take orders from is the guy who does my annual review at work.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of you could divorce yourself from the death grip that direct repair programs have on your business? Unfortunately, most of you reading this won’t say no to insurers, or can’t. Direct repair programs should be regulated because of their addictive qualities. The addiction might be stronger than crack cocaine. Not that I can speak from experience on that.

To view a pdf file of this article with photos, click HERE.

It was announced at the latest Collision Industry Conference (CIC) meeting in Phoenix that CIC’s multi-year discussion of “industry standards” may be coming to a close later this year.

Chairman George Avery announced that after “two months of talking to many individuals” about the issue, he plans to sunset the committee focused on the topic at the end of this year.

Avery said some people expressed concern that CIC was “over-reaching,” particularly when it began to suggest a structure for a new organization to oversee the final development and implementation of standards.

 

Thursday, 23 May 2013 17:58

The Power of Persistence in Marketing

Written by

To view a pdf file of this article with photos, click HERE.

One rule you’ll find in many sales and marketing books is that the average sale is made after the sixth visit or call, but the average sales person gives up after the third visit or call. This information provides a reliable way to increase sales power. The usual sale in a collision repair shop is just getting the owner of a vehicle who brings it into the shop is leave the keys and let the shop do the repairs. But generally a shop also works to sell dealerships, fleet management companies, insurance companies and more on referring business to the shop. While these sales efforts involve direct calls and visits, perhaps the most common violation of this rule is the sale to the vehicle owner who comes in for an estimate.

 

To view a pdf file of this article with photos, click HERE.

“What’s this Google+ thing I’m hearing about?” or “Should my business have a Google+ page?” and “We just figured out this Facebook thing and now we have to worry about doing Google+?” are among the comments I’ve heard recently at CAA meetings.

I’ve been paying close attention to Google+ for more than a year now, watching it to see how it evolves and grows and reading blogs about it. The consensus is that Google+ is quickly becoming a go-to site for companies of all sizes. People and businesses like it because it offers exposure and interactivity without sacrificing security and privacy.

 

To view a pdf file of this article with photos, click HERE.


A body shop owner came up to me at a California Autobody Association meeting recently and shared his tale of woe. A Multi-Shop Operator (MSO) had opened a location in his hometown, where he had been doing business since the 1970s. The presence of the MSO caused him concern, especially when he lost a DRP to his new neighbor and several of his top techs as well. His first instinct, he said, was to step up his marketing, social media and advertising efforts. When he then told me that he had borrowed $50,000 for marketing and wanted my opinion on where the money should be spent, I was a little flabbergasted.

My first question for him was, “Why did you wait so long?” It surely wasn’t what he wanted to hear at the time and he certainly didn’t like what I told him next. “It might be a little too late.”

To view a pdf file of this article with photos, click HERE.

There is enough controversy in the industry today to write three or four different stories on the hot topics. I will not contribute to the proliferation of propaganda and conspiracy theories by discussing parts or insurance company direct repair programs. I have another controversy for shops to rally around.

Due to my executive position and the company I am employed by, I have not been able to share my views publicly or within the confines of my corporation. Don’t feel bad for me. That’s why I write these articles. I can share my thoughts and experience without placing my job in jeopardy. I can only imagine what would happen if I decided to challenge “The Institution” and talk about what is widely considered heresy amongst insurance executives.