According to ABAT Executive Director Jill Tuggle, "These events went very well with three portions to each educational meeting. We hosted our first meeting in the Austin region, and it was standing room only! We anticipated having about 40 in attendance, but our head count was over 65. Dallas was no different---85 in attendance and we filled every seat in the room, and even ran out of BBQ! We were approached by owners from the west Texas area who asked us to help them plan a meeting in their region as well."
The first meeting was held at Pappasito's Cantina in Austin on Jan. 23 with dinner provided by Finishmaster and Axalta. On Jan. 24, J & J Paint Supply sponsored lunch at the East Texas meeting, held at the Henderson Civic Center in Henderson, TX, and the Central Texas meeting was held on Jan. 25 at Park Place Bodywerks in Dallas.
Each meeting began with a "2017 Recap and 2018 First Look" delivered by ABAT President Burl Richards.
Tuggle recounted, "Burl discussed the aftermarket crash tests at length---his firsthand account of what he experienced at the crash-testing site as well as the presentation that Todd Tracy gives on the results. These results are very scientific---speaking in terms of physics, the amount of force and medical effects the crashes would have on a person's body if they were in each of those vehicles."
Richards also expressed gratitude to the Hawaii Auto Body Association (ABPAH) and AASP/NJ, noting "Both of these associations donated money towards the crash tests that were performed on the Honda Fits in December, and their support for the industry should serve as an inspiration for all of us."
After Richards spoke, ABAT Board Member Chad Kiffe unveiled the association's new data library.
He explained, "The point of the data library is to give our members easy access to documents and position statements and the 'needle in a haystack' type of documentation that you need to repair a vehicle safely. Often times, we don't even know that certain operations must be performed while repairing a vehicle. We are using this platform to share knowledge."
The final speaker at ABAT's meetings was Chris Ollila of Verifacts, who presented "How to Differentiate Your Shop Through Sales and Proper Repairs."
Tuggle shared, "Chris presented to our attendees on repair procedures, but brought an emotional element into it. He started out by making everyone think about the customers we serve and why we do what we do. He spent time personifying our clients and why doing the right thing is so very important. It was based on the how and the why.
"As an association, we are constantly out to prove to new attendees that we are not like associations of the past. It is not a happy hour to congregate and complain about business or insurance companies. We actually understand that the insurance companies are a valuable partner in our businesses, and instead of complaining, we focus on education and solutions. We had over 50 new member shops attend our meetings, and they were impressed with ABAT and its core values. If we can get people to the meetings, they rarely leave disappointed or burdened by the content or direction in which we are heading. ABAT gained new members immediately following each meeting.
“[The meetings were held in order] to educate ourselves and others, introduce ABAT to potential members, and give a first look at what ABAT is working towards for 2018. These types of events are important because it gives us an opportunity to put our heads together, learn ways to keep the consumer safe, enhance our business models and share ideas. It is important to the industry, now more than ever, for shops to stick together and continue to educate themselves in order for them to survive the changing landscape of collision repair."
ABAT will hold its Second Annual Skeet Shoot on May 19 and is planning the 2018 Texas Auto Body Trade Show for September 13--16.
For more information, visit www.abat.us.