Monday, 05 March 2007 08:15

Is this any way to run a business?

Written by Lee Amaradio Jr.

We are involved in a game with the insurance companies and we are on the losing team. I call it a game because the collision industry operates like no other business model I know of. Insurance companies wouldn’t play this game from our point of view. Let’s switch sides and put the shoe on the other foot.

Would the insurance company call five or six phone numbers of companies someone gave them to check on quotes for them? What would they say if someone told them they required these other quotes when they purchase auto insurance, and it’s their job to make sure they get them? What would they do if someone told them to document who they talked to and record at least three reference numbers for their files? Then after they jump through all of these hoops, is someone demanding that they make some changes to their underwriting standards in order to do business with them?

Try to imagine a customer telling an insurance company that they should throw in rental coverage because they don’t believe they should pay for something that should be included in an auto policy. Then when they finally get their insurance quote, the customer fires back at them with their own price, and tells them the amount that they will pay. The customer explains that they know, “X” insurance company, only charges “Y” amount of dollars for the same policy so they argue back and forth and come to an agreed upon price (which is in the customers favor.). Then to top it off, the customer gets their insurance coverage but doesn’t pay for it for 30 days or more.

If the insurance company’s customer acted in this manner everyone would think they were nuts. But more importantly, they wouldn’t get an insurance policy. We can’t even imagine an insurer tolerating such behavior, let alone running a business in this manner. But auto collision shops play this game every day. Why do we run our businesses this way?

It pains me to think of all of the valuable time my estimators waste because we play this game instead of acting like we are in the business of fixing cars. I have costs that need to be covered based on my facility, not some facility elsewhere in my area.     If insurers were not allowed to sell their policies for enough to make a profit, how would they make any money? What if every insurance company was rated the same, and all had to charge the same rate?     Even the insurance companies are classified and rated, they all charge different amounts for their policies and none of them throw in freebies. What if someone told them, “Too bad this is all I will pay.” I wonder if that someone would get insurance?

This game we are playing with the insurance companies is one-sided and we are losing. We are unevenly matched. We are like a team missing a couple of players. No matter how hard we try, we lose because the game isn’t being played fair.

We are giving up the right to manage our businesses the way they need to be managed. This game we are being forced to be part of is a losing proposition and it is time we start looking at our business from a different point of view. We need to mimic the insurance companies; after all they are perfect role models for business.

Why isn’t there an interest fee for late payments on claims, a stall fee for delays they cause, how about an administration fee for part searches and estimating, and the list goes on and on!

We should tell them how lucky they are to have us to repair their cars and handle their claims. We do so much for free and waste so much time playing the game their way that we are too busy to monitor our own companies.

We need to take a long look at how the insurance companies run their business. They are probably the most cost-conscious business I know. They are concerned about profit and have no problem letting us know how much cycle times and other things are costing them.

Just because the collision industry wants to play this game doesn’t mean I want to be a part of it. We are losing because we don’t have a level playing field. Just because everyone else is losing money doesn’t mean I am supposed to. If the industry can’t figure out how to make money should I follow their lead?

I no longer want to be part of this so-called collision industry. I want to be part of a business that repairs cars for a living. If I’m in business repairing cars then I’m in business to make a profit. The insurance companies understand this and run their companies based on numbers (way too many!) They understand how important profit is!

Maybe we should follow their lead and start running our businesses like they do. We should focus on repairing collisions and making a profit. What is wrong with playing the game their way and running our operations like the businesses we are? We need to change the game. Our team is losing!

Lee Amaradio, Jr. is the president and owner of “Faith” Quality Auto Body Inc. in Murrieta, Cali. He can be reached by e-mail at lee@faithqualityautobody.com. With 65 employees, he attributes his success to surrounding himself with good help, claiming to have some of the best office staff and techs in our industry. Amaradio has been in this industry long enough to see the handwriting on the wall. He feels that now is the time for us to unite as an industry before it’s too late.