Friday, 12 October 2018 17:22

AkzoNobel Performance Group Highlights Importance of Working on Business, Not in Business

Written by
(L to R) Marty Heiden, Greg Griffith and Oscar Arellano (L to R) Marty Heiden, Greg Griffith and Oscar Arellano


Performance benchmarking, sharing best practices and customized training were all part of a recent AkzoNobel performance group meeting in San Diego, CA.


Held in September, the AkzoNobel Acoat Selected North American Performance Group (NAPG) provided an opportunity for body shop owners and managers to work on their businesses instead of in their businesses. The ultimate goal during the three-day event was to enhance the performance of both the individuals and companies through peer-to-peer networking.


“Imagine being with a group of 100 shop owners for the sole purpose of exchanging business growth ideas. That is exactly what happens at Acoat Selected Performance Group meetings,” said Rick Fifer, North American services manager. “Acoat Selected Performance Group members meet to share successes, find solutions to problems and make new relationships with like-minded shop owners from across North America. The wealth of knowledge and experience present at these meetings is nothing short of awe-inspiring.”


There are two main components to the meetings for the body shops, distributors and AkzoNobel employees who attend. The first involves group activities, which consist of keynote speakers, idea contests, panel discussions, classes and other activities.


Fifer said that many of those who attend mention how much they value the conversations that take place.


“With so many people in attendance, you are sure to find someone who has solved the problems you face or has a great business improvement idea you can implement,” he said.


Sub-group sessions are the other focus of the meetings. Similar to a conventional 20 group, Fifer said members analyze financial data, formulate improvement strategies, assist one another in problem-solving and share experiences.


“The close friendships---both personal and professional---created at the meetings are immensely valuable to the members,” said Fifer. “They know that anytime during the year, they can contact a known, trusted shop owner for advice. That is a good feeling.”


“The performance group meetings have been outstanding. I find that just getting away from the business twice a year to attend the meetings improves my perspective significantly,” said Van Takemoto, owner of Island Fender in Hawaii. “The opportunity to benchmark, to collaborate with my peers in the industry and to set new goals has really sharpened my skills as a businessman. It’s made a difference to the bottom line!”



Prior to the two days of individual performance group meetings, a variety of early-bird training sessions were offered the first day of the event.


Presentation Highlights


First-time attendees were given an overview of what to expect during a presentation by Sam Sherrill of AkzoNobel Coatings.


“This session was designed to prepare new NAPG attendees to effectively engage in performance group financial discussions,” said Fifer.


Some of the topics Sherrill highlighted included income statements and balance sheets, body shop key performance indicators and comparative benchmarks.


Jeff Peevy, president of the Automotive Management Institute (AMi), discussed the importance of “soft skills,” which include listening, communication and interpersonal skills, and the impact they have on collision repair facilities. AMi is currently focused on supporting the development of soft skills throughout the industry. Peevy also talked about the value of industry-based professional designations and said they not only increase professionalism, but also minimize the risk when hiring new employees.


Tyler Brunatti from Podium Corp. shared tips on helping potential customers locate a body shop while searching online. He pointed out how difficult it can often be to attract new customers and recommended being actively involved in managing a company’s online reputation in order to stand out from the competition.


Two representatives from I-CAR (Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair), Jason Bartanen and Josh McFarlin, talked about some of the significant changes the organization has undergone. These include the Reparability Technical Support (RTS) initiative, I-CAR’s new vehicle and technology curriculum, the expansion of hands-on skills development and an overview of the new Professional Development Program (PDP) and Gold Class programs.


Body shops also learned how to leverage OE certification during a presentation by Robb Young of Assured Performance Network. Young provided tips to those in attendance on how to capitalize on being an OE Certified Collision Repair Provider (OE-CRP) and become a “five-star business performer.”


Those unfamiliar with data analysis and net mining had the opportunity to hear from Don and Diane Miller of Body Shop Nation. The Millers explained how net mining can help shops better identify their target audience and “find their perfect customer.” They said the approach enables businesses to deliver a stronger message to potential customers.



Nick Schoolcraft of Phoenix Solutions Group shared insight on optimizing customer and employee experiences. Considering that many of today’s customers are becoming increasingly skeptical about collision repair facilities, Schoolcraft stressed the importance of having front-line employees focus on great customer interactions. He also talked about the key elements necessary to deliver great employee and customer experiences, which he said will lead to higher sales and growth.


Kevin Wolfe of LeadersWay talked about a collaboration between his company and AkzoNobel that involves leadership training for a limited number of performance group members.


The final presentation during the early-bird training sessions was led by Dave Luehr of Elite Body Shop Solutions. Luehr, co-author of “The Secrets of America’s Greatest Body Shops,” talked about the six secrets he recommends body shops consider in order to be successful. Based on information from his book, which was released in 2017, the session included advice on how to “bust old beliefs” and stay out of what he referred to as “the victim zone.” He also talked about how to build a sustainable business model and provided tips on modern leadership.


The next AkzoNobel North American Performance meeting will be held in West Palm Beach, FL, on Feb. 20-- 22, 2019. For more information, contact Rick Fifer at Richard.Fifer@akzonobel.com or your local AkzoNobel representative or distributor.

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