Hey Toby—Thank you for the resistance spot welding class you conducted at our Chatsworth location the other night. The class was very helpful in several ways:
The in-class technical information portion was helpful in understanding the increasing usage by auto manufacturers of advanced high strength steels and the importance of proper welding techniques needed to retain metal strength.
The actual hands-on portion of the class was powerful in that we could utilize the latest state-of-the-art equipment you provided for the class and actually test the strength of the welds we performed.
Overall, the class was beneficial for a better understanding of the importance of proper squeeze type resistance spot welding related to advanced high strength steels. Thank you for conducting the class!
Hey Toby—What is your take on those 3M disposable mix cups that fit on the spray guns?
—Dave from San Diego
HEY TOBY will return in July.
On May 6, Toby Chess and fellow I-CAR instructors hosted an evening dinner lecture for about 250 insurance adjustors to familiarize them with the ICAR Steel Unitized Structures Technologies and Repair Course (SPS07). On hand to train the estimators and adjusters were Doug Moore, Eric Stretten, Ken Boylen, Steve Morris, Steve Saunders, Mike Mastro, Frank Schiro, Jeff Lawson, Bob Mickey, and of course, Toby Chess.
Hey Toby—I took the aluminum welding qualification test with you about a year and a half ago. I am trying to remember why you push the puddle instead of pulling it when welding aluminum?
—-Joe from Rohnert Park, Ca
Hey Toby—About 9 months ago, we put in an A/M radiator into an ‘06 Honda Accord with 22,000 miles that sustained front end damage due to an accident. We have a DRP for an insurance company and the price for the part was dictated by the carrier with a large radiator company that they had contracted with. The radiator failed and the customer took her car to an authorized Honda dealer because she was still under factory warranty. My customer was contacted by the dealer and was told that engine blew the head gasket, but she was going to be responsible for the repairs due to the fact that the radiator was not an OEM radiator. She called me immediately and I told her that we would be responsible for the repairs. I contacted the radiator company and they stated that they would replace the radiator and the labor for its installation. I then called the insurance company supervisor and he stated that we needed to call the radiator company, but I explained that they would only cover the cost of radiator replacement and the insurance company recommended the radiator company. His reply was that I was free to purchase the radiator from anyone. I ask him if he would have paid for the difference in price and he said no. I am out $2,300. Do I have any recourse?
—Mike from Bakersfield
Hey Toby—Where can I get some repair information on a 2004 Chevrolet Corvette frame?
—Steve from Temecula, CA
Jeremy and Barbara asked me to respond to an e-mail about a repair process and I said “sure.” After all, I already receive an average of five e-mails or phone calls a week about some sort of question pertaining to the collision repair process. They thought that it would be a great monthly column and, wanting to see my picture in print, I agreed.
Question: Which is cheaper - an airline ticket from Los Angeles to New York with a weekend stay at Five Star hotel including two front row seats to a Broadway Hit play or a gallon of epoxy primer and hardener? If you chose the first scenario you are correct, but if you look at the plane flight alone, it is cheaper than a gallon of epoxy primer.
Have you as a collision shop repairer recently been asked to change the paint time on a panel by an insurance company representative - a time that is different from that listed by the information providers? The answer, I think most of you will agree, is yes.
A shop in my area recently experienced an attack by a competitor. One of the competitor’s reps was trying to get one of the shop’s dealership “authorized collision repair” status. At the same time they tried to hire away one of his best technicians, and some nasty “black P.R.” was employed to hurt his reputation with local insurance agents.
The New Year is well under way and by now most of us have probably forgotten our New Year’s resolutions—that is, if we even bothered to write any.
The collision industry in my area is divided into two camps: The big guys and the smaller independent shops. The big multi-location or consolidator-owned shops have a huge advantage over the smaller shops. In addition to more revenue to hire top-rate repair technicians, they can also afford many more administrative people to enter data into the computer and do follow-up mail, e-mail and phone calls.
I recently spoke to an insurance agent who said that in this tough economy they have had to shift their strategy. He said during normal years they had about a 15 percent attrition of customers, but they were generally able to attract at least 15-to-20 percent new customers to make up the difference. Now, he said, attracting new customers seems all but impossible, but fortunately the attrition rate is way down and by stepping up service they have almost been able to retain all of their existing customers.
The California Autobody Association Glendale Foothill Chapter meeting, on April 28th, featured speakers from three major providers of Refinish Materials Calculators. Wayne Krause and Brian Bragg from Mitchell presented Mitchell RMC. Bob Klem, president of PaintEx, presented PaintEx. Richard Palmer, President and CEO of Computer Logic, presented PMCLogic. Mr. Palmer traveled the farthest, coming from their headquarters in Macon, Georgia.
Many science fiction films speculate on what it would be like for outer space aliens to make first contact with humans. Some jokingly suggest a humorous encounter with an animal assumed to be our most intelligent species, but the message is clear: That first encounter can set expectations for all that will follow.
I recently checked out the websites of a few current and past body shop clients. In all but a few, there were virtually no changes from the last time I looked nearly a year ago.
Driving around and noticing which shops are still somewhat busy during this economic downturn is very revealing. One common denominator that I’ve noticed is the way these busy shops persist with their marketing programs even when they’ve had to lay off some technicians and make other cuts in expenses.
I recently spotted a local mechanic going on-site to do some customer repairs. He had his ASE emblem in his truck window and a magnetic sign on the door advertising “Auto repairs at your home or office.” With the recent downturn in the economy, many technicians have been laid off. Most of those who can’t find another job go on unemployment until business improves. But there are a few enterprising guys like the mechanic I saw. He went out and hustled his own business.
The past few years have been fairly good for most of my body shop clients. In fact, business has been so good it’s been difficult to get some shop owners and managers to get serious about marketing initiatives. They may get interested in an idea for a short time, but as soon as business picks up, that interest disappears.
We’ve all had a customer come into the shop with bumper damage. You write the estimate and he stares at the total cost, stunned! “How could a little bumper damage possibly cost this much?” he exclaims. After you show him the cost of the reinforcement bar, impact strip, (etc, etc.) and then explain how the impact also pushed the fender into the quarter panel requiring additional repairs and refinishing, he may look a little less stunned. And you hope he may begin to understand how what seems to be superficial damage may have traveled far deeper than he could have imagined.
Every professional has a pet peeve. In fact I’m sure that you, as a collision repair professional, have many things that really annoy you. But as a marketing consultant, there is one specific thing that bothers me most of all. People pay me good money for marketing tactics and strategies. Some will put them into practice for a short time, but soon will stop. Others won’t even begin to take the marketing measures I recommend. Why is this? Have I suggested actions that are too complicated? Too expensive? Too difficult to carry out?
I recently wrote an article berating shop owners who wasted marketing money on ineffective advertising (which is most of it). I pointed out that few people who have recently been in an accident will look to an ad to find a shop for repairs.
Recently one of my readers called to ask how he could find a professional salesperson to go out and sell prospects on sending business to his shop. He had run ads for sales people and interviewed quite a few. He advertised on Monster.com and other online job sites. He may have even tried out a few applicants. But basically he couldn't find any that could effectively go out and represent his shop. I told him he would probably never find anyone who could. Why is that?
As soon as you open your doors for business, sales pitches and junk mail for every imaginable kind of ad begin to arrive. Yellow Pages, Yellow Book, and Yellow Pages in Spanish, Chinese, or whatever other languages are spoken in your area may arrive first.
Quality shop owners would generally prefer to replace a damaged part with an OEM part rather than a used part or an aftermarket part. They know that the part from the original manufacturer will be most likely to fit well and thus save them time and trouble. If they can find a used OEM part in reasonably good condition, this would probably be their second choice. The last choice would be the aftermarket part, possibly manufactured in Taiwan, and often lacking in correct dimensions and useablility.
“Fly upon the wings of the wind.” Psalms 18:10
In the early 1990s I went to work selling software for CCC Information Systems. I had been in marketing and sales most of my life, but I had never seen a product sell like CCC’s computerized estimating software. Shop owners practically lined up to buy CCC’s “Ezest” product. Mitchell and ADP also got in the game and enjoyed bountiful sales. What was the secret to their success?
Recently a local shop hired a very experienced estimator. Not only had she worked in many shops, but she had also worked as an independent appraiser and an appraiser for a major insurance company. One of her tasks was to check on the shop’s relationship with DRP directors and a local dealership, She was startled to discover relationships with a couple of the DRPs had soured a bit and the relationship with the dealership was all but lost.
I have often been surprised by the creative approaches used by some shop owners to increase business. While just about everyone says they want more insurance work, I still find shop after shop that relies strictly on previous customers, word-of-mouth, and a good sign out front to bring in a few additional drive-by customers. Nevertheless, many of these tell me their business is continually dwindling and ask, what should they be doing?
Are you stressed out? It could be said that stress is simply mis-directed energy. One shop owner struggles to shape-up a poorly performing body man instead of directing his full energy to getting a really competent worker and paying him well.
There's a new buzzword among marketing professionals these days: "integrated marketing." Like most "new" ideas, it's been around for a long time but the focus has often been elsewhere. McDonald's is probably the best known for completely "integrated marketing." Their "golden arches" identity, along with the Ronald McDonald character give them an instant focal point of identity. Advertisements, stationery, website and all of the rest of their P.R. efforts capitalize on these recognizable characteristics to arrive at an integrated marketing strategy.
Economic indicators were already falling and a recession was looming when the catastrophe with the planes hitting New York's World Trade Center added to our economic pain. I'm already seeing a major slow-down in many shops in my area. "Business-as-usual" can be deadly at a time like this. What should a shop owner be doing to counteract the impact of these world events on his or her business profits?
There's an old saying: "When everyone is responsible for it, no one is." If everyone is responsible for seeing the door is locked at the end of the day and no one person is designated to do it, there's a fair chance it won't be done at all. The same thing is true of marketing. There must be a specific person designated to do the job and to follow each initiative all the way through to a satisfactory conclusion.
It's been said that one of the most effective tortures of all time was the Chinese Water Torture. Supposedly interrogation using this technique was always effective. The person being interrogated was placed under dripping water that slowly drove the man mad while it gradually dripped a hole in his head.
Around the holidays, I hear a common refrain in many body shops, and it's not a Christmas carol. You ask "How's business?" and the shop owner says, "It' s slow, but I hear everyone's slow." It's been said that "misery loves company." I could just hear this shop owner calling his buddy who owns a shop across town: "Yeah, it's slow over here, but I hear everyone's slow."
How's this for a wild claim -- a consultant with whom I'm acquainted would guarantee to solve any company's problems if they would allow him unlimited access to question every employee without revealing or reporting to management who said what during his interviews. Well, maybe it isn't such a wild claim.
If you’ve been in business a while, it’s likely you have been hit up for contributions by every organization and charity in your vicinity. When you first started out, you probably just sent a few bucks to those that struck you as desirable enough to support. But once you contribute to one, you get on the list and soon you’re swamped by requests for donations.
I have recently finished re-reading Stephen Covey's excellent book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (Simon & Schuster Fireside Book, 1990). As I read through Covey's basic principles of personal vision, leadership, management, communication, cooperation, renewal and interdependence, it occurred to me that for every positive trait, there is an equal and opposite negative trait.
Shop owners are generally strong-willed men and women who have had to fight their way to ownership of their businesses, then fight even harder to make their businesses work. As an owner they are in a position of leadership. But are they really leaders, and does it matter?
Quite a few years ago, one of my clients was a fast food establishment. They were having a continual turn-over of managers and couldn't seem to keep one for more than a few weeks. We did an analysis and found that the job called for simultaneously watching the cooks, the clean-up people, the take-out window, the lines where employees were taking the eat-in orders, and the cash registers. When we asked a couple of ex-managers what the problem was, they said while they were watching one employee, one of the others was certain to make a major mistake. They felt it was impossible to keep track of everything they were expected to.
The autobody business has changed dramatically the last few years. Consolidators are now even moving into smaller communities that few would have ever expected just a few years ago when they started in major metropolitan areas. Insurance companies are getting more and more aggressive in their efforts to control claims costs and repair facilities -- even to the point of getting into the autobody business themselves!
I live in Los Angeles, California, often called LA-LA-LAND, the city of fantasies and dreams. Each year hundreds of beautiful young ladies and handsome men descend on this city, hoping to become stars. Many of them wind up waiting tables while they're waiting to be "discovered." After all, Fabian was "discovered" sitting on a door stoop. Elvis Presley was "discovered" by the Colonel. Many such stars are "discovered" by some enterprising promoter who sees a potential money-making machine for himself if they succeed. But even to be "discovered," the hopeful "stars" have to put themselves in some situation where they'll be seen, even if it's only waiting tables in some classy restaurant.
Almost every shop owner I speak to tells me he or she wants more business. But when we start talking about business growth, I begin to hear reluctances. Too much growth means hiring more people, which means more paper work, more reports to the government, more insurance, and on and on. It also means more capital investment to cover additional equipment and to cover accounts receivable during the interval between the time parts are purchased and checks arrive for completed jobs. Everyone wants to grow in profitability, but very few want to face the costs and pains of growth.