Mike Anderson’s ‘Spartans’ Group Offers Shops Coaching, Comparison, Camaraderie

Written by John Yoswick, Autobody News
March 9, 2023

Mike Anderson of Collision Advice is well-known in the collision repair industry as a speaker and trainer, but for 25 years, he’s also led multiple groups of about of about 20 auto body shops, each from a different market---more than 400 businesses in all---who come together quarterly to compare financial and performance benchmarks, look for solutions for challenges facing their businesses or the industry, and help one another improve.

Starting last year, Anderson launched a new 20 Group, called the Spartans. Autobody News asked him about what spurred the change, and how a collision repair business can become---and benefit from---being a Spartan.

What led to the formation of the Spartans?

I had the honor and privilege of doing 20 Groups for Axalta Coatings for over 25 years. When COVID hit and I wasn’t traveling 300 days a year for the first time, I had time to reflect on some things. 

If you’ve ever watched that movie “Jerry Maguire,” Tom Cruise’s character has a sort of epiphany in the middle of the night, and he writes a letter about what he believes and what he’s going to do. I had my own type of Jerry Maguire moment during the early days of COVID. 

As my business had changed, I’d been working with more automakers. I realized there were a lot of shops that were OEM-certified and really trying to do the right thing. But they likely at times felt like they were alone on an island. I know I felt that way a lot when I had my shops. So I wanted to focus on helping those OEM-certified shops, those trying to do the right thing, regardless of the paint line they use. We needed the groups to be paint-neutral.

So OEM certifications are required to participate?

Yes, you need to have at least one OEM certification, and be committed to safe and proper repairs. You have to agree that you will pre- and post-repair scan every vehicle with an OEM scan tool or an OEM-approved device, for example, and that you will set-up and perform destructive test welds on every vehicle requiring welding. 

I feel I should say: I am not naïve enough to believe that everybody in my group is doing the exact right thing every single time. But at least they have the intent to do the right thing, they have committed to that, and with that, my team and I can then coach them and help them improve.

I emailed some shops to tell them about my vision for the Spartans, and asked if they would be interested in attending a meeting to talk about it. We had 28 or 30 people at that first meeting.

And it’s grown from there?

We are already up to four Spartan groups, with 77 members that combined have almost 160 locations. That’s after about six months since we launched. We’re very selective on who we take. You have to be nominated by a member or go through an approval process.

Each group is made up of shops that tend to specialize in a certain type of vehicle, such as one group that specializes mostly in high-end European vehicles. Not to say they don’t fix other vehicles, but it’s what they specialize in. Because we see performance benchmarks can vary based on what types of vehicles a shop frequently fixes. The goal is to help a Toyota-certified shop, for example, compare themselves against other Toyota-certified shops.

We have independent and dealership shops, some with a single location, others with as many as 12 or 16 locations.

So what’s involved for a shop that’s a Spartan?

We meet in person once a quarter. Our goal is help drive positive conversations about solutions. We also do monthly webinars, featuring an automaker, an insurer or an industry vendor. We recently just mystery-called all our shops, for example, and recorded how they answered the phone. We played that for them, and then also helped them build scripts to improve that process.

We now have 13 team members who also do weekly coaching calls with each shop, where we go over data to help them with their business. I knew we would need some software to track data and performance. So we have a dashboard that we built with CCI. It pulls information about closed repair orders from each shop’s management system. It allows us to compare information on each shop, and can even segment it down by make and model of vehicle, by estimator, by what insurer was involved. 

I can see, for example, that this shop repaired three BMW 328is, and this is all the data for those jobs: body labor hours, paint labor hours, mechanical, frame, CSI scores, cycle time, etc. I don’t know anyone in the industry who has built what we’ve built.

We also have reports so that as a coach, I can get on the phone with them and say, for example: "Your receivables are way out of whack. You need to get on that and collect your money." Or I can tell this shop they are averaging---and I’m making these number up here---10 refinish labor hours per job, while that company’s two other shops are averaging 12, and the Spartan group as a whole is averaging 11. So we do a lot of data analysis, and we’re helping people to compare. 

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