From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Skate to Where the “Puck” Is Going, Not Where It Has Been

From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Skate to Where the “Puck” Is Going, Not Where It Has Been

Each year, I apply various presentation themes, and this year, I based my theme on something Wayne Gretzky, the legendary hockey player, once said.

He was asked what he learned that made him such a great player, and he said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

In other words, he looked ahead, anticipating where the puck would be. As this year begins to wind down, we all need to think about not where the “puck” is in our industry right now, but where it is going to be—where you’ll want to be and how you’ll get there.

Here are four examples of how, like Gretsky on the ice rink, you may want to be looking ahead rather than looking at things as they are now.

1. Scanning has become the norm in the industry, which is good, but where the “puck” is going is a related process—calibrations. Shops need to be investigating the time, money and, most importantly, investing in shop space to be able to perform more ADAS calibrations in-house. Understand what types of vehicles you most commonly work on that require calibrations. Research those procedures, understand what targets or tools are needed, and look for the potential space to do them. The space can be a hurdle; the average body repair stall is 300 to 400 square feet, but some of these calibrations can require 1,200 to 1,800 square feet. This is where the “puck” is going, and starting to head there now will help you succeed.

2. We need to start thinking about artificial intelligence (AI). While it remains to be seen whether AI can be used to write estimates, I believe it is or soon will be used to identify total losses. What does that mean for shops working to anticipate where the “puck” will be? Think about the non-DRP work you do, and how much total losses contribute to your revenue in terms of tear-down costs, storage fees or administrative fees. Storage is generally 100% gross profit, right?

All that shop revenue may start to decline as AI is introduced. The consumer will send in some photos, and if the AI system identifies their vehicle as a total loss, that vehicle is going straight to the auction yard, not a shop. That’s something you need to start preparing for in terms of “skating to where the puck is going.”

3. The estimating system providers say claim counts have declined somewhat, albeit not a lot. That slow decline seems likely to continue, if not accelerate, as more vehicles on the road have ADAS features. It’s not likely to be a dramatic shift, but even a 5% or 10% decline will have an impact on your business. In this case, skating to where the puck will be means working on your capture rate.

For those on DRP programs, for example, you need best practices in place to ensure you follow-up on any assignments in a timelier manner. It’s easy when we get busy to not be as quick to jump on those; however, as claim counts decline, you need a designated person or a well-defined process to follow-up on those assignments quickly.

For work outside of DRP programs, shops should prioritize responding to potential customers seeking estimates or appointments, to capture that work rather than lose it to competitors.

4. A fourth way you can “skate to where the puck is going” is by reviewing your staffing. Do you have technicians, estimators or managers who are likely to retire in the next three-five years? Have you thought about what you are going to do to replace them? Start working on that strategy now rather than later. Get a game plan in place. Start building your “bench” or “farm team” of talent, so that when those people retire, you are prepared with someone who you can move into those positions.

It’s not always easy to know exactly where the “puck” is going. Being able to do that is part of what set Gretsky apart from so many other hockey players. I believe the same will be true for the shops that keep looking for where the industry is headed and taking steps to be there.

Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson is a columnist for Autobody News and president of Collision Advice, a consulting company for the auto body/collision repair industry.

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