Winds of Change
One of the main reasons I fell in love with this industry was the fact that it is constantly changing. When I was in high school, I worked on an assembly line sorting potatoes and onions. For me, it was a great lesson in learning what I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. The monotony of the job made me crazy. While getting into the collision industry doesn’t necessarily make me sane, it certainly does provide an opportunity for something different each day.
I started full time in our industry back in 1999. My dad served as my mentor for most of my early years and he passed on his experiences in some of the big shake-ups in the industry before my time, such as the creation of the unibody, electronic estimating systems, management systems, the DRP, and many more. I have loved the constant change that continues to come with vehicles, insurance companies, and even communication with vehicle owners. I can remember vowing I would never email my customers as I didn’t want to give up any part of the limited verbal communication we had with our customers. Of course, now in 2018, emailing and text messaging are the norm.
I recently spent some time on a conference call with some of my friends in the industry and we tried to predict where the future is going. How big a role will certifications play? Will the OEs gain control of where the vehicle gets repaired? How do we determine where to invest our resources regarding equipment and training? The only consensus we came up with is that the changes are coming at us quickly and they are likely to be monumental. Other than that, we ended the call knowing that we must keep researching and paying attention to what’s coming next.
The changes that shops had to make to be successful in the past were typically short term regarding implementation. Changing management systems could happen in a few days. Purchasing a spot welder was as simple as setting up a demo in the shop and the techs immediately wanted to start using it. Some of the changes we now face in our industry are not as easily implemented in a short amount of time. OE certifications take time to get approvals and complete the necessary training. Some of the higher-end vehicles can come with a six-figure investment along with a significant amount of time investment for training.
The speed of the changes is almost certain to dramatically ramp up. Before, we could purchase a new piece of equipment and easily have over 10 years of everyday use with it. The equipment we purchase today will most likely need to be replaced before it wears out. That means the window to make a return on these investments will be much smaller. Profitability is no longer an option but a mandate for success.
The shops that constantly educate themselves on the coming changes will be the ones most ready to meet them head on. Shops that sit back and wait for the dust to settle are very likely to find themselves on the outside looking in. Participating in 20 Groups, attending conventions or conferences, reading as many publications as possible, and talking to other industry professionals are all now things I see as essential for success.
I don’t think anyone has a crystal ball with an absolute perfect view of the future. However, most, if not all, leaders in our industry seem to be certain the future will be very different. The only way to be prepared is to consume as much information as possible about the coming changes. Most people spend more time planning their vacation than they do on their professional success. If you haven’t started yet, the time has come to map out the plans to succeed as the industry changes. Mike Anderson of Collision Advice teaches a class titled, “How to Thrive, Not Just Survive.” I believe that surviving in our industry will get much tougher soon. Yet if we want to thrive, all we have to do is continue to learn and grow.
As we know, change is inevitable, but growth is optional. Unlike my time on the assembly line, we are in an exciting time for professional growth. I can’t wait to see what comes next.