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Mike Anderson’s Top Tips to Leadership

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It’s a common phrase that’s true of many shop leaders: “I never sought out to be a leader.” If leadership was accidental, how do you become a good one?

Mike Anderson learned he had a blessing in disguise during childhood. While public speaking came naturally to Anderson, he also had Tourette syndrome. He was faced with a challenge early on: either withdraw because of it or put himself in the spotlight.

He chose not to sit on the sidelines.

Now, Anderson is owner and founder of Collision Advice and also facilitates 20 Groups through Axalta Coating Systems. He is also the former owner of Wagonwork Collision Center in Alexandria, Va.

While Anderson learned the importance of training and following standard operating procedures from his time in the military, his big leadership takeaway was that if you want something in life, you need to take charge.

Anderson shares his tips for becoming a leader.


As told to Melissa Steinken

Tip #1: Find Your Voice

Even if public speaking does not come naturally to you, a shop owner needs to be able to verbally communicate ideas to his or her staff and the rest of the industry.

It’s important to get involved in events like joining a 20 Group. Simply call your paint company provider and ask what groups they facilitate. Certain manufacturers also facilitate groups between shop owners.

When I joined my first 20 Group, it gave me the opportunity to assert myself with not only my peers, but also offer new ideas to a table of experienced and older shop owners and collision industry experts.


Tip #2: Read Various Materials

Reading is a valuable resource. I read industry-related books but I mainly read nonfiction. A formative book for my career was The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason.

One of my biggest lessons I learned when I first started at the auto body shop was that I overextended my money. After reading Clason’s book, I realized the No. 1 focus for shop owners should be finances. Finances and managing your money is the biggest and the most important task for an owner, especially when it comes to investing in tools and equipment for the shop.

Clason’s book taught me that I need to worry about how much I spend and not how much profit I make.

I’ll find books from simply browsing through airport shops or just asking someone I see reading a book, “What are you reading?” I also focus my time on reading autobiographies of world leaders, like the past presidents of the U.S.


Tip #3: Find Mentors

I never would have gotten to where I am now if it wasn’t for mentors like my dad, my general in the military and the pastor of my church.

It’s similar to learning by example because you need to learn from the leadership surrounding you. And you need to surround yourself with people who will give you feedback. You need to make connections with people in the industry who will not just say “yes” to all your ideas but will also challenge your ideas.

My mentors taught that me if you make a decision, you need to be able to handle the worst possible outcome. Start by taking a moment to reflect if you could handle the results. You need to accept personal responsibility and think not about what you could lose but also visualize what you could gain.


Tip #4: Take on New Challenges

One of the biggest mistakes is to step back in your comfort zone when faced with new challenges. You need to share your success with others even if they might see it as being arrogant. You don’t have to be arrogant with your success but unless you tell people, people will never know your achievements.

For example, at my shop I used to have what I called an “evidence manual.” In this book, I would document the times our shop was involved in the community, whether that was volunteering at a homeless shelter or donating clothes or food to a holiday drive.

As a leader, do not become comfortable with just making a profit; you should also be conscientious of improving society as a whole from your accomplishments.

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