FenderBender 20th Anniversary Series: Shelly Bickett
Shelly Bickett has taken on multiple leadership roles in the auto industry, dating back to the mid-1980s. Along with her husband, Erick Bickett, she eventually founded Caliber Collision, and later Fix Auto USA.
After working in multiple areas of the collision repair industry, Bickett now serves as the chief financial officer for Fix Auto USA, helping oversee nine separate locations. In March 2018, Bickett earned 2018 Most Influential Woman accolades from the Women’s Industry Network (WIN), for work in the development of Fix Auto.
HOW DOES THE INDUSTRY TODAY COMPARE TO WHAT IT WAS LIKE 20 YEARS AGO?
There’s hardly any comparison.
Twenty years ago there was a little consolidation, but it hadn’t gotten a foothold. Now there’s rapid consolidation by the bigger repairers.
I think, first of all, consolidation is good for the car owners. Because repairing vehicles now requires so much more equipment and understanding of the technology. What I see is, smaller shop owners, they have both the challenge to have the right equipment and the challenge to have the right infrastructure to look up the repair methods.
Consolidation, I believe it’s beneficial for everyone. You know, for the insurance companies it’s just so much easier to deal with a single point of contact, rather than 100 single-shop owners. It’s more efficient.
And, we have a lot of aging body shop owners, so it gives them the opportunity to exit and sell a shop to a consolidator.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST GAME CHANGER OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS?
There are significant opportunities now for women, absolutely. The one thing we’re lacking, though, is getting information out to the women.
We do have a lot more women in the automotive organizations, but we’re not seeing as many female technicians or painters. And I think it’s just because we need to get the information out to women; there’s a great career possible for them. I’m seeing a lot more women in the repair planner roles right now.
Women can fix a car just as well as a man can, but we haven’t done a good job yet of getting that information out.
Overall, though, the biggest thing I’ve seen in the last 10 years or so is just the rapid changes in automobiles. And, when we go five years from now, it’s even going to be moreso. Whoever’s first to the gate to [create] a single solution with all the technology—you know, looking up all the repair procedures for a vehicle —it’s going to be a game-changer.
I preach this to our whole group: repairing vehicles properly, and safely, is just so important;
there’s no other option in that respect. But the research to do that can be very time-consuming.
WHAT DO SHOPS NEED TO DO TO BE SUCCESSFUL OVER THE NEXT 20 YEARS?
Continue to be educated. I believe that the small shop operators are going to need to join some network, or group, or become aligned with other companies, to ensure that they’re repairing cars correctly. Education is important.
Also, we need to invest in bringing people into the industry. Where we’re lacking the most in the industry is with technicians. And, honestly, these technicians are going to have to be engineers. To be successful, every shop’s got to be bringing new technicians into the industry—because if we don’t have technicians we can’t repair people’s cars.
It’s got to be a collaborative solution from throughout the industry. I think it’s got to be industry leaders, because they can handle this more than individual shops who are mainly just trying to get the cars fixed correctly and out the door.
We’ll continue to see rapid consolidation. We’re going to see rapid changes in the technology of vehicles, with the ADAS and all of the anti-collision devices in these cars. We’re going to see more OE certifications. And, we’re going to continue to see technicians leaving the industry, because most of them are aging out.
I have optimism, with a little bit of nervousness. The issues we have as an industry will be solved, because there’s a need. They will get solved, because they have to get solved.