Boggs: My Industry Wishlist
As 2021 becomes history, it’s time to look at my top 10 wishes for our industry.
- Labor rates increase substantially. Don’t go blaming the bill payers, even though that’s the easy way out. We have to look in the mirror to make this wish come true. I can’t think of many things that cost the same as they did last year. From lunch, to gas, to new car prices, inflation is here—not to mention the cost of our staff is increasing. The days of increasing the labor rate $1 or $2 per hour should be distant memories. The time is now to charge fair market value for the highly skilled services we offer.
- Supply chains to stabilize. While it can’t last forever, many experts predict more of the same with supply chain shortages in 2022. It would be a relief to all parties in our industry to see parts orders filled within normal market expectations. Until that happens, one of the best ways to combat this is to write a complete estimate up front. Realizing we need a part at the end of the repair is far more costly than it was in the past.
- An influx of new techs. Remember this is a wish list. The labor pool in general is likely to be shallow for the foreseeable future. However, there are still young people getting into this industry. If they aren’t coming to your place, ask yourself why. Is your place attractive to new techs? Is your culture what this next generation is seeking? You can find a plethora of information online stating that salary is not their first priority. If you are not getting the results you want, change your approach to finding new talent.
- The talent revolving door will close. Tying in with wish No. 3, it would be nice to see technicians settle in for the long term at their current locations. The generation that worked at one shop for their entire career is retiring. It’s time to take a fresh look at what it takes to keep people wanting to stay put. Appreciation and flexibility are at the top of that list.
- Paint calculators will become the norm. A paint calculator is an excellent modern tool available to all of us to determine what we should charge for materials per repair. The method of allowing a certain dollar amount per refinish hour is archaic and belongs with the dinosaurs. We are in full control of this one; if you don’t have one, it’s time.
- Consolidation slows down. The Romans Group announced at SEMA they predict the pace of consolidation will increase in the coming year. While I agree with their prediction, I don’t think it’s a positive for the industry as a whole. While my wish may not come true, it should serve notice to start developing strategies to compete with companies who have the resources the large MSOs have at their disposal.
- Estimating system enhancements. In the 25 years I’ve been in the industry, I’ve seen some great advancements in technology. Reading what’s coming down the pipeline with estimating systems does excite me, but I’d like to see far more enhancements. That includes OE-accurate parts pictures, build data, and repair procedures in the estimating platforms will benefit all the stakeholders involved.
- The dawn of specialization. I believe the road to success is to specialize in repairing specific OEs. If a shop works on only 2-3 manufacturers, it would eliminate half of my wishes from this list. We would become so efficient we wouldn’t need to raise the labor rates. The understanding of the parts needed on each vehicle would allow us to get ahead of supply chain issues and rely less on information providers to give us the data we need to repair them. Becoming an expert in certain lines is a sustainable path for the independent shop.
- Another wake-up call. In 2017, there was a lawsuit in Texas that had ripple effects throughout our industry. While I certainly hope it doesn’t take a horrific vehicle accident where people are severely injured (as was the case in 2017), I wish there is another event in our industry to rattle our cages and help us make a quantum leap forward.
- I get to return to FBMC in 2022. This past year I wasn’t able to attend the FenderBender Management Conference. It is always good to get away from our shop and interact with industry leaders. I went to the first five and every year, it was worth the time and financial investment. This industry is tough. Taking time to learn from others who might be highly proficient in one aspect of their businesses helps me learn from both their mistakes and experiences to help improve our business when I get back home.