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Help Your Shop Through Industry Involvement

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Cutting through the complexity of the collision repair industry isn’t easy. Even knowing what information will truly improve your business can be a real puzzle. It often helps to connect with someone who’s been there, struggled a time or two, and ultimately succeeded. And you’re not going to do that with your competitor down the street, even if you are friendly. To connect with the people and insights needed to make your shop more successful, you’ve got to get outside your shop and into the ranks of an industry association or organization, says Barry Dorn, owner of Dorn’s Body & Paint Inc. and immediate past chairman of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS).

FenderBender talked with Dorn about how dedicating some time to helping the industry at large can ultimately help your shop in particular.

Participation with industry organizations is not reserved for operators of the big, elite shops. Most organizations welcome all repairers who have an interest in bettering the collision repair industry. Making a difference in your industry and your business begins with the decision to be involved with the industry beyond working in your own shop.

Industry involvement is a great way to stay up to date on new information. If you’re not actively involved and drawing information from multiple sources soon after it’s available, you likely struggle to sustain the knowledge base needed to ensure that you’re following the myriad business practices, regulations, laws, repair procedures and industry trends critical to your future success.

Industry involvement also keeps shop owners informed about significant technical developments within the collision repair industry. Vehicle platforms are changing at a rate never seen before—some say every 120 days. How can you be ready for all of those changes without the right information? Business expectations change even more frequently. Being highly engaged in the industry is paramount more so now than ever before.

Networking returns big benefits. It’s incredibly valuable for shop owners and managers to have an outlet to discuss problems and issues that affect their business. Connect with people from around the industry and across the country, and you’ll have a sounding board of people who truly understand the struggles your business faces.

Find new ideas and helpful information regarding shop processes, workflow, policies and procedures. As you network, you can take bits and pieces of information from fellow professionals and implement them in your shop. For example, an operator across the country may have tried something unique that could work for you. Through networking at industry events, you learn the ins and outs of new ideas, the costs and the lessons learned on the way to successful implementation. That’s a conversation you won’t be having with your local competitor.

Help improve the industry by sharing your knowledge and processes. Industry improvement is a matter of give and take. You might be surprised to learn that what you consider run-of-the-mill at your shop is truly revolutionary and unique in someone else’s eyes. Sharing your ideas and experiences can help improve the industry at large, one peer shop at a time.

There’s no shortage of associations and organizations that repairers can get involved with on local and national levels. For example, the SCRS has a list of state affiliate associations that connect you at the local level. The organization also has open board meetings that you can attend on a national level. To get involved, identify an organization that sparks your interest. Visit the organization’s website or call the administration office and ask to be placed on a committee that’s dealing with a topic you’re passionate about.

Test the waters, so to speak, by attending an association meeting as a guest. Many associations have open meetings that you can attend. Drop in to find out what the group is all about, and to speak with other members and the board of directors. There is no cost to get involved and it’s better to know beforehand whether the organization is a good fit for you.

Industry involvement doesn’t have to consume a huge amount of your time. If you want to get involved on a committee with a particular association, you’re looking at a time investment of about two or three hours a month. Typically, you participate via periodic conference calls. If you want to get involved with an association at a national level, there is likely some travel time associated with attending quarterly meetings.

Although it’s not a lot, some time and energy must be committed to have meaningful industry involvement. Structure your business so certain employees have some decision-making power to keep the shop running while you’re away. You need to be able to step away from the business for a few days without having to worry about the shop falling apart while you’re gone.

Industry involvement offers great business benefits, and you’ll enjoy them most if you get involved for altruistic reasons rather than selfish ones. If you begin participating in industry groups with a self-serving mindset, you’re likely to be disappointed. Your peers will recognize your selfish motivation. You have to be genuinely interested in improving the industry for this to be worthwhile.

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