Get Off Your Island
Our industry is moving at lightspeed—or at least, it feels that way these days, right? New vehicle design innovations; ever-evolving technology; new, more sophisticated tools and equipment. It is a daunting task to keep up with it all, and because of all of this, it is easy to isolate ourselves, put our heads down and focus on taking care of our customers and fixing cars in a safe and timely matter.
Focus on the little things, and eventually, we’ll get to the big picture, right? Well, that’s not the way it works, my friends. Having such a singular focus on our own businesses forces us to lose our peripheral vision; we develop blindspots.
So, what’s the solution? How do you get off your island as a shop owner and utilize the resources available to better run your business, and set it up to thrive for years to come?
I like to think of it like a fighter pilot; really, I like to use the movie Top Gun as an example. Think about the characters in the movie, all the fighter pilots: They were in teams, right? You had Maverick, and right with him was Goose. You had Iceman, and right with him was Slider. Every fighter pilot has his or her wingman. None of them go at it alone.
Do you see what I’m getting at here? Every shop operator needs a wingman. You cannot isolate yourself and succeed. And, no, this isn’t a selling point coming from a consultant or coach, even though I am one.
Let’s look at some numbers, friends: In my quarterly Who Pays for What? survey, we poll shop operators about reimbursement on various repair procedures. And there is without a doubt a link to reimbursement and where a shop is located. But there’s a more important correlation than you might think: The states with higher reimbursement rates are the ones with very strong associations.
It’s not a coincidence. Montana, North Dakota, California, states in the Northeast—they all have the highest reimbursement rates, and they all have strong associations. So, the first step to gaining that full picture of the industry and removing the blindspots from your business is to join an association. All associations, whether on the state or national level, have resources to help you better run your business. They have trade shows, training seminars, newsletters. Your association should be there to help you understand overtime laws, understand trade, and what’s going on with the OEMs. There are three major national trade associations: There’s SCRS, the Society of Collision Repair Specialists; there’s ASA, the Automotive Service Association; and then there’s AASP, the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers. Then each state and region has its own, as well. Join. Gaining that network of peers is invaluable.
Another option, too, that I think is really important to thriving today (and not just surviving) is taking advantage of the opportunity to join a 20 Group. A 20 Group is where shops that aren’t competitors get together and meet on a quarterly basis; they’ll compare financials, best practices, listen to guest speakers and work together with their facilitator on improving their own businesses. And when we’re talking about finding a wingman for your business, what better way than having a group of your peers who will hold you accountable to your goals? Most paint companies have one; there are also independent groups out there that are great. Get involved. Reach out to your paint company or one of these other organizations and start now.
And, really, there’s one more entity that I think can really help you—FenderBender. It’s why I came here; it’s why I wanted to be involved in FenderBender’s conference this month. This magazine is a great way to keep up with the industry, to analyze trends, and to learn from fellow shop operators on the challenges, opportunities and solutions that are out there today. The conference will do the same. It’s here to get rid of those blind spots for you.
At the end of the day, each of us in this industry needs to find our wingman—and it doesn’t have to be just one person, one entity or one group. I couldn’t have been successful in running my own shops without my involvement in the Washington Metropolitan Autobody Association or the Coyote Vision Group. If you need suggestions on where to look, email me, and I’ll be sure to introduce you to someone that would be a good fit.
Expand your own knowledge base by expanding your own inner circle. Learn from others, and let others learn from you. Network. Get out there. Be a part of the greater industry. You can’t fly solo and thrive in this industry anymore. You can’t sit on an island and hope that taking care of that customer today guarantees that you still have customers in five years, 10 years, 20 years. That’s not realistic. Get off the island, and let’s move forward together.