As a former professional drag racer, I’m going to start this month with an anecdote from the sport that I still follow closely today.
Longtime racer John Force recently won a national event. John has been racing all his adult life and has a list of accomplishments second to none, including 16 World Championships. He is 67 years old and by winning this recent event, he added to his list by becoming the oldest person to win. Keep in mind that his car reaches speeds exceeding 320 mph.
In his typically exuberant interview style after getting out of the car, he made a reference to others at or near his age bracket and used the phrase “getting off the couch.” John exemplifies an energy and attitude that keeps him involved, in the thick of things, and he doesn’t allow his age—or anything else for that matter—to give him reason to back away from his chosen endeavors. I find that inspirational and motivating.
How does that apply to us as collision repair business operators? Consider the attitude and the spirit required to strive for excellence in one’s own business or for excellence in one’s own personal performance. How about working to improve the industry? That is the kind of effort I am referring to. Here are a few ideas:
Statistics indicate our industry is lacking in terms of the percentage of collision repair businesses that educate themselves and even worse yet in terms of achieving milestones such as I-CAR Gold. When was the last time you took a class from I-CAR, AMI, or any other entity? Do you send your staff to classes? How about 20 Groups? They can be a great source of education through moderators, meeting speakers, and peers.
You won’t find more classes in any one event than you will at NACE. Other events, such as SEMA, also have great education tracks, as do conferences such as those put on by paint companies and information providers. OE manufactures and product suppliers like 3M offer training. There are other independent conferences such as the one put on by this very publication (shameless plug, but the FenderBender Management Conference really is very good).
Do you belong to a trade association? The big three national associations including ASA, SCRS and AASP, offer opportunities to serve on boards and committees at regional and national levels. Participation enables one to learn about industry trends and issues as well as providing opportunities to influence outcomes. Side benefits include member perks and terrific networking.
Have you attended a Collision Industry Conference (CIC)? There are four per year, each in a different city. Each conference includes a series of presentations typically arranged by various committees. After each there is an opportunity for people to go to a microphone to ask questions or offer comment. There are also opportunities for an open mic where any industry issue or comment can be brought up. Participants include repairers, insurers, OE manufacturers, paint companies, information providers, and more. It also includes very good opportunities for networking.
Why wouldn’t you?
Admittedly it isn’t always easy. There can be travel involved. You may be uncomfortable putting yourself in unfamiliar situations. There can be expense involved. It requires a time commitment that may take away from family time, business time, and personal time. In others words, yes, getting off the couch requires effort.
There are always those who complain that we don’t make enough progress and that we are dealing with many of the same issues we have for many years.
Yes, some concerns have been with us for a long time. Obviously they don’t lend themselves to a simple solution. In some cases, various entities like repairers and insurers and vendors wrestle over influence and financial benefit. A win for one may be a loss to another. Often the best that can be hoped for is a solution that all can live with. In some cases the best we can hope for is to keep it in check. (It’s like dealing with the state of your lawn. It’s never permanently “fixed,” but with regular mowing you keep it in control.)
And we may not have as much control as we prefer. In other words, dealing with industry issues often isn’t easy. It requires persistence, patience, and diplomacy. Consider the alternative. If no one worked on our issues in the public forum, representing repairers, I am certain others would use their influence to serve themselves and put us in a weaker position.
I urge you to get involved. I know from personal experience it can be rewarding and fulfilling in its own way, and it’s the only way to move our industry forward.