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Got Teaching Skills?

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As a shop owner or manager, you’ve always got your hands full. Taking care of a million details—both big and small—are a normal part of your day. But in the midst of the organized chaos of running a body shop, it’s important to keep finding ways you can give yourself, and your technicians, a leg up on the competition—and in the process, manage a smarter, more efficient shop. If you’ve ever felt an inkling to teach, or to immerse yourself in better business practices, becoming an instructor for I-CAR may be a great idea.

JOB HIGHLIGHTS

Reaping the rewards of becoming an I-CAR instructor will happen more quickly than you think—and they’ll be worth their weight in gold. Jeff Peevy, I-CAR’s North American director of field operations, explains the most worthwhile benefits a shop owner or manager will experience. Consider these two perks:

"Not only are you educating others, you’re educating yourself."

• Unbeatable networking opportunities. I-CAR instructors have the opportunity to participate in monthly teleconferences with one another as well as attend workshops—events that offer you the chance to network not only with fellow colleagues but also with industry leaders. Information and advice you glean from these valuable resources will carry over into the classroom where you’ll be able to teach your students with more confidence and a broader knowledge base.

•Staying on top of the game. As an instructor, you’ll stay at the cutting edge of industry information, on everything from technology updates to recent studies conducted on the topics you teach. You’ll also have access to I-CAR instructor CDs and the organization’s internal Web site. Those resources are chock full of information gathered from industry reports as well as I-CAR’s own research through their work with Original Equipment Manufacturers, suppliers such as 3M and welding manufacturers. Staying on top of what’s going on in the industry will not only enhance your teaching skills but also help you become a smarter, more effective business owner.

IN HIS OWN WORDS

Carl Samuels is a prime example of a shop owner who knows first hand just how valuable being an I-CAR instructor really is—and the big payoff the opportunity offers. Owner of S&W Collision in Georgetown, Ind., and an I-CAR instructor since 1991, Samuels can certainly attest to the reasons a shop owner or manager should consider teaching. Here, he lists his top three:

“Teaching allows you to stay current on industry changes
and manufacturing changes. It keeps you on the cutting edge.”

• Invaluable connections. Echoing Peevy’s sentiments, Samuels says the top reason he chose to become an I-CAR instructor was for the networking opportunities. “[Being an instructor] allows you to meet with other owners, technicians, and insurance representatives in a nonconfrontational and nonpressured environment,” he says. Rather than meeting with colleagues and insurers for the purpose of hashing out numbers and reaching business agreements, this type of interaction is solely focused on sharing best business practices. “I’ve met contacts in areas I never had before,” he says.

• Ability to really ‘walk the talk.’ I-CAR instructors are so well-versed in what they teach, they become experts in many issues impacting the collision industry. This means you stand to gain a whole lot of credibility not only with your students but also with your employees. “As an owner, when you ask your technicians to do certain things or ask them why they’re doing a repair a particular way, you’ll have the respect of your employees because of your technical knowledge,” Samuel notes.

• Running a smarter business. Diving into the intricacies and rules of how to perform a job well is part of being an effective instructor, but it also enables you to become a more effective shop owner as well. Not only are you educating others, you’re educating yourself. “You have the ability to explain the processes and procedures necessary to do a complete and accurate repair, not only for insurance partners but also for your customers,” Samuels says. The better equipped you are, and the more you understand what it takes to do a job well the first time, the better equipped your students will become—not to mention the technicians in your shop.

FAIR TEACHING

Samuels says most I-CAR instructors teach in a noncompetitive atmosphere such as a nearby vocational school. This eliminates a sense of preference for one shop over another that might happen if the instructor is teaching at his or her own location. Samuels acknowledges that some classes do take place in shops or certain insurance and paint vendor labs, but “[we] try to balance everything out; we’re not promoting one place over another.”

The same goes with the idea that instructors may try to recruit other shops’ technicians. “I don’t want to be perceived as someone trying to take someone else’s employees,” Samuels says. That’s true whether he’s teaching a class in his own shop or someone else’s. “We try not to go around saying what one shop has that another doesn’t. There are no background negotiations and there’s no coercing [in terms of recruiting other technicians],” Samuels affirms.

Instructors are paid for teaching, but the paycheck is nothing to write home about. If you’re doing it for the money, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, laughs Samuels. “You’re not going to make any money at it!” Like Samuels, though, most instructors would probably say the nonmonetary benefits far outweigh—and are much more meaningful than—the monetary ones.

DOING WHAT’S RIGHT

Samuels says the single most important return on investment he’s experienced while being an I-CAR instructor has been keeping up with industry changes. “[Teaching allows you] to stay current on industry changes and manufacturing changes,” Samuels says. “It keeps you on the cutting edge. [In this industry], everything changes so rapidly.”

More I-CAR instructors are always welcome. “Come on in, the water’s deep!” laughs Samuels. Teaching is something he feels all shop owners and managers should really do. “I just think if your heart is in the industry for the right reasons, then you need to do it, because it’s the right thing to do. You don’t do it for the money or for the glory; you do it because it’s right.”

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