We’ve all heard the saying that “a little friendly competition never hurt anyone.”
Helmuth Mayer Jr., CEO of Collision Repair, LLC — one of the largest franchisee operators of Maaco Collision Repair & Auto Painting locations in the U.S. — certainly believes that’s true in the collision industry.
Competition makes good businesses better, he says, and everyone — including customers and the industry as a whole — benefits from shops learning best practices from one another and pushing each other to reach their full potential.
These are his top tips for how to use friendly competition to your shop’s advantage.
As told to Lindsey Gainer
Keep up with industry trends.
We work in an ever-evolving industry, so keeping up with the latest trends and best practices is key. For me, that means reading print and online articles constantly, attending industry trade shows and conferences, and keeping an open mind to learn from others. It’s also important to create an environment of transparency. Sharing business practices, operational efficiency programs, and vendor programs that can help businesses increase their margins are all helpful in propelling the industry forward. Antitrust laws restrict the sharing of prices / collusion, though, so tread carefully in those areas.
Be a sponge — soak it all in.
Learn everything you can from your competitors. Learn how they operate and how they create a positive environment and shop culture, and learn technical skills from those who have been doing it for years. As a business owner, you should constantly be absorbing everything you can and sharing it across your teams to become better.
In addition to learning and taking notes from competitors who are doing well, it’s also imperative to learn from those doing the opposite, to understand what not to do. Learning what traps to avoid in your own business is equally important in the long run.
Competitors are essentially partners that can increase everyone’s market share, not steal it. By constantly learning, the industry as a whole can progress. When you’re a multi-shop operator (MSO) it’s even more essential to learn and spread that knowledge to your teams to accelerate their learning. When you hire brilliant team members, you need to keep them challenged and constantly learning so they can maximize their potential and that of the organization.
Dig deeper to understand why.
I think sometimes shop owners fall into the trap of thinking competitive intelligence is only about knowing who your competitors’ customers are and what they’re charging them. You have to look deeper into the why of everything to truly extract the useful intel. Why do businesses charge a specific price, why do they attract and retain specific customers, why do they market using one medium versus another? Take it a couple layers deeper to truly understand, digest, analyze, and then create your strategy based on what you learn.
I think it's always good to look at both local and industry competitors, too. Businesses outside your market are sometimes willing to share information more freely, as they know it likely won’t have a direct impact on their business.
Create relationships with competitors.
Competitors aren’t the enemy — it’s absolutely important to create relationships, partnerships, and friendships within the industry. The market grows through competition. If businesses aren't competing, then they aren't constantly striving to improve themselves. Improving and adjusting to consumer behaviors and implementing technology and programs to drive efficiencies will only help strengthen the industry.
By sharing the things that you create and the things that drive you, you’ll help others follow suit. Not only does this encourage innovation and push the industry ahead, it’s a sure-fire way to hold yourself accountable to growth — once your competitors are following your lead, you’ll need to figure out how to take things a step further to be even greater at what you do each and every day. It’s a win-win for everyone!