Veteran consultant to share insight on estimating, business transformations

March 1, 2018
My columns will share some of the dramatic business transformations I have seen shop owners and managers make, real-world examples of what’s possible in this industry.

Given my lengthy history as a trainer and consultant in the industry, I hope my name or face are familiar to many of you. I’ve also written articles for ABRN in the past, so I was thrilled when they invited me to share a regular column. 

But for those of you who I haven’t met, let me introduce myself.  

I launched my consulting firm about a year ago after more than 15 years assisting and educating shops as a trainer for one of the major paint manufacturers. Throughout my nearly four decades in the automotive industry, I’ve spent countless hours observing and assisting inside shops; have experience on “the other side” as an active-licensed insurance appraiser; helped create business and estimating training programs for automakers and other industry organizations; and served as a consultant to top executives in the automotive industry in North America, Central America and the U.K. 

But I think you’ll find that this monthly column is going to be much more about you than about me. These are both exciting and challenging times for collision repairers, whether you’re a dealership shop, an MSO or a single-location independent. 

That’s why each of my columns will focus on a key area of change, giving you specific tools, tips and techniques to tackle the challenges head-on. 

I’ll be writing about the significant changes in estimating, for example, and explaining what the lack of ongoing training of your frontline staff is costing your business. I’ve been tracking the level of estimator training in this industry for more than 12 years, so I know that less than 3 percent of frontline staff in this industry have had any formal estimating training in the last 3-5 years. You’ll quickly see how that’s hurting your business, and the difference that training is making for the shops that embrace it. 

My columns will share some of the dramatic business transformations I have seen shop owners and managers make, real-world examples of what’s possible in this industry. 

I’ll explain some scheduling changes, for example, that led an owner to say their shop went from chaos to an even flow and controlled calmness in a matter of just a few months. (Spoiler: You can’t schedule based on estimate labor hours if those estimates are half-baked.) If you’re finding your shop unnecessarily paying for rentals or changing promise dates to customers, you’ll want to watch for that column. 

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I’ll tell you about the shop owner who has developed a zero percent rate of returns on parts. That’s right: zero. 

I’ll explain why most shops don’t need more (expensive) brick-and-mortar space but rather well-executed processes. 

I’ll reveal why most shops’ financials – even those managed by certified accountants – fail to give owners and managers the information needed to truly understand and drive the business’ performance, and show you how some simple changes to your profit-and-loss statements will give you that data. 

I’ll explain what you need to do to prepare for a business that is changing – or in the case of 2018 vehicles, has already changed – into one in which electronics and technology will account for 60 percent of repairs. Today’s focus on scanning vehicles, for example, neglects the real looming challenge: calibration and functionality of advanced driver assistance systems. 

I think there’s a wake-up call needed in every aspect of our business right now. No single column can bring you all the information you need to keep your business relevant. But I will do my best every month to help you understand a key issue and make the changes that will be required to succeed. 

And I look forward to hearing from you about what hurdles you are facing that I can help you address through my future columns.

About the Author

Steven Feltovich

Steve Feltovich of SJF Business Consulting, LLC, works with dealers, MSOs and independent collision repair businesses to make lasting improvements and achieve performance goals. He has more than three decades of automotive industry experience, including 17 years with Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes. Connect with Feltovich on LinkedIn. 

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