Advice from a New Guy - BodyShop Business

Advice from a New Guy

Happy New Year! I hope 2011 turns into a great year for all of us in the collision repair market.

The New Year is an excellent time to evaluate where we’re planning to go and make any adjustments or changes that will help us accomplish our goals. This is the time to think about your business and be sure you’re headed in the right direction.

Many of you know that I spent 28 years within the Detroit Three. One of my assignments during that time was to help create an information and technology company called OEConnection (OEC). One of the lessons I learned during that seven-year assignment was that companies need to evaluate their business plans and be able to adjust their direction based on market conditions and shifts in the overall business. Today, OEC is a thriving, creative company that’s working in areas that were never even thought of back when it started in 2000.

During that assignment, I had the opportunity to meet and work with many talented people from both the IT sector and the automotive environment. Since my background was 100 percent automotive, I found that the IT side of the business was where I had much room to grow, and many people were kind enough to take the time to help me learn about it.

One such individual recently contacted me and, to my surprise, I found he had migrated over into the collision repair space by purchasing a franchised collision repair facility. From working together, I knew he had an aptitude for the repair business, but he was such a good IT person, I never would’ve thought that he would choose to leave his lifelong occupation.

What was interesting about his move was his overall take on the collision repair business. I’ve taken the liberty to use part of his note to me announcing his new occupation. Pay close attention to the content of these few sentences he wrote about his life change:

In January 2010, I bought a franchised collision repair facility. The previous owner had it for 30 years and retired. He shut the shop down 6 months earlier, so we did a major rehab of the shop and opened in mid-March. Business has been great all year long.  I have a really good crew now and we’re producing some high quality stuff. We have a good reputation and word travels fast. We have the whole spectrum of customers now – consumers, sled lots, high-end dealers (exclusive body shop for a high-end OEM dealer), fleets and insurance work. We’re currently working on our I-CAR status. Our franchisor provides good support, but it’s all about how you run your own shop: treat your customers right, and do a quality job at a decent price.  

Lots of people are getting out of this business, with the 6H Rule, fewer insurance jobs and the economy being the main culprits. We’re well diversified in our approach and it seems to be working. Two guys on my crew had their own shops until about a year ago.  It’s interesting to learn how the “old school’”owners did things, but it’s more interesting to understand the people who are getting into this business and why.

I share this with you because I think it’s important for us to realize that there are many ways to make a shop successful. We seem to spend so much time in this industry debating who’s trying to do what to who that we often lose sight of what our objective is. My friend above is not entangled in all that but instead is focused on making a viable business work today. Let’s all take a lesson from one of the new guys and be sure our business models match our goals.

Have a great 2011!

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