2009 is here, and we’re all embarking on what appears to be a unique and unprecedented year. Political changes and volatile economic markets are in store for all of us. These next few months and this year will really test our abilities to be resilient and stay in the business groove. While we need to keep an eye on all of that, it has never been more important to stay focused on our own industry and our day-to-day business. We need to stay focused on changes occurring in our businesses and be sure that we’re ready to react to them and make well-educated decisions about issues as they arise.
Probably one of the most talked about changes in our industry today is the move toward waterborne products. In my 30-plus-year career in the automotive industry, there have certainly been many evolutionary changes that have become such an integral part of how we do business that we can’t even remember doing it the old way. Think back over some of those changes that you’ve lived through and examine how you handled them. Did you step up and embrace the change early, or did you sit back and say it would never last and finally switch to the new way after you were required to do so by law or after the old technology disappeared? If you’re worried about what you’re going to do in February when they stop broadcasting analog TV, I would say you probably fall into the category of people who resist change.
The switch from solvent-based paint to waterborne is just the first wave of changes coming your way. Ask your fellow shop owners in southern California if they’re going to switch. They’ve already been told they have to. Many shop owners I’ve spoken with have given me the line, “It’s not here yet, I’ll deal with it when it gets here.” OK, but just be sure you do your homework and are ready to deal with the transition once the time is right.
Many think waterborne won’t ever take over completely because basecoats are the only refinish products for which paint companies have developed waterborne formulations. But trust me, the paint companies are working diligently on primers and clearcoats as we speak. If you really think solvents are here to stay, go price oil-based home products. If you can find them, they are at least three times as expensive as their water-based equivalents. Water covers two-thirds of our planet and our own bodies are 70 percent water. It’s not going away and it will dominate our industry in the next 10 years.
I know you’re asking yourself, “Where is he going with all this talk about waterborne?” My point is that you need to get educated on waterborne. The first three issues of BodyShop Business this year will each have an article focused on a different aspect of waterborne (see this month’s article on pg. 48). Get familiar with the product: what it can and can’t do, and what your shop needs to do to ensure a successful conversion. Don’t think that you have to switch today, but get armed with the facts now so you can make good decisions when you decide that you’re ready.
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