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Approximately 350 collision repairers enjoyed motivational speakers and hardcore business improvement classes at Phoenix, Ariz. event.
You don’t quite know how to react when, at 8 o’clock in the morning, a short, dapper man who is old enough for you to worry about his fragility gets up onto a chair, places one foot on the seat and one on the back, and balances there precariously for what seems like eons. Then, he deftly rotates his top foot down onto the seat next to his other foot and assumes a downhill speed skier’s crouch. His face turns beet red as he screams out a precise description of how it feels to race down a mountain straightaway at 135 miles per hour – fast enough to melt your body suit into your skin if you happen to wipe out and go skidding down the slope. All this before your first cup of coffee.
The man is Canadian Vince Poscente, and once he’s through telling you about his against-all-odds, improbable qualifying for the speed skiing demo event in the 1992 Olympics, you pretty much feel that nothing is impossible. Certainly not the lofty goals you may have for your business.
That was part of the message at the PPG MVP Conference: Get in the Zone held March 25-27 in Phoenix, Ariz. By the end of Poscente’s presentation, the approximately 350 collision repairers in attendance expected to hear him say that a gold, silver or bronze medal was the culmination of his four-year journey from recreational skier to Olympian. Instead, they watched a video of Poscente’s last run, where he hit a bump, lost critical speed and ended up finishing 15th. His last thought before embarking on that final run? Have fun.
“Sometimes we hit bumps: health bumps, economic bumps, relationship bumps,” said Poscente. “But the decision to have fun is powerful. When you have fun, you have peak performance. And you need to instill that emotional buzz into the people who work with you.”
Poscente’s presentation was preceded by comments from Greg Benckart, vice president of PPG Automotive Refinish, and Jim Berkey, director of PPG MVP Business Solutions.
Benckart talked about waterborne paint, one of the number of changes that’s transforming the collision repair industry today, declaring its superiority over solvent-based. He also noted the 7,500 conversions PPG has done worldwide, 34 percent of which were conversions from a competitive product.
Berkey described the definition of the mysterious and sometimes unexplainable “zone,” a term often used in sports when an athlete has an unbelievable performance but one that equally applies in business: a state of consciousness where actual skills match the perceived performance requirement perfectly.
He cited CCC Information Service’s latest Crash Course industry trends report that declared that “disruption” was the top trend for automotive claims and collision repair industries in 2011.
“There are too many shops and the pie isn’t growing. Technology is booming. It’s not good enough to be just passionate. Leading a business today takes more than common sense; it takes uncommon skill. And the passion is essential,” said Berkey.
Yet another motivational speaker, business consultant and author Joe Calloway, who has worked with such heavyweight companies as Coke, Saks Fifth Avenue and American Express, implored the collision professionals in attendance to be different and stand out.
“When your customers look at you and your competitors, they don’t see much of a difference,” said Calloway.
Calloway also offered these nuggets of wisdom:
• Quoting Apple’s Steve Jobs: “All the great ideas are already out there; you just have to connect the dots.”
• If you’re afraid to fail, you won’t do the least thing creative.
• The longer your track record of success, the more likely you are to become complacent.
• If you’re successful, you know what worked yesterday.
• The danger of becoming an expert is that you think you know everything.
• Quoting race car driver Michael Andretti: “If everything feels like it’s under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
• Quoting one company’s message to potential employees: “If you’re as good as you’re going to be, you can’t work here.”
• Quoting NFL quarterback Peyton Manning: “Pressure is what you feel when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.”
• Quoting Southwest Airlines Co-Founder Herb Kelleher: “Be good at what you do, have fun and love everybody.”
Calloway said it isn’t always “out of the box” thinking that allows a company to figure out how to be different; sometimes it’s thinking that’s smack dab in the middle of the box. As an example, he mentioned a plumbing company that guaranteed they would be on time or else would pay the customer $5 for every minute they were late.
Another example Calloway gave was a tire service company where the employees literally run to a car when it pulls up.
“What is your version of ‘running to the car’?” asked Calloway.
Michael Broome was quite possibly the funniest of the three motivational speakers featured at the PPG MVP Conference. At times, his talk on mastering the techniques of maintaining an affirmative attitude had people rolling in the aisles with witticisms such as, "An old cowboy philosopher once said, ‘People are not logical. If they were, it would be men who rode side saddle.’"
But Broome occasionally shelved the humor in favor of making thought-provoking statements such as:
• Attitude is a result of what we love and value.
• Laughing is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.
• There are no challenges today we haven’t faced in the past.
• We’ve always had problems and always will.
• Most fears have no basis in logic.
• It’s not the people we fire who give us headaches, it’s the people we don’t.
• Those who will provide the need will be the greatest servants.
• Never underestimate the value of handwritten notes to your people.
• There is nothing more important than enhancing the relationships of the customers we currently have.
• Never promise more than you’re willing to deliver.
Between the motivational speeches, attendees of the PPG MVP Conference were treated to hardcore business improvement courses such as “Discovery and Parts Procurement: The Key to X-Ray Repair Planning Excellence,” “Paint Shop Throughout: A Quick Changeover Approach,” “Delighting Customers for Life” and “Zeroing In on Standardization.” The workshops focused on process improvement as a way to achieve better cycle time and other Key Performance Indicators…and get in the zone.