Does Association Membership Benefit a Collision Repair Shop? - BodyShop Business
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Does Association Membership Benefit a Collision Repair Shop?

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Richard Lata, owner
Martinsville Collision
Martinsville, Va.

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Opinion: No

We’re on DRPs with 12 different insurance companies, and we’re not even a big shop – I’m only 6,500 square feet. I’m an independent, and I’ve only been in business five years. In that five years time, I’ve learned how to go out and get work and to work with the insurance companies and my direct-repair programs. … An independent needs customers, repeat business and good word-of-mouth advertising – that’s what brings in my business every day. Not some association trying to get legislation passed and changing things.

Insurance is all regulated by individual states, and it’s a game. The whole thing’s a game. You’ve just got to know how to play the game.

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I haven’t belonged to any associations, but when I worked for dealerships, I attended association meetings. To be honest with you, it was just a bunch of guys sitting around drinking coffee and eating donuts and telling stories. I guess [I feel this way] because I’m a person who doesn’t like to wait for things to happen – I like to get out and make them happen.

I’m a go-getter. … Within the last five years, I’ve acquired 12 direct-repair relationships with insurance companies. So even in a poor market, the work is there if you know how to go out and solicit it.

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I don’t rely on any association, and I don’t rely on what’s happening with legislation day-to-day with the insurance industry because it doesn’t pay my bills. It doesn’t affect me today. And in this industry, you can be in business today and out of business tomorrow. Whether I vote on something or not, if I can’t pay my bills at the end of the month, I’m in trouble.

… Being a small independent, I’ve really got to watch how I spend my money and my time – my time is just as valuable. It’s hard enough getting into I-CAR classes in the evenings after work, getting out at 10 o’clock and then back in the shop at 7 o’clock in the morning.

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I’m a single independent, and my problems are right here in-house. Being in the collision business, you’re going to have problems every day to solve. The people who we deal with – the insurance companies and the insured – we deal with them on a daily basis. If there are mistakes being made, those are the areas we need to focus on, work with and change.

Anybody can sit down and say, ‘I’d like this law to be changed’ or ‘I’d like this to be changed and that to be changed.’ I don’t see any politicians knocking on my door asking me, ‘What can we do to improve this?’ They do it with big name insurance companies, but I don’t see them knocking on my door.

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If people think they’re going to get something from association meetings, hats-off to them. To me, it’s not in my daily schedule. It’s not a priority to me. I have in-house needs and problems on a daily basis that need to be solved in-house, and I just don’t see what running around complaining about what needs to be changed is going to do.


Ron Nagy, owner
Nagy’s Body & Frame, Inc.
Doylestown, Ohio

Opinion: Yes

When it comes down to it, at the end of the day, why would I go at something alone when I can go at it as a team? … For example, as far as political involvement, this is one area that association membership really helps tremendously. There are so many things in the political world – bills that are getting started that most people know nothing about them. We’re lucky enough to have a lobbyist at both the state and national level who keeps us abreast on things…

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Then there are the seminars. With the seminars … specifically AMI because those are mostly through ASA, you know what you’re getting ahead of time. They’re obviously discounted to members, but I’ve been to some seminars outside of the ASA realm and at some of them, the speakers make fantastic sleep doctors…

There’s also the discounts – a broad range from workmen’s comp to uniforms. We get 25 letters in the mail every year for workmen’s comp, but I like the fact that by going with the association, I make one phone call, and I’m done. If I have a problem, I know who to call. …
I’ve probably learned more about business and running a business just from some of the collision meeting breakouts. There’s camaraderie just talking to these guys. They may have faced the same problems, they may have solutions, they may not, but it’s something you can discuss with them and you may come to a solution.

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It may be about employees. It may be about a situation you’re in. To me that’s gold. Again, why go at something alone when you can go at it as a team?…

There’s so many situations where I may have a problem, maybe with an employee if I was laying him off or firing him, and we have a wage and hour hotline that’s one of the association benefits. I’ve used it, and it’s helped tremendously…

I’ve thought a lot about [the people who say that associations each have their own agenda, which actually creates disunity in the industry, like non-DRP shops join CCRE and DRP shops join ASA]. I think that’s a cop-out to be perfectly honest. I’ll use the example of church – if you don’t want to go to church, you’re going to find a reason. … If there’s something you don’t like with the profession, there’s a way to solve it. … But to sit back and complain about the problems and not be a part of anything – that’s a bunch of guys sitting on the sidelines complaining and not getting in the game.

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There’s those who do, and those who complain about those who do. It goes back to the 80-20 rule – 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people…

… You’re either part of the problem, or you’re part of the solution. I don’t think associations are ever a waste of time and money, just for being able to learn the business. I compare it to the elections and a couple of guys I know: If you’re going to complain about anything in the government, you better vote. If you’re not going to vote, don’t complain. It’s the same with associations – if you’re not willing to invest a little time in one, don’t complain.

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When you go at something alone, it’s so easy to get frustrated and depressed and just beat up. And why, when you can be part of a team? If I have a problem, I’ve got 25 guys I can call at a moment’s notice and run something past them. In fact, I did that two weeks ago on an issue with rental cars – there was an insurance company and a person in an ivory tower constantly calling, wanting to know if we could give them the dates off the invoices of when we received the parts because according to their calculations, it should have been done a few days ago. I’m thinking, ‘Are these guys just picking us out or what? They’ve done this on three cars within a week’s period.’

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I called a guy in Minnesota, a guy in Florida and one in Akron [Ohio] and said, ‘Are you guys experiencing this?’ They all were, which tells me this company is just finding something else to stick in our side. If I didn’t have those fellow members to call, I’d probably go home and kick the cat.

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