The year was 1982. The No. 1 song on the Billboard Top 100 was “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. The unemployment rate hit 10.8 percent, which was the highest since the Great Depression. Ronald Reagan was our President, squaring off with the Soviet Union, which he called the “evil empire.”
I was 11 years old, a sixth grader at St. Raphael School in Bay Village, Ohio, and I was squaring off with the likes of Sr. Nancy and Sr. Joan of Arc. I’m not kidding, that was her name. She swigged cough syrup straight out of the bottle during class and had little plastic baby rattles hung on the wall by her desk that she would seize and throw at your head if you acted up.
“You’re acting like a baby, so that’s what you get!” she’d scream.
The principal was Sr. Ardeth, who was stern but fair. Still, when she walked by a classroom, we’d all chant in unison, “Ar-deth (our death) is near.”
Oh, and 1982 was the year a little ol’ magazine named BodyShop Business made its debut as a trade publication serving the collision repair industry. Who knew that 25 years after battling nuns on the shores of Lake Erie that I would take the helm of the biggest and best magazine in the auto body business?
Opening up our first issue, March 1982, was like stepping into a time machine. Everything looked dated, from the advertisements to the clothes and haircuts of our columnists and the collision professionals we profiled.
Reading one profile of a successful body shop, I heard the owner say something that still resonates today: “Give them a quality job at a fair price and they’ll come back and do business with you again.” So simple, so true, but sometimes hard to do, no?
That same owner also said: “I don’t do any advertising, even in the Yellow Pages. All of my business is repeat business and word-
While we know that word-of-mouth is still important in 2012, I think all collision repair facilities have figured out that they need to be doing a whole lot more to market their shops – including social networking via Facebook and Twitter.
In 1982, we knew a web to be a thing that a spider spins. Who knew that the Worldwide Web would become the information and commerce powerhouse it is today? Because of that, we’re debuting in this very issue a column that, if it had appeared in the March 1982 issue, would’ve seemed like a bizarre fairy tale. It’s called Web Presence Management, and it will focus on helping body shops improve their businesses by improving their websites and social media activity.
Check out these statistics I pulled from a survey we conducted in our inaugural issue:
● Avg. paint and body labor rate: $18.89
● Avg. frame rate: $27.36
● Avg. alignment rate: $22.91
● Avg. mechanical rate: $23.54
● Avg. no. of bays: 12.4
● Avg. no. of employees: 8
● Avg. years in business: 23.4
● Avg. annual sales: $361,095
There was also this description of the biggest problems facing the industry in 1982, which sounded a bit familiar to me as well:
“When asked the biggest problem facing body shops today, the answer most often given was frustrations with the insurance industry. Especially mentioned were control of labor rates without consideration of actual cost of repair, unqualified insurance adjusters and slow payments on completed jobs.”
Clearly, a lot has changed, and a lot hasn’t.
A statement our then-publisher made about BodyShop Business in our first issue also seemed prophetic: “If used correctly, our product could be as important a tool for your business as any other piece of equipment sitting on your shop floor.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I certainly hope you’ve used BodyShop Business to hammer out the dents in your profit statements over the last 30 years, and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Keep an eye out for the March 2012 30th Anniversary Issue, which will feature a special look back at our history.