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How Can We Unite the Body Shop Industry to Protect Our Rights?

Asked by Kyle Kuzdell, manager, Szott M59 Collision, White Lake, Mich.

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Lee Amaradio Jr. is the president and founder of Faith Quality Auto Body Inc. in Murrieta, Calif. His 32,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility employs 35 full-time employees and grosses $7.5 million in sales. In business since 1979, Lee attributes his success to having a great team of quality people supporting him.

How can we unite the body shop industry in a large metro area in order to protect our rights and not get bullied by insurance companies?

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Asked by Kyle Kuzdell, manager, Szott M59 Collision, White Lake, Mich.

Kyle, when I was asked to provide a response to your question, it caused me to reflect upon the last three years.

During that time, I’ve met with many legislators from both the U.S.
House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. I’ve spoken on behalf of
our industry at a California Senate hearing. I’ve met with the former
California insurance commissioner and have already met with the new one.
I’ve had meetings with the Attorney General’s office more than once.
I’ve been featured on Fox and ABC News. I’ve met with consumer watchdog
groups. I sat in on an OEM roundtable. And I’m currently the president
of the Collision Repair Association of California and a member of the
Collision Industry Conference, Society of Collision Repair Specialists
and the California Autobody Association. In short, I convinced myself
that I indeed am qualified to answer your question.

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1. Join an Association

First, you should become a member of a local industry association and
also a national one. If you don’t have a local association, start one!
An association is important because it will give you credibility, which
in turn might get your foot in the door.

Next, know your rights and your customers’ rights in and out. The way to
do this is to contact your state’s department of insurance and get
copies of the current laws and study up on them.

Then, educate your customers. You may even want to publish their rights
for them, which is what I did in my local newspaper with “Did You Know?”
and “Customer Bill of Rights” ads.

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It’s also important to make sure you understand the proper repair
processes for each vehicle and start applying them. Subscribe to a
service that will allow you to access recommended OEM collision repair
procedures. It’s all about the customer’s safety!

2. Go to the Top

With all this new knowledge, take it to the top – the insurance supervisors, the department of insurance and your state
representatives. Educate them about your industry and make yourself heard.

And don’t forget about your customers. Take them back and get them on your side, and you’ll have half the battle already won.

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3. Uniting Shops

Getting shops together only requires a few committed shop owners to get your message out.

Start by pre-arranging meetings with local legislators, and then contact
other shops and invite them to a day at the Capitol. Talking with those
legislators, you’ll be surprised how little they know about collision
repair. Share with them what you know about the law and what they should
know.

I feel that our biggest problem comes from within the industry,
specifically the shops that are unable or unwilling to educate
themselves when it comes to properly and safely repairing vehicles.
Those same shops are also typically unaware of their local laws
pertaining to collision repair and are too willing to do anything the
insurers tell them.

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No Magic

I hope this advice will help you achieve your goal of uniting shops in
your area to become a formidable force. It’s a long road, and change
will not come by whirlwind or some magic law that will fix everything. 
Change will happen one shop at a time.


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