In today’s times, collision repair facilities are being faced with challenges and obstacles from all angles. Shops finally have more work than they know what to do with, some with six-week backlogs. But with that “gold rush” of cars, some have found it harder to maintain their high level of customer service, profitability, and operational efficiency. Additionally, shops are faced with the ongoing technician shortage – the strongest headwind the industry is up against – constant parts shortages, the rising cost of everything including labor, and increasing vehicle sophistication. Vehicle technology requires a steeper investment in tools and training and negatively impacts cycle time. With rising costs across the board, it can be hard to compete with fast-food restaurants offering $18 per hour and $2,500 signing bonuses. Never before have shops seen such an avalanche of work while facing the challenges to run a collision business.
That’s where your industry community, including your supply partners, sales reps, non-competing shops, and connections, come into play. Each and every professional working in this industry is a link to a larger chain of networks that can help drive discussion that will positively impact your workflow and increase efficiencies. After all, it’s certainly easier to face the challenges with a “supporting village!”
A valuable starting point is teaming up with your paint partner. You can buy paint and materials from anyone, but what about a partner who can: analyze your workflow and dial in your efficiency; offer an extra hand when you’re in need; perform cost analysis for you; optimize your inventory and delivery schedule; introduce you to the latest products and technology; offer hands-on training; and inform you of local and national events like golf fundraisers and conferences perfect for networking and sharing best practices. Your vendor sales reps are some of the most connected within the industry too and have relationships with just the right people who can help move your shop to the next level.
Additionally, getting involved in industry events enhances your professional network beyond your local community. There are many to attend, from events focused on giving back or highlighting talent within the industry, to networking on a larger scale.
- The Hood Master Challenge hosted by FinishMaster celebrates the skill, talent, and creativity of collision painters. At this year’s event, they raised $30,000 for the Collision Repair Education Foundation and collision students, instructors, and schools.
- Have you heard of the SkillsUSA competition? Supporting and sponsoring this competition aids in shining a spotlight on the trades as a viable career option.
- Is your business a woman-owned shop or do you have female shop employees? Getting involved with WIN – Women’s Industry Network and attending their annual conference is another way to make new connections and to learn from what others are doing successfully within the collision repair community.
- Supporting TechForce Foundation’s effort is another way to get involved and to back students interested in pursuing a technical education and career as a professional transportation technician.
Stepping back to the idea of the power of industry connections and relationships with a true-life, real-world example. A FinishMaster account manager based in California coordinated a lunch between two shops in his territory who have similar profiles but do not compete with one another. Both owners are hands-on, intelligent, and always looking for ways to improve. The two owners got along great, sharing their challenges with each other, and coming up with solutions. For example, both did lots of Toyota “peelers” which require stripping, and one shop owner was able to give pointers on how to save time and money to the tune of several thousands of dollars per month. The other shop was able to share important information and tips relating to Toyota with his counterpart, also saving him several thousand dollars per month. Both shops called the FinishMaster account rep afterward, ecstatic about how a simple lunch could prove so impactful to their business. These shops normally would not have known each other and never met, but FinishMaster played a key role as a solution provider.
Let’s also take a look at a real-life example of hands-on training. A seasoned FinishMaster tech rep in Georgia recently took the initiative to partner with a couple of local shops to host classes for technicians and painters. The idea behind these classes started off simply by covering various topics that are important for keeping professionals current with repair and refinish standards. They are hosted every other week at the FinishMaster Augusta training center and are free to attend for any technician in the area. The FM Tech Rep’s goal was to make it easy and attainable to share and to inspire professionals with his technical knowledge and passion for this industry. In return, he has built an experience to educate and connect industry professionals. That’s not just being a provider but a partner.
There is not one simple solution to optimizing a business or an easy answer to resolving the tech shortage either. It is the power of working together to make meaningful connections and being committed to supporting one another that will help shops achieve success.
Sponsored by FinishMaster.