Four years ago, when the last FIX Network Global Conference was held, no one could have guessed what the future held for not just the brand but the entire world. One pandemic and several acquisitions and moves into new markets later, the FIX Network truly offers a complete aftermarket solution on a global scale with over 600 employees and 2,000 franchisees. This year’s Global Conference, Oct. 4-6 in Orlando, Fla., brought the family together from across the world, spanning the far-flung reaches of Australia and New Zealand to right here in North America.
Updates from the Network
The first day of the conference opened with a presentation from FIX Network President and CEO Steve Leal. Leal reiterated his vision for providing a full fleet of automotive aftermarket services across the world — but he stressed that it would take work.
“We were first in the space, but that doesn’t guarantee success,” Leal warned. He called on attendees to help FIX focus on its core mission of becoming No. 1 in the collision, mechanical and glass industries.
Leal also addressed the topic of AI and how it might impact the future for franchisees. Specifically, he sees AI phasing out certain tasks in the white collar industries in the name of efficiency, but with help from a live experiment in which he asked ChatGPT if AI could replace auto body service jobs, even AI said that it could not. To that end, Leal predicts that there will be a shift in the coming years towards more workers entering the blue collar workforce.
Later in the day, Leal broke the news to the audience that FIX Network had signed on as an official sponsor/partner of the Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team in order to enhance its branding with a presence through this worldwide phenomenon. FIX even had one of the team’s extra race cars brought in and set up at the conference for attendees to see, with the FIX Network’s branding displayed on the racecar’s spoiler.
Global visibility is not the only way FIX is trying to achieve its goal. During one presentation, Craig Hardie, group chief operations officer for United Motors Group, discussed how the FIX Network is expanding in the Middle East, primarily in Saudi Arabia. According to Hardie, the changing Saudi culture (i.e. women being allowed to drive) is opening up new automotive opportunities. In an intriguing discussion, he explained how the kingdom’s distinct laws and markets dictate FIX Network’s (and United Motors Group’s) operations.
In a separate panel, FIX franchisees from around the world shared their experiences about bringing on one or more other brands in the FIX Network. For some, the dream to create a “one-stop shop” for automotive service drove them to pursue this vision, while for others, it made financial sense to set foot in another market. However, each franchisee warned that each of the markets — collision, mechanical and glass — behave differently in terms of customers’ expectations and operations, and one cannot necessarily carry over a set of business practices from one to the other. But all said the hard work of bringing on these other brands was ultimately worth it.
When concluding the conference, Leal noted that in the future, he hopes for FIX Network to offer both repair solutions not just for the auto industry but also for the home, since these comprise people’s two biggest purchases. For that reason, the company is called a “Network” and not just “FIX Auto.” A bold vision to be sure, but that was the whole point of this conference: looking to the future and trying to plan ahead for success.
On the Horizon in the Auto Industry
Over the course of the two-day conference, we heard from speakers about a number of important updates in the automotive industry that are already impacting repairers and will do so even more in the future.
- Right to Repair. Lisa Foshee, senior vice president of government affairs and general counsel for the Auto Care Association, gave a presentation on the Right to Repair movement happening in the U.S., stressing how it is going to be an issue for every country (if it’s not already) and that the association is actively working with its sister organizations in other nations on pertinent legislation. She stressed to foreign and domestic attendees the need for access to telematics, diagnostic and repair data for five reasons: 1) it would preserve consumer access to their shops; 2) it would ensure their access to repair tools and information; 3) it would keep vehicles cybersecure; 4) it would provide transparency for drivers; 5) it would ensure enforcement now and in the future.
- Updates in glass technology. Bill George, general manager of NSG – Pilkington, offered an insight into the glass market and how new glass technology will be coming to cars soon (if it’s not there already). To start things off, he showed a statistic noting that, for a certain vehicle model in 2015, there were only 14 advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) components; by 2025, that number will jump to 32, or a 110% increase. This speed of industry advancement is unheard of, and it’s difficult for humans as a whole to keep up. Furthermore, he said it’s getting difficult for glass repairers to know which type of glass is used where. For instance, in a single SUV model in 2005, three or four SKUs of glass were used, whereas in 2023 for that same model, 11 SKUs were used. George also noted that some of the updates to glass in coming automotive technologies included rear-facing cameras, heads-up displays (HUD) and augmented reality windshields. In addition, he noted that thin glass is permeating more parts of the market, predominantly in electric vehicles (EVs) for windshields.
Improving Your Business Mindset
While much of the conference was dedicated to FIX Network or automotive-specific information, we also heard from some speakers who spoke in a more general sense about how to be a better business owner, which often involves changing one’s mindset.
- How to innovate. Jeff Havens, a business growth expert, led a comedic but thought-provoking session on how to “uncrapify your future” by learning how to innovate. Havens warned, however, that innovation is often billed as a do or die, creating a fight or flight response in us. Instead, Havens offered three simple steps to help employees innovate: 1) ask a question; 2) think about possible answers; 3) do whatever you thought of. Havens notes that it sounds simple, but the thinking is what takes the most work, and we often don’t set aside time to just think about our businesses. He stressed, “Your next big thing will begin as a small thing.”
- Embracing change. Ariane de Boinvoisine, an entrepreneur, speaker, author and coach, helped attendees understand how apt they are to accept change and how they could invite more of it into their lives if they shy away from it. She offered her nine principles of change, saying that people who successfully navigate change: 1) have positive beliefs; 2) believe the “Change Guarantee” — from this situation, something good will come; 3) know they have a “change muscle”; 4) have emotional flexibility, since all change is emotional; 5) accept change; 6) know what they can control; 7) are in touch with their spiritual side; 8) have a change support team; 9) take action.
- Swimming with a shark. The keynote speaker for the conference was none other than Robert Herjavec, one of the hosts of the popular television series “Shark Tank.” Not only did Herjavec share his touching life story, but he also offered his rules for running a business:
- Brand. Branding is important. What does your business stand for?
- Finish strong. It doesn’t matter how you start — it matters how you finish.
- Fear. Get over it. Fear is a learned response, but so is courage. The only way to conquer fear is to engage it.
- Speed: Go fast and don’t crash. The faster you go — and you need to go fast — the more important the focus. At speed, a crash comes swiftly. The car ends up where you are focused.
- Don’t do it alone. If you want to get somewhere quickly, be a student. Great leaders are great learners.
- Don’t believe the myths. Create your own truth. Don’t listen to the myths of those that have not gone there.
- Time management is survival.
- Greatness requires purpose. Nothing great comes without great purpose.
Fun and Games
Of course, what’s a conference without time to connect with fellow attendees? FIX Network went above and beyond to put together a stellar lineup of parties each night. On Wednesday, Oct. 4, FIX Network greeted its conference attendees with a “Floridian Fiesta,” replete with local cuisine and wildlife (such as baby alligators) available for safe viewing.
On Thursday, FIX Network brought us to Universal CityWalk for a New Orleans-themed evening of libations, food, music and dancing. The karaoke bar turned out to be the star attraction for the night, with franchisees singing their hearts out.
The conference ended on a “fantastic” note with the “Futuristic Fantasy Gala: A Sparkle and Shine Soiree,” where guests enjoyed cocktails before taking part in a full-course dinner and watching some live entertainment that involved projections and miming as well as a laser light show to heighten the cyber-futuristic feeling. Finally, attendees took to the floor to dance the night away.
Stay tuned for more information about the next FIX Network Global Conference scheduled for 2025.