The Collision Repair 'Steel Cage Match' - BodyShop Business
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The Collision Repair ‘Steel Cage Match’

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Well, it’s officially two-and-a-half months now since taking over as publisher of this magnificent magazine. Eager to learn as much as I can about this industry, I’ve spent the bulk of that time traveling the country, meeting suppliers, distributors, jobbers and shop owners. By the time you read this issue, I’ll be in Las Vegas attending NACE, meeting even more of you and eating even more shrimp than any human should be allowed to consume.

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By the time this four-month, whirlwind initiation to everything collision repair has ceased, my cholesterol will have risen, but my understanding of this marketplace will have receded, along with my hairline! Oh sure, I’ve learned a few things along the way, but that knowledge is far overshadowed by the seemingly endless amount of nuances and circumstances (some might say excuses) that permeate this market. The one dynamic I think I understand flows as follows:

OE vs. Aftermarket vs. Independent Shop vs. Insurance Company vs. OE Dealer

Kind of a collision repair “Steel Cage Match,” if you will. Am I right? Perhaps.

But if it doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. I’m still new at this. Maybe the collision repair “dynamic,” as I see it, is better reflected as a statement like this:

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Five separate entities, all with the same objectives (business growth, customer service and profitability), working feverishly against one another, thus eliminating any potential for market efficiencies and sustained, profitable growth for any of those involved.

Given that as the only thing I’ve learned thus far, combined with my inexperience, no one reading this should have any cause for concern. Or, should you?

First and foremost, I am not a cynic. As such, it’s hard for me to ever be “down” on anything. Heck, I still think any one of the professional Cleveland sports teams has a decent shot at winning a championship one day. If that’s not optimistic, what is? And second, I’ve already met many wonderful, bright, earnest, principled, hard-working professionals in this market, and I’ve met less than one-tenth of 1 percent of you!

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So, making a general assessment of the industry such as the one I just made is a bit out of character for me. Yet, that’s what I feel to be true. This may not be the most revealing commentary you’ve ever read, nor do I expect it to be. But, consider this. I am but two-and-a-half months into my role as publisher of BodyShop Business magazine, and already I’m overwhelmed by the completely divergent agendas of this industry’s biggest and most influential entities. Never before have I seen so many self-interests go so unfulfilled.

In our economy, there are usually clear-cut winners and losers. The funny thing is, in this market, I’ve not seen even that! Sure, people and/or entities are having success here and there. But, for the most part, this industry is a wide and open wound, raw and sensitive, painful to the slightest touch. It’s screaming for a tightly sewn set of stitches to pull it together, administered by the collaborative aid of talented and caring individuals. This industry needs leadership from a source that has no vested interest or hidden agenda, yet is influential and effective at bringing differences to a beneficial, community-embraced resolution.

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As I prepare to attend my first NACE, maybe you can suggest just whom that source might be. Stop me before I hit the shrimp buffet!

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