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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 65 full-time employees and does $7 million in gross sales. In business since 1979, Lee attributes his success to having a great team of quality people supporting him. Lee says that he “sees the handwriting on the wall” and believes that “now is the
time for us to reclaim our industry, before it’s too late.” He can be reached at [email protected].