Executive Director

When Does Darwin Arrive?

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution: Darwinism is a theory of biological evolution developed by the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) and others, stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce.

As a Christian, I’m to believe in Creationism, but as a working person in the collision industry, I do believe Darwinism has a rightful place in this world; especially, the business one.

There’s a bit of a sigh here at WMABA headquarters, when we start talking about proper repair procedures. The sigh usually comes after a call with an elite repairer who is not getting reimbursed for an OEM procedure by an insurer, and they either feel disheartened and defeated or mad as a hornet. I hang up feeling precisely the same way.

Larry Montanez, Mike Anderson, Aaron Schulenburg, and a slew of other industry notables are constantly giving sermon to the repair industry about what it means to be a respectable repairer, and what those repairers do to differentiate themselves. They have the current equipment required of OEM programs, they follow repair procedures, they constantly train, they pay attention to the national scene, and so on and so on. Above all else, they adapt to change. (Keep in mind, this is regardless of being DRP or not, so no excuses.)

So, the question I have is: When do the “bottom feeders” get culled out? When do those who give no regard to doing the right thing get the chain, the hook, the rope? How can we “evolve” and leave those amoeba creatures behind, when we all know that the state of technology in today’s vehicles is demanding it with an iron fist?

I have no answer. I would like to think there is a government agency, peer pressure, whistleblowing, lawsuits, or something to point at to save the day. We get a new sheriff in town, if you will. Trust me, my level of frustration is same to those who fight daily to get their proper repair procedures, fair labor rates and times, and material reimbursements paid for without a slew of back-and-forth or “maneuvering”. It’s simply exhausting.

Therefore, what is a half-century old association to do? We berate the Bureaus of Insurance, go to the media, stomp and shout, and hope to get the message heard. There just isn’t going to be any change unless nagging occurs. Relentlessness should win the day, and to only balance those who relentlessly dig their heels to move in a thoughtful direction.

Let’s give evolution a shove, shall we?

Summertime and Magic Wands

Whoever said “summertime and the livin’ is easy”, has never been in collision repairer. Okay, Ella Fitzgerald clearly didn’t fix cars.

Start of Summertime

I’m going in two directions this month: Number one, we just had a fantastic, fabulous Golf Outing. It was the one hot day so far this year (of course), but it beats the heck out of a torrential downpour! It was a great time, and there was a great reception and fun people all around. Again, we cannot thank our supporters and sponsors enough for all the hard work they put into helping, too!

And now for number two, which I offer as some insight. We have had numerous calls for issues by repairers, something that is seemingly growing in frequency and intensity. It most certainly is spelling trouble for our industry, in my opinion, and I think that your willingness to submit all issues – minor to major – is also a factor. Many of the complaints center on reimbursement problems for operations; some are for third-party vendor issues, while other are the usual Labor Rate complaints.

Troubling me the most are now several years’ old operations that still seem “misunderstood” by our insurance counterparts. When the OEM repair procedures document specific calibration operations (on top of scanning, mind you), then how is that confusing? How is it not necessary? Even if something is new-ish or presented differently in recent history, it most certainly doesn’t mean it is bad or needs to have a “case-by-case” basis approach.

Speaking of the case-by-case basis approach, I find this to be even more troublesome of a tactic to negotiate repair methodology for each and every car. It isn’t even logical. How can a post-repair scan/diagnostic scan – with the same procedural information – be deemed necessary on a Mercedes and not a Honda by the same person with the same company? In the outset, this only looks like a cost-control mechanism and not a safety determination for proper repairs overall.

Furthermore, it is a way that our entire industry – repairers and insurers alike – can keep from owning the problem that there are still shops out there not doing these pre- or post-repair scans properly. These facilities are getting away with it because the issue is not alerted by the insurer or the customer. No one wins when lane departure, front-end collision avoidance, seat weight displacement for airbags or other crucial systems are not validated as working properly. In fact, people die from that.

Another ray of sunshine, I am excited to see the Mississippi Attorney General release the Guide (page XX) for consumers that gives them explanations on our very complicated repair industry. I’d really like to see our Virginia or Maryland counterparts embark on the same venture. It’s a great service to the public, and I think they have done a great job with it there.

If I had a Magic Wand

My hope for the future is that we can all navigate the advancements of vehicle technologies with not only more freedom, but also with more accountability. Repairers have to own the quality of their repair job (regardless of the insurer view), and insurers must step up and learn the proper methodologies that are necessary in today’s world. We don’t fix cars like we did 10 years ago, so saying it’s how we’ve done it all along is a frankly bogus answer to anything. People who fix the cars, and the people who reimburse, are both accountable to the car owner for a safe and proper repair. After all, it’s their family in there.

Thank you for taking the time to follow me […]

Always Looking “Fore”-ward

With our golf outing coming up only a week away at the time of this writing, it always gives me pause at how grateful WMABA is to our sponsors who not only support our association, show up for the fun, but also show up – sleeves rolled up – for a lot of other good works here and abroad. I see them doing great things everywhere I go!

Spending time in Pittsburgh at CIC / SCRS “Industry Week” recently, I run into plenty of our supporters and their national constituents, who are working to help along the progress of betterment for the entire industry. Many serve in volunteer roles on committees, boards, and the like to help with the creation and expansion of initiatives we all want to see happen. At CIC, there are between 300-400 people in the room and only 25-30% are repairers. The rest make up the ancillary “spokes” of related industry segments. Those other folks care about the success of repairers, because it means their success as well.

Walk with me here, and you’d see the faces of many who advocate for support of WMABA. The dollars they “sponsor” for us mean that we can work on industry issues, attend meetings on behalf of repairers, address legislative initiatives (both good and bad), and bring relevant education and meetings to our area. These vendors, that often get put aside for self-interest, are actually crucial to our well-being and successes. They are vital to the organization.

Another unnoticed and sometimes thankless job is our Board of Directors. They work on the association direction, help with individual member issues, volunteer at our events, and try to get our area more connected. They are also doing their own job at the same time! It’s a great thing that we have so many committed (not to the insane asylum!) people who are willing to give so much of themselves.

Please offer them your thanks by choosing them when it arises, and by telling them directly that they are making a difference. It helps them to know that the work they do does not go unnoticed. It certainly is noticed by us!

Here’s my metaphorical pat on the back to all those who “serve” WMABA!

Dr. Mike was on the Mic!

 

There are a couple things I wanted to make sure you had a chance to know and review from the Mike Anderson meeting (you were likely not in attendance for) and need to check out:

  • Everyone should have a succession plan. He suggested that we have a future WMABA Meeting going over what it means to either sell the business, become a phantom stockholder, or protect the business with a family trust and pre-nups that keeps ex-spouses or other vultures out. Keep in mind that without a pre-nuptial agreement, a divorcing spouse from an heir can come after their inheritance. Wouldn’t that be terrible?!
  • When he had a shop, he would send his rates certified mail with a cover letter to all insurance companies. Every quarter, they would send out the letter of rates, including the statistical data and government cost of living increases. Also the increases in IT, Equipment, and Training. Basically, it included anything justifying the reasons behind the rate change to promote education of insurance representatives as to why it was necessary to make the change.
  • You should check out the following websites that came up in the discussions:
    1. com – if you want a free trial to this site that checks for missing operations – AKA FREE MONEY! – then let me know and I’ll make sure you get it!
    2. org – showing new vehicles with aluminum. Enough said.
    3. org – There are multiple divisions in our area of the USO, and they are looking for career objectives for military personnel being released back into civilian life. Wouldn’t it be great to get these well-trained people into our industry?! (WMABA is working on this too, so check with us to see progress)
    4. com – a cool site dedicated to the emergency extrication information on vehicle structures for emergency personnel, such as firefighters, police and EMTs. It’s also interesting to see the vehicle diagrams that they have on the site. If you work with any local first responders, send them here!
    5. com – Not to be outdone by Aluminum and Boron, the Steel industry also has a website of information about steel usage in vehicles and the communications they have with automakers. Keeping up on what usage of their high-tensile steel or super-high strength steels is just as important as aluminum and other metals.

 

If Mike comes back, you need to make it. Every shop there emailed me, thanking us, for having him speak. You may have known Mike from being a body shop owner/manager, like you, but you have to put that aside and come see him as an industry inspirer, motivator, and friend. Where he is now is a place of comradery, leadership, and educator. He’s incredibly entertaining, but it is all very useful to you in your day-to-day operations.

 

If the humdrum of this industry has you in the dumps, then you need to pull yourself out of it to be at our meetings. We always have one thing going for us: no one will judge you, oppress you, or beat you up. The people at our meetings are all there for one reason: get better.

 

Thanks for supporting us by reading, and get that Membership Application in. You owe it to yourself to make sure this industry is around for you in the future!

And the Survey Says…

The broken record just keeps playing along… As you can see by the Part 2 of the sections you responded to about marketplace and daily business practices, it’s more of the same. While that can make you feel down, understand that it’s helpful to know you are definitely and sincerely NOT ALONE!

The most derogatory and hurtful of all statements made to a repairer is “You’re the only one.” The only one who charges X for anything, performs it that way, or needs to adhere to a particular OEM requirement or recommendation. I love statistically valid statements, and being the only one is an impossibility.

Not being the only one isn’t usually any help if you don’t know two things: 1, who are the other ones; 2, how do you overcome that argument. At the time of this writing we are a couple days away from a Mike Anderson meeting in Maryland. You’ll undoubtedly get the earful next issue on that, but I have no question in my mind that he’d say you overcome these things with facts. Present all the facts. Facts are the best way of negotiation there is.

But what if facts aren’t enough? I’m sure he’d say you’ll have to involve the customer. If you want to make the difference in price, then it will either be paid by the customer or the insurer will need to delineate the argument to them. It will involve the only one argument, but facts to the customer will come down to whether or not they agree with your case or theirs. Sometimes it will come down to an argument between them.

What if you don’t want to cause the riff? Other repairers are using a hold-harmless agreement. You want to use Aftermarket parts against the OE recommendation, or not have the pre- or post-repair scan performed? Then sign on the dotted line. (The customer, that is.) If you put the option to the customer to pay the difference and they just can’t come up with it and the insurer won’t budge, then why should the repairer be on the hook of liability? This is another option.

Many repairers wilt at the thought of telling the customer bad news. It just feels bad. But if you were a doctor, where you first do no harm, then even tough news is still required to be shared. A doctor wouldn’t come out of surgery and say everything went great if you died on the table 4 times and will need further medical attention! You have a form of Hippocratic oath when you assure the customer you are going to fix their car right.

Facts are facts, and that should be the basis of conversations with both customers and insurers. You don’t have to give them every gory detail, but is something went wrong they really have a right to know. It is their car, not ours. In the age of what is too much information, maybe we should get on board. The more people know of repair issues we face when trying to do the right thing, the more likely attention from positive sources can happen!

Ring, Ring, I’m talking to YOU!

I’ve heard it all, people. The entire span from “Ya!” to “BODYSHOP!” to “Thank you for calling ABC Collision Repair, this is Susan, how may I help you today?”; it’s all over the board. Really, I think it is a measure of personal respect, the manner in which you answer your business telephone.

In this issue, we’ve talked about the first impressions made by the physical appearance of the outside and inside of your business, and your employees, but the telephone is no less important. Giving the due diligence to have a procedure for anyone answering will pay off indefinitely.

Your first impression on the end of the ringing line is a concern. It is a primary source of revenue. It’s a first line to your customer, both existing and potential. Talking to your staff – including yourself – about what takes place when you pick it up can change the dynamic of your customer base. The expectation of folks today is that any retail business should be professional, and act professionally.

What are the most important factors of answering the phone properly?

  • Identifying the business name
  • Stating the person’s name answering
  • Smiling face and cheerful tone of voice

To put it all together, put a smile on your face and say my latter example above: “Thank you for calling ABC Collision Repair, this is Susan, how may I help you today?” personalized to you of course.

Why the smile and cheerful tone? You can’t ask someone to come to work happy, but you can have an expectation that their private woes will not affect their manner in interacting with your customers. Hence, the smile, because it’s difficult to sound down while doing it. You can improve a lot by empowering those in this position with the understanding of how crucial they are to the success of the entire business.

No customer expects a receptionist to be able to answer all of their questions, but they do want a friendly voice that can assist them in a time of need. If there is not a dedicated answerer, then anyone who would ever pick up a phone should be on the same page as to how the phone will be answered. Then the team can maximize any incoming lead into new repair jobs.

Taking a few minutes to give this part of your business a mini-makeover could be more important than the sign out front.

Published in the June issue of Hammer & Dolly Magazine

By |June 1st, 2015|Executive Director, News|Comments Off on Ring, Ring, I’m talking to YOU!|

Another New Year – What’s Your Resolution?

The New Year always gives heed to trying to invoke change; resolving to change something in our lives for the better. What is it about your business that you want to see change take place in 2015? How could WMABA be the vehicle to make that happen?

By answering those two simple questions, we could create a stronger partnership to create a better industry for everyone. Mostly, if you’re having an issue, there are many other repairers out there with the same problem looking for a solution. I’m feeling quite cliché, but how do you actually accomplish a New Year’s resolution?

I’ve found there are steps. Not particular ones, but very helpful nonetheless.

1) Write it down.
Writing down your resolution makes it real. If you only think about it, it hasn’t had ability to come to fruition. It needs to own real space. So, electronically or literally, write it into your task list.

2) Give it a goal.
What is a realistic timeframe that you want to see this resolution come about? Is it this year, the next 3 months, or 2 years down the road? Whatever the end game is in your mind’s eye, give it a number and write it down too.

3) Give it steps.
That old adage that you cannot eat an elephant all in one bite can ring true for your resolution. Identify the steps you can take, one at a time, to get to the result. Write those down in order, then give them completion dates and put them into your calendar with reminders.

4) Get help.
Identify those people you need support from that can get you to the goal. Collaborate with them and create a team system that can hold the goal accountable. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll get to it, but when someone else is involved, it’s harder to let them down in the process. It’s your goal, so you need to make it happen.

5) Evaluate often.
Along the way, you may find that the resolution will change in scope or morph into something completely different. When in a process of a goal, the goal may become a different target. Revising the plan to get the outcome you desire is great. It means that you have adopted the process and are utilizing it to get what you want.

6) Celebrate the steps.
When you work on a goal, you need to allow the celebration of each part. If this is a big goal, with many parts, the team may get bogged down in not reaching it because it seems so far off. If you break the resolution into sections, with timelines, then when you make a mark you can make it a big deal. Then everyone involved feels like they are part of something bigger than themselves and more likely to help you push to the finish line.

If WMABA can help you along the way, please feel free to reach out. We love to be a part of your success story!

Happy resolutioning.

By |December 31st, 2014|Executive Director, News|Comments Off on Another New Year – What’s Your Resolution?|

We’re Doing You the Favor

Labor Rate of Return on Investment – This article will drip with sarcasm. My catchy “Wheel of Fortune”-like slogan is a play on our Labor involved, and the return we all get for the Investment. At the time of this writing, our office is calling individual shops throughout the region to obtain their current posted/retail labor rate information, as well as additional questions relating to marketplace conduct by them and insurance representatives. It’s a truly harrowing task, calling you guys. We’re doing you a favor by putting this information together, so that you have some barometer of what our industry is REALLY doing. Data that is usable by all of us.

Our Industry Needs Phone Skills

For some helpful feedback, I’d like to give you some insight into what it’s like to talk to, well, you. Here’s some insight into the experience, and what you could learn from us.

You may have been the one getting the phone call, but also likely it was a receptionist or front desk person, or much worse, the voicemail machine. Any which way it’s sliced, the majority of you do NOT participate. That can be for several reasons. The receptionist is like a highly skeptical, expertly trained junkyard dog – which we must maneuver to gain “entry” to the manager or person holding the information at ransom. If we get past the dog that’s sure we’re selling something, we are met with another level of skepticism from the gatekeeper. That’s you.

I know that many of you are afraid of sharing that your “partners” will somehow find out – and that is a myth. We do not disclose ANY personal information, but we know why it makes you cringe anyway.

Here’s the real deal:

Ring, Ring, Ring…

When answered, we get everything from “Hmph?” – something resembling Hello, but not really, to “Thank you for calling ‘Joe’s Collision’ how may I help you?”

Response: “Hi, this is Jordan Hendler, with the Washington Metro Auto Body Association and Hammer & Dolly Magazine. We’re calling for our 3rd annual labor rate survey. It takes about 3 minutes over the phone or we can email you a link to do the survey online.”

Here is an array of what follows:

“Uh…… I can’t do that right now.” click.

“I’m busy right now, call me back later.” Click.

“My hands are full.” How did you pick up the phone?

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about, can you call tomorrow?”

“The guy you want isn’t here, and we don’t know when he’ll be here.”

So, my deduction is simple. If someone that is a CUSTOMER were to call and ask this very same question, what would you prey-tell give them as an answer? Think about it.

Your homework:

Make sure your entire staff are aware of your retail rates (not an agreement rate) and that whenever a potential customer calls, they won’t get the run-around that we experience for the survey. Have a documented procedure to capture that customer rather than scare them away.

The importance of giving input

Our industry is the most unforgiving cutthroat business to be in. People who go the extra distance to involve themselves with WMABA all seem ingrained with the same similar fundamental belief in trying to affect some kind of change.

I grew up hearing the phrase, “you cannot complain about something without offering a solution.” Though mostly, I didn’t head that advice until I was older, and it always seemed as the world was unfair. It took me time to figure out that the world is what you make it, and if you want to see change then you need to have the initiative to do it yourself.

We cannot know where we are going unless we know first where we are. The WMABA Labor Rate survey is something in which all people in our industry can give input to help with the prospect of change. Not by changing prices by virtue of their input, but by giving a face to the reality that our industry is in.

All things considered, we are in a community that spans many miles but is in actuality very small. You can go anywhere, in any modern country, and find a repairer who deals with the exact same circumstances as you. You are not alone. In that premise, you cannot possibly be the only one that questions what is being asked of them, told to them, or expected as “usual and customary.”

Operating an association comes with the realization that no one is ever the only one. If you were to monitor my phone or email, you would quickly see the fact of that statement. Sometimes it is as if there are ripples where I’ll have 3 or 4 repairers call me about the very same thing within a two-day window.

Some issues I get relate to government oversight, finding good technicians, how to purchase the right equipment or get the right education need met, and even getting an insurance question answered from the “higher up’s”. There are so many resources shared by our membership, that it – sorry to sound so cliché – never hurts to ask about your own issue. What would you lose by calling in and asking the question that nags you? What if someone else that lay in bed staring at the ceiling each night had cracked the code and we already have the answer to sound sleep for you? Wouldn’t it serve your interest to at least find out? Last question: what are you waiting for?

Participation of any kind in the efforts pushed by WMABA is a way of keeping your voice, even anonymously, included in those who want to see positive change in our industry. That could be by any means in your imagination.

We often put the call out that if you believe passionately about just one thing, whatever its significance, and see it through to resolution, you’ve effectively moved a mountain. Find out if there is already someone working on a door lock that just needs your key to get to the other side. Some things really are just a basic connection for simple conclusion.

By |September 25th, 2014|Executive Director, News|Comments Off on The importance of giving input|

Notes from the WIN Conference

I was recently honored and humbled to receive the Most Influential Women’s Award from the Women’s Industry Network in San Diego, California. For the first time, I attended the WIN annual conference where the award ceremony was held. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not much on drawing any attention to being a woman in a male-dominated field, and industry.

I’ve never been a fan of differentiation, and instead have been an advocate for recognition of a job well-done. Growing up with the desires to work on cars, then to become a welder, and then to join the collision industry, I always felt that my non-traditional callings weren’t normal, but not something that was a hindrance. All that said, I still think it is important for women in our industry to have a network of other women as mentors, colleagues and confidants.

Attending this event, I was open to understanding the vision they have of an organization “dedicated to encouraging, developing and cultivating opportunities to attract women to collision repair while recognizing excellence, promoting leadership, and fostering a network among the women who are shaping the industry.” I saw that many of the attendees were doing just what I did when I first started to attend national meetings: to meet new people and make connections that could widen my network in the industry.

On top of making those connections, they offered motivational seminars and break-out educational meetings that anyone would have drawn from. The speakers were vibrant and moving in their material and gave many takeaways. I think men would have gotten the same from attendance as I did.

The goal of this conference was to “power up” women in our industry. Anything that boosts personal confidence, and understanding of work-place dynamic, is a positive. I realized that many of the women in attendance hadn’t had ever received motivational support, or the education that had received growing up in the industry. They didn’t have the same connections that I had and this was a great way for them to grow as a person.

If all the employers in our industry would take the time to empower their employees in this same way, then I could see us having a more positive work environment and stronger, more self-starting people.

I realized at the table awaiting the award ceremony that from the inception of the Most Influential Women’s award in 1999, I had a relationship with a woman honored each year since. Each of those women had been a friend, or a mentor, or at minimum a colleague of mine, and there is no way I could have understood or made my way through these past 16 years without them. I have a lot of respect for them, and a lot to be thankful for in knowing that.

I’m also truly thankful for my parents, who are also in the industry. My dad, Jeff Hendler (administrator and past Chairman for the Collision Industry Conference), who showed up at the conference to bear witness to my award. He’s been the most inspirational figure in my life, in step with my mom, Linda Atkins, who is the administrator for the Society of Collision Repair Specialists. They taught me that perseverance can overcome any obstacle and that is the mantra for everything that I do.

Man or woman, we are in one of the greatest industries in America. I couldn’t be more blessed to work in it, with the best people out there. Other associations I’ve worked with have shown me that you are the biggest collection of the hardest working, most generous and supportive folks – bar none.

You truly are […]

By |May 13th, 2014|Executive Director, News|Comments Off on Notes from the WIN Conference|