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What you Missed from CIC Nashville & How to Take Action as a Collision Repair Business

The Collision Industry as a whole faces challenges every day… which is why professionals from shop owners to OEMs and data providers come together four times a year to discuss issues and implement solutions.

Here are some things you missed if you didn’t make it to Nashville in April.

SCRS Roundtable: Incorporate Students and Apprentices in your Collision Business

The Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) held a roundtable to discuss connecting small businesses with schools through apprenticeships.

They invited representatives from the State of Tennessee, including Anne Thompson, Director of Workforce Development at Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development to speak about the progress Tennessee has made in building an educated workforce and a business-friendly economy.

Collision Repair Business Action Steps:

Thompson encouraged small businesses, like collision repair shops, to take action.

  • Go talk to high schools and students about your job. Answer their questions.
  • Offer entry level jobs, like custodial or secretarial positions to students.
  • Contact your local government to set up sustainable programs.
  • Offer apprenticeships to local schools.
  • Look at state funding and at federal funding for these programs.

Check out Tennessee’s Workforce Development Programs (it’s a big red button halfway down the page) for examples of how these can work for YOU.

The presenters mentioned the disparity between generations and work ethic; many repair shop owners believe that young people don’t know how to show up on time and work hard. Offering high school students the opportunity to have a real job will teach them these skills that school doesn’t.

This tied into later presentations at CIC that discussed OEM certification requirements that are beginning to include volunteer hours. Clear values are valuable! It also ties into the industry-wide problem of finding and retaining young, qualified technicians who embody those values.

Building a Standard and Working with Insurance to Prioritize Consumer Safety

Erica Eversman, J.D., Founder of the Automotive Education and Policy Institute (AEPI), spoke about building a standard in the collision repair industry after she attended a National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) event.

She said that consumer safety should be the standard. As there is no current legal standard, OEM repair manuals ARE standard for consumer safety. For safety, insurance companies need to comply.

Legislation is in the books and on its way to require OEM procedures. The collision industry hasn’t done well setting, following, or enforcing its own standards, so now the law will do it for us. Enforcement today is largely dependent on lawsuits, which isn’t realistic because it requires someone to get hurt before a change is made.

Collision Repair Business Action Steps:

If you’re struggling with insurance companies, take action.

  • File a complaint with the NAIC
  • Vote for your insurance commissioner!
  • Tell consumers (your customers) to file complaints with NAIC.
    • Post this information on your blog, on your website, and in your shop.
  • Consider the choice between DRP and marketing your shop carefully.
    • Consider legislation and consumer safety as well as the potential liability of your shop.



Fundraising, Scholarships, and Student Connections

The shortage of young, qualified collision industry employees is old news. Several organizations at CIC are taking steps to make changes and you can participate.

TopGolf Fundraiser by I-CAR Nashville and the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF)

I-CAR Nashville held a TopGolf fundraiser on Tuesday night before the conference. The funds from TopGolf will benefit the Collision Repair Education Foundation in support of Nashville area high school and college collision repair programs.

“Topgolf was an amazing experience,” said Kyle Medeiros of I-CAR Nashville, “The demand to be a part of the event was overwhelming and we ended up with 200+ attendees from all different avenues in our industry.”

Collision Repair Student Brunch and CIC Attendance

40 Tennessee collision repair students were invited to a special student brunch where they had the opportunity to network with and learn from professionals in collision repair. They attended the CIC meetings on Thursday morning for a few special announcements (see below).

Toolkit Grants

The annual toolkit grant was announced and seven of the students went home with brand new tool boxes full of tools from Nashville I-CAR and CREF.

Surprise 100% Scholarship Awarded to Tennessee Collision Repair Student Zac Stephens

I-CAR Nashville and CREF surprised one student in attendance, Zac Stephens, with a full scholarship for his collision repair education. Stephens dreams of one day owning his own repair shop.

“We decided to erase 100% of his debt because of his excellence in the classroom (3.94 GPA) plus his story was inspiring. He has a true passion for this industry and is committed to a future in it,” said Medeiros.

Top Tech Mentor/Mentee Competition Announced

A collision collaboration competition was announced during CIC. Hosted by CREF in September, the Top Tech competition will feature about 15 mentor/mentee teams in a competition similar to Iron Chef.

Mentoring is one of the best ways to encourage young people with an interest in collision repair to get involved, work hard, and stay in the industry. Contact CREF to participate or donate!

Collision Repair Business Action Steps:

  • There are many ways to participate with I-CAR to give back if you don’t already. Volunteer in your area. Join your local committee. Check the I-CAR website for more.
  • Get involved with the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) through fundraising, donating, or working directly with schools.
  • Encourage collision repair students to apply for CREF scholarships and grants.
  • Participate in the Top Tech Mentor/Mentee Competition! Contact Christen Battaglia at CREF for information on how to participate or support.

Data Access and Privacy Concerns

California has jumped on the data and privacy legislation wave and it’s likely to affect your business.

Similar to the EU’s GDPR law, California’s CCPA is designed to protect the average person and their personal information. It goes into effect in January, 2020, and it’s likely to spread to other states soon.

This law applies to businesses who do business with California citizens, those who operate in California, or who work with California businesses, which means it expands beyond California’s borders.

If your business earns $25 million in revenue annually, you’ll need to make major changes.

Collision Repair Business Action Steps:

  1. If you have questions, talk to a lawyer.
  2. Add a privacy statement to your website.
  3. Put information about data collection in your lobby, including what information you collect and how it will be used and stored.
  4. Consider your third party systems, from PayPal and credit card companies to scanning tools and Google Analytics. These are part of your data collection systems.

Cybersecurity Training for Small Business

The US Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee has approved legislation called the Small Business Cyber Training Act of 2019. It will create a program to train counselors at small business development centers in cyber security and enhance data privacy. This could help protect your business and your customers.

The Automotive Service Association (ASA) shared a press release about the new legislation with more information.

Collision Repair Business Action Steps:

OEM Repair Procedures in Legislation

The combination of new technology, new materials, and new procedures has led to a mess of low (or nonexistent) standards. Liability concerns have driven the new legislation that will require repair shops to follow OEM procedures.

While OEM repair procedure compliance may be the ideal, the collision industry has been left out of, or chosen not to participate in, the creation of these standards. We need standard training, tools, and repair procedures together. Not just one.

New legislation could require all repair shops to be 100% compliant with OEM procedures 100% of the time. Is this currently the case? No. Insurance companies will know this, and they’ll fight to avoid paying for repairs when procedures haven’t been followed to a tee.

Will repair shops be guilty of fraud when these laws go into effect?

Collision Repair Business Action Steps:

  • Reach out to your legislators. Educate them about your industry. The law will affect your business, and they don’t know your business.
  • Encourage your estimating system provider to include repair procedures in the system. Contact CCC, Audatex. And Mitchell.

A Call to Action for Repair Shops: How to Fight the Labor Shortage

It’s official, there is a labor shortage in the collision repair industry. Why? There are three main reasons.

  1. Society’s view of skilled trades is that they don’t offer a viable career path, they offer a job for now.
  2. There is extreme competition for a small talent pool.
  3. The collision repair industry fails to attract the right people.

Many of these issues are created right at the repair shop level! How? Author and consultant Dave Luehr explored them during his presentation.

Generational gaps often mean shop owners and the new generation of working techs have different values and beliefs. One of the best ways to build a business with low turnover is to have strong values and employees who embody those values.

The strongest brands have a strong vision or mission. They offer great working conditions, something to work toward and a reason to be in business that goes beyond getting a paycheck.

Collision Repair Business Action Steps:

  • Accept responsibility. Which of the above mentioned issues can you address?
  • Seek to understand the needs of the younger generation. Look above to see tips for getting involved with local schools and reach out to organizations like CREF and S/P2.
  • Work to structure clear career path. Share them!
  • Market your business to attract young people. Try building a content strategy, using social media, or blogging.

What is the Collision Industry Conference? (CIC)

CIC describes itself as a “forum made up of participants from all industry segments for the expressed purpose of discussing and exploring the issues that occur among them. Through discussion and research during meetings and extensive interim committee work, CIC attempts to form consensus on various issues, aware that all such findings are nonbinding and voluntarily accepted. CIC is not a trade association.”

It meets four times a year and any collision industry employee is welcome. The Nashville meeting included repair shop owners, writers (like me!), collision business consultants and marketers, paint and refinish professionals, OEMs, insurance representatives, and more.

For information, resources, the schedule, and ticket prices, check the CIC website.