Adapt to change. You might find that you like it.

By Art Lane

Brockville, Ontario — March 13, 2013

When I was saving up for college, I took a job at a pizzeria. One day, the owner announced that sales were about to double; we could all expect to be rolling in the dough, and the good kind at that. When I asked how this amazing news was going to unfold, he told me Easy. We’re going to sell Panzarotti! Twice as many things to sell, twice as much money.”

We found out soon enough that, although a bump in sales was noticed, much of that was offset by a reduction in pizza sales and the costs of adding new equipment, training, etc. Was it a bad choice, though? Panzarotti was a new and popular entrant into the fast-food market, seen by some as a ‘game changer’, and it needed to be considered. The point is, my boss was confronted with a new reality, made a choice about how he wanted to approach it, and he adjusted his business to it, albeit with perhaps unrealistic expectations.

The collision market is frequently confronted with similar choices. Many readers will remember the long lead-up to waterborne refinishing legislation, and they’ll likely recall the uncertainty of what the waterborne collision world would look like and when it would ultimately happen.

While dropping in on prospects, I’d routinely ask shops what their plan was for the new reality that awaited them. Most shops had some sort of plan, even if they didn’t always have it entirely worked out yet. Some shops, however, either had no idea what they would do or told me outright that they were simply going to close up shop rather than adapt to the new reality.

I can’t stress that last thought enough. A disappointing number of shops told me straight-up that, rather than figure out a way of working under what would become the new normal, they’d rather just pack it in. I specifically remember a shop in Ottawa telling me that. When I told them I was surprised to hear they’d rather close down than adapt, they told me that’s the way it was and could I please leave, without the ‘please’ part.

Recent developments around Ford’s F-150 and aluminum panels suggest another watershed moment might be arriving. Even without Ford’s foray, aluminum is starting to represent an increasing proportion of insurance claims. I researched stats for AudaVision 2014 that showed aluminum representation nearly doubling from 2011 to 2013 on estimates.

F-150s are monstrously popular, I don’t have to tell you. Ford’s approach might represent a tipping point, taking aluminum once and for all out of the niche category. If aluminum becomes more prevalent as a panel choice, and your shop isn’t prepared to manage work with aluminum, your shop might have to turn away more work than it can reasonably afford to.

Of course, that’s a lot of “if.” Like anything else, though, attuning to the possibility of this shift is a crucial step modern shops have to take. Whether your shop gets involved or not, my experience is that the shops that, at the very least, take the time to consider their options and develop an action plan one way or the other are the ones that have the most success. Start the ball rolling now, or wait, keeping your finger on the pulse of the market to see if aluminum is a passing phase, but don’t ignore it. If it happens, embrace aluminum by purchasing the appropriate equipment and taking the appropriate training, or adjust your plan to concentrate on other areas. The best plan is to have a plan.

My old pizzeria didn’t double sales when we added Panzarotti, but for that brief period in time when everybody was nuts for the stuff, we were well positioned to compete while still providing our excellent core product – pizza with extra mushroom, just the way I liked it.
My best advice is to be ready for Panzarotti. You might like the taste!

Art Lane is the owner of Three Q Analytics, providing software sales, training and support. He also blogs for Collision Repair magazine on topics of interest to the collision repair industry. Please note that all blogs on collisionrepairmag.com solely reflect the opinions and views of the blogger in question, and do not necessarily reflect those of Collision Repair magazine, its parent company or staff.


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