Editor’s Log: Dialectic Diatribe

Toronto, Ontario  Oct. 18, 2019  It was a quiet revolution, but, if you were listening there were rumblings.

As the collision industry began to professionalize in the 1990s, the business side of things became more business-like.

This change, like any change, created a cultural fault line that runs through the middle of the industry.
On one side, the old-stock repairers used to the wild ways of the repair industry of earlier times. On the other, the business-types—people whose backgrounds were in business management, not in the field itself.
As in many businesses, the rivalry between the two strains flared-up.

Old stock repairers in management roles often take a dim view of the unwanted input of more the broadly business-types, who were prone to enacting new—and often radical—solutions to problems they claimed to have identified. For their own part, the new arrivals often find the sometimes traditional approaches to collision repairing to be counter-productive and unconcerned with the bottom-line.

Where this conflict did not abate, business closures followed. In fact, in the two decades that mainstream business ideas have flooded into the industry, more than half of the businesses performing collision repairs in Canada have closed.

Those that remain are more likely to adopt scientific management procedures tempered by an intimate understanding of the business. In those that have survived, business professionals and long-term repairers have managed to stop butting heads, and start putting them together in a productive way.

This revolution fueled the spectacular rise in banner networks—which now absorb three-quarters of all Canadian repair dollars, though they account for fewer than half of the overall number of facilities.

It is easy to see the connection. In short, banners are a service to help bridge the gap between industry know-how and business know-how. Frills—like conventions, ceremonies and chicken dinners—aside, there is one thing that networks receive in exchange for their monthly dues: a stand-off version of a corporate structure.

Today, whether with the assistance of banner membership or on their own, the collision facilities that thrive do so because their owners and managers have healed the division within their own businesses.

Like all revolutions, the collision industry has finally come to an end—but only after the new approaches clashed with old ones, creating a stronger synthesis of both approaches.


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