CARSTAR  Annual Conference celebrates  20th anniversary at Disney World.

By William Cappelli-Simmons

Orlando, Florida -- August 22, 2015 -- 

It certainly was a magical experience! 

Known for it’s commitment to customer satisfaction, passion for excellence and just plain fun for the whole family, Disney World in Orlando was the perfect venue for CARSTAR to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Appropriately named Momentum 2015, the conference wowed attendees, from the inspiring opening speech from Michael Macaluso to the Grand Finale Awards Presentations. For three full days events, presentations and networking opportunities deepened the bonds between old friends and created new ones.

But along with the fun there was no forgetting this was indeed a business conference with information needed to make each of the franchise owners more profitable and successful.

“With change comes great opportunity,” said Michael Macaluso, President of CARSTAR, in the opening address, referring to the present industry trends of consolidation, shrinking volumes and OEM influences. “But we are prepared to meet the challenges not just of the next few years, but for twenty years and beyond. Momentum is more than just growth. Momentum is about progress, innovation, excellence, speed; and most importantly momentum is all about people.”

Michael was joined by Sam Mercanti, CARSTAR’s CEO and the two discussed the state of the industry and opportunities and challenges within the market presenting a snapshot of the global collision repair marketplace.

Many panels and breakout sessions provided store managers and owners the chance to informally speak with insurers, suppliers, trainers and management experts while family members and children enjoyed the beautiful weather, resort facilities and theme parks.

Chip Foose, the world-famous car designer and former bodyshop tech and owner, gave a warm and personal, almost informal key note address, speaking about facing and rising above challenges in his work and personal life. To the surprise of many, there were certainly no shortages of either. But the best one-liner of the speech was: “If I hadn’t married my wife, I’d probably be sitting out there with you in the audience as a CARSTAR owner.” Chip later held court at the BASF/Glasurit booth signing autographs and chatting.

The Cystic Fibrosis Character Crawl took place before the official opening of the conference.This is a tradition at CARSTAR conferences, where attendees come together to walk and raise money for Cystic Fibrosis Canada. This year’s event saw a couple of very special participants, as Mickey Mouse and Goofy joined in.

The first session of the next morning was presented by the Disney Institute. No matter what else you may say about Disney, there’s no arguing that it’s a company that prides itself on a great customer experience. During the presentation, Disney representatives shared their views on the meaning of leadership, and a tool designed to help the audience think differently in how to provide exceptional service.

Next, Shawn McDonald, CARSTAR’s National Director of Insurance, took to the stage. McDonald elaborated on how the past year has progressed in the insurance industry and for CARSTAR in particular, with a primary focus on the new programs that have launched and new and prevailing trends in the industry.

Chris Moore, National Marketing Manager for CARSTAR, was next up to the podium to discuss CARSTAR’s marketing in the past year, and where that momentum will take the network in the year to come. Moore was followed by Bill Goodwin, who discussed opportunities for market growth and strategies for optimizing market potential.

Insurance breakout sessions followed after a short break, with attendees having the opportunity to choose three out of five breakout sessions led by different insurance partners.

The final day of the conference kicked off with a strategic overview of the CARSTAR business in the US, presented by David Byers, CEO of CARSTAR US. Colson Cole of CARSTAR was the day’s second speaker, reviewing and updating attendees on the progress of the “”5 Pillars of the CARSTAR Way: performance plan, operating procedures, 5 S program, management system and analytics.

Mike Anderson of Collision Advice was next to take the stage. As a leading shop owner and automotive management expert, Anderson provided an overview on various industry trends in a quickly changing landscape.

Following Anderson’s presentation was a panel discussion, “How performance affects your business: The Insurer Perspective.” The participants were Tony Sutera Sardo of RSA Insurance, Steve Wade of Intact, Joe Carvalho of Economical, Dario Ricciutelli of TD Insurance and Tony Mammone of RBC.

On the final evening, thunderstorms might have forced a change from the beach to inside for the Seaside Soirée dinner, but they did nothing to dampen attendee's enthusiasm. Highlighting the night was an emotional presentation to Larry Jefferies who received the Matthew Ohrnstein Lifetime Achievement Award.

By conference end, it seemed everyone had thoroughly enjoyed themselves and learned some ways to improve their business as well. No doubt all are looking forward to next year’s conference to be held in Charlottetown, PEI.

“This was the ideal venue with excellent information and presentations,” said Don Morton of DonMor CARSTAR in London, ON. “My two girls have met new friends. I’ve met new friends. I’ve learned new processes. Business, family, fun and knowledge all in one. It just doesn’t get better than this."



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