Launched back in 2010, the Axalta Canadian National Business Conference has more than 20 members representing 16 locations from across Canada.

By Mike Pickford

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan -- September 26, 2016 -- It’s a lonely thing running your own company these days. While there are those at the pinnacle of the cutthroat world of big business that are happy to keep to themselves, the collision repair industry is a different animal altogether, something Axalta Coating Systems has been showcasing with its Canadian National Business Council.

You don’t need to look too far in this industry to find an extra pair of hands or another set of eyes and ears willing to help fix an issue or solve a problem. That’s the foundation which the Axalta Canadian National Business Council has been built on. Since its inception back in 2010 the council has served to assist Canadian collision repairers in keeping up with the ever-evolving practices of the industry while also working to help owners realize their business’ full potential.

While performance groups aren’t necessarily an innovative concept, Axalta has taken it upon itself to reintroduce the format to the Canadian market. With 20 members representing 16 locations and 12 individual ownership groups across the country, the council boasts a diverse body of representatives. Fronted by Tom Parnell, one of Axalta’s strategic account managers, the group gathers three times a year to discuss individual business performance and development.

“The Axalta Canadian National Business Council is incredibly unique in the way that its members are spread all across Canada. There are so many performance groups out there that are very regional and will get together every now and again to chat, talk numbers, that sort of thing. We’re a little different,” Parnell said.

“Our national council spreads from Alberta right across to the east coast with representatives from over six provinces. The thing that most sets us apart is the fact that we have a really good mix of people whose main priority in attending is to help as to opposed to simply looking for ways to further their business,” he added.

Explaining exactly what the group does at a typical meeting, Parnell said they take a look at store and shop sales and job numbers, while also analyzing such things as management styles and techniques, staff ratios and KPI’s in an attempt to “get an overall sense” of how a shop is performing.

“I think the main thing is that these guys hold each other accountable. This isn’t the sort of thing where we meet once every six months and just disappear between meetings, the council is a tightly knit collection of industry professionals that both supports and embraces one another,” Parnell said. “It’s not uncommon for one shop owner to pick up the phone and call another member in a completely different market to help them out in trying to solve a problem.”

Bernice Divito of Autobahn CARSTAR Barrie has been there from the very beginning. As one of only a select few founding members still sitting on the council, she said her business has benefitted greatly from her participation in the group.

“We were there for the first meeting in 2010. We may have started off by mirroring (Axalta’s) US groups, but now we stand tall as our own Canadian version,” Divito said. “Our group is seasoned with a wide mix of businesses covering all aspects of the collision repair industry across the country.”

Danny Brown of Trinity Collision Centre in Moncton, NB had nothing but good words to say about the council having sat on it for the past six years.

“In an industry that is advancing and evolving as fast as the collision repair industry is, the Axalta Canadian National Business Council allows us to share processes and best ideas with our peers. This has helped us at Trinity to greatly improve our business and allow us to grow our revenue in such an effective way that we’re seeing bigger returns on sales and investments than ever before,” Brown said.

Last meeting in Saskatoon, SK back in July, the council did a little more than just crunch numbers and talk business, with a tour of a nearby collision repair facility and several guest speakers also on the agenda. On hand were representatives from asTech as they presented and discussed the merits of the company’s new remote scanning device, while Bodyshop Booster staff shared their new mobile app with the group, explaining how it could be applied to each of the group’s business. Having enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the council stemming back to its foundation, highly regarded collision repair consultant Mike Anderson was on hand to talk to the group. Parnell was excited to announce that Anderson would be resuming his role as council facilitator, after a short hiatus, when the group next meets in early December.

That meeting will almost exclusively focus on the financial side of the business according to Parnell, although he indicated there would likely be a guest speaker or two. While he says he’s looking forward to the meeting, it’s the return of Anderson as facilitator that has him most excited.

“It’s great to have Mike back on board as a facilitator. He’s been a driving force behind this council for a long time now so we’re really excited,” Parnell said. “Mike is an absolute expert in the industry, he’s very passionate about what we talks about and he really gets people engaged more than most can. Having him on board really turns everyone onto the fact that they can improve if they work hard and focus on it.”

While there will be 20 members there for the December meeting, Parnell said he would be happy to see the group grow once again after what he described as a “reinvigoration” over the past 12 months.

“This council has probably doubled in size over the past two years. We’ve seen some really engaging, forward-thinking, business minded individuals express an interest in joining and coming on board,” Parnell said. “We’re always on the lookout for new members. If you’re professional and accountable and have an interest in helping your peers, then we’d be happy to have you consider joining our council.”

In order to join, interested parties must first attend and participate in a meeting as a guest. After that first meeting, the existing council will take a vote to decide whether or not the potential member can join the group on a full-time basis. That vote, according to Parnell, ensures that the group and any new members are compatible with one another.

But whether they’re a group of five, 20 or 40, Parnell says the premise of the council will remain the same – to focus on helping and improving businesses across the country.

“It’s important for us to stick to our goals and continue on with our mantra, which is to hold each other accountable as a group to follow through with the things we learn at each meeting, as well as making sure we have the right people coming in to speak about industry trends and generally discuss what’s going on in our ever-changing world,” Parnell said.

For more information on Axalta and its National Business Conference, contact Tom Parnell at


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