Repairing in an Age of Change: why confidence—not overconfidence—is key

Peter Sziklai is the owner of Tsawwassen Collision.
Vancouver, B.C. — May 1, 2018 —  Fifteen-hundred MPa steel, composite structural materials, pre-scan and post-scan, calibration, OEM repair instructions, energy transfer paths and self-driving electric vehicles. Are these buzz words or are the changes occurring in the collision repair industry really much more significant than any we have seen before?

Most progressive operators believe the answer is the latter. They have been working hard to position their businesses to survive and thrive in the industry of the near future. In their operations, the equipment needed for tomorrow’s repairs is planned and budgeted for, or already in place. The required training is well underway, and the organizational structure of their businesses is changing to reflect current requirements. These people recognize that the old structure – the one based on manager, estimator, bodyman and painter – is no longer valid. These roles are simply too broad for an industry that requires specific training and specialization.
Progressive operators are confident that they are ready to work with the coming changes (many of which have, in truth, already arrived), but they are not overconfident. The future may be almost predictable, but the path that will get us there is not at all clear. Preparation is vital, but it will be best if this is undertaken with a good measure of flexibility and humility.
What could possibly get in the way of being successful if you are doing the right thing and preparing for changes? What follows are just a few things that could.
If most of your competitors are not actively preparing for change and nobody seems to care that about it, they could well be getting more work out the door. They are making money and, for now, their customers have not noticed that the repairs may not be right.
What about flat-rate employees? It may be difficult to persuade them to slow down and do careful, accurate repairs. What about that estimate that you don’t get paid to write but takes twice as long as it used to because of the complexity of researching correct repair procedures?
How about if the people paying are looking only at the dollars and complaining about your prices? All of these things, and many more, are likely to present challenges and will keep your confidence in the future from looking anything like overconfidence. You may be prepared for the future, but do you have the timing right to survive the journey?
Confidence should come with the realization that performing repairs with consistently rigid adherence to manufacturers’ guidelines will become mandatory in the near future.
A few months ago, I visited another operator and we had an excellent discussion about the rapidly changing repair world. It very quickly became clear that we were taking quite different approaches.
Where we did find total agreement was in believing that the industry changes were real and any action toward understanding and working with these changes was valuable. Approach aside, we both plan to either get it right or learn from our mistakes—at a manageable cost, we hope.
The truth is, the challenges and changes are so new and so rapid that there is no template to follow, and while you cannot prepare for every eventuality, you can take sensible steps to be prepared. With no playbook to turn to in the new environment, action requires confidence – though not too much.
Collision Repair magazine is proud to share a piece from our upcoming June issue, and written by our newest contributor, Peter Sziklai, owner of Tsawwassen Collision in B.C. An industry veteran, Peter is the founder of Ready For its Next Accident project (rfina.ca), which is focuses on fostering an awareness of the principles of repair. 



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