As an “old timer” in this industry, like many of us are, I started working for an independent body shop. That's all there was. Mom and Pop shops dotted the countryside, and that's how it seemed it would always be. I don't believe I had ever even heard the word consolidator. Time passed, as it does, and I found myself in the thick of the consolidation movement, even to the point of directing it to some degree.
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For many years, I worked for large groups, helping them grow and expand. I learned a great deal about operating a successful business, and as a whole, the industry benefited from this movement and the infusion of knowledge and business acumen it brought.
Then I opened my own shop.
My feelings started to change as I began to try to grow my company. My many years of experience helped me overcome some of the daily obstacles that confront small shop owners, as the consolidators began to open more and more shops around us. But I could see that many of these once prospering shops were beginning to languish, and that was saddening. I have seen small shops, open for generations, dwindle to nothing, leaving their once proud owners wondering how to pay their bills and feed their families.
Let me be clear — I understand that sometimes evolution for good creates casualties. Shop owners who refused to change for the better suffered because of this. You have to be wiling to change and adapt in order to maintain your position. Today, the landscape is changing daily, with bigger companies gobbling up smaller MSOs one after the other, until it seems like no independents will be left when the dust settles.
Don't believe it. There will always be a place for well-run, professional shops in any environment. So how do you battle the approach of the consolidators?
There are several simple things that you can do to not only survive this onslaught, but thrive in it.