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2019 ABRN MSO Roundtable

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - 06:00
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What are the challenges facing multi-shop operators? How are they attracting and retaining the new, younger employees they need? How do they see the industry evolving?

Once again this year, ABRN convened an “MSO Roundtable,” bringing together a panel (see sidebar, “Who was at the table?”) to discuss some of these topics. Here are highlights from the discussion (responses were edited for length or clarity).

Who was at the table?

Dean Fisher is the chief operating officer for CARSTAR in North America, and a former owner of CARSTAR shops.

Paul Gange is the president and chief operating officer for Fix Auto USA.

Darren Huggins is national collision director for Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, which operates more than 30 dealership body shops.

Aaron Schulenburg is the executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS).

Chad Smith is co-owner of Smith Bros. Collision Centers, which operates three shops in Mississippi.

Andy Tylka is a second-generation owner of Tom and Ed’s Autobody, which has five locations in Northwest Indiana.

ABRN: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing your organization in the next 12-24 months, and how are you addressing it?

Paul Gange

Paul Gange: As we look out at the next 12 to 24 months, I think we find ourselves in a bit of a convergence. An industry we’ve worked in for many years is seeing new entrants, in terms of influencers – specifically the OEMs, but also others, folks that are beginning to assess quality of repairs, for example. So we’re investing a considerable amount of our time and resources into tooling and training, and into developing strategies for working more closely with those types of entities. While quality repairs have always been important, I don't think they’ve ever been more important than they are today. Ensuring consistency from repair to repair is of the utmost importance for us. The risk [of not doing so] is just too high.

Andy Tylka

Andy Tylka: We aren’t as much DRP-driven as dealership-driven. Before, the customer would call the dealership and the vehicle would just get sent to us. That’s not the case any more. The dealerships are being required to send vehicles to OEM certified shops. We were behind the eight ball. We took ourselves off of I-CAR [Gold Class] maybe eight years ago. We’re back on that program. We’re scrambling to get our certifications. That’s our biggest challenge right now.

Chad Smith: With the advancement of technology and ADAS, we’re trying to consistently focus on repair planning and disassembly, but we were trying to do it with the same number of people. That won’t work. You’re going to have to grow your front office staff in order to properly predicate the repair with the correct procedures and information to move through production. We’re looking at hiring more administrative people, one per location, just to serve as a repair planner and to do all the research.

Dean Fisher

Dean Fisher: We’re really focused on the consolidation process that’s taking place. We feel that’s going to change the landscape to some degree. For CARSTAR, our concern is high-level growth. Adding 100 or 200 shops on an annual basis is a great opportunity, but how do you maintain the culture and the quality? Controlling the outcome of your facilities, whether you own them or whether you’re on the franchise side, is important. What that looks like to the consumer, the insurers, and the OEMs is a real important concern of ours.

Aaron Schulenburg: Several of the others talked about the human resources aspect, and I think for us, that workforce development piece is really important for our members. Size and scope affords [larger companies] some opportunities to do some [workforce] development work that’s harder for some other folks. We want to make sure whether it’s a small business or a large business, there’s an opportunity to draw people into our industry and give them a good career and advancement path. So we’re working on things like 401(k) plans and trying to find the right solutions around health care, things that are going to help the industry grow and pull in some of the younger generation.

ABRN: Speaking of young people, what have your found most effective in attracting, motivating and retaining workers in the 20-35 age range?

Darren Huggins

Darren Huggins: We’re having to get a little creative, having to be a little bit more ‘user-friendly’ for employees. Before, it was: ‘We open at 7 a.m., and we go until 6 p.m., and you get an hour for lunch and so much for a break twice a day, but other than that, we need you at work.’ Now we’re having to be a little bit more flexible. We’re also finding that, depending on demographics, a lot of kids getting out of high school just need a job. They’re not saying, ‘I’ve got to go to school and I need this degree.’ They are saying, ‘I need to go to work.’ So we’re really focusing on the mentorship piece, seeing if we can help some of these students that really need to get into work right away get a career started. We’re having some success with that.

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