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Growing pains aren't unique to PDR

Sunday, April 1, 2007 - 00:00

History repeats itself. That's what we're told in pretty much everything we encounter — wars, stocks, business, fashion. If you track trends long enough you'll see the patterns. An obvious example is the consolidation and downsizing taking place within the collision repair world. Just ask the mom-and-pop grocers, drugstore operators and owners of small, independent hardware stores. It makes you wonder if anything in life is ever really "new."

In this issue of ABRN, it's interesting to me that we feature two groups that are seemingly on the opposite ends of the development cycle. On one hand you have the Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) folks attempting to raise the bar on professionalism in their segment while disagreeing on the exact way to accomplish that goal. (See our cover story on the "PDR Power Struggle" for details.) On the other side is the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), which is celebrating 25 years in existence, having gone through many of the same struggles the PDR side is encountering today. (Our supplement inside gives you an historical perspective on the success of this group.)

Changing a cultural mindset is a struggle, no matter what area you're attacking. It took a long time for John Loftus and other early leaders of SCRS to get operators to understand the value of professionalism. Lots of miles were covered by air and land explaining the importance of clean shops, proper attire and the value of front office personnel dedicated to customer service. None of those features were as common in 1982 as they are today. Certainly, the collision repair shops of the country have a long way to go to weed out all of the industry's problems, and that includes eliminating a lot of bad, unethical operators who are hurting the consumer's view of body shops nationwide. Still, SCRS forefathers had a vision of where we needed to be, and the industry has benefitted greatly from their efforts. Whether or not you participate in SCRS, you've benefitted too.

The PDR side, meanwhile, is just getting started. While training and certification processes do exist, efforts are being made to broaden those programs and encourage PDR techs nationwide to put them to good use. Whether you side with the major PDR companies and the training they offer, or the efforts of the National Alliance of Paintless Dent Repair Technicians (NAPDRT), the fact is both sides are demanding greater professionalism in the market. You can't have fly-by-night operators chasing hail, collecting a paycheck for poor work and then not being held accountable. Frankly, there is an over-abundance of shoddy PDR repairers who need to be sent packing.They are giving professional PDR techs a bad name. And if you are an independent PDR tech who does honorable, quality work, the bad operators are harming your business. Think about the number of dealerships or independent collision repair shops who bring PDR work in-house because they don't want to get burned.

The PDR contingent is exactly where the mainstream collision repair industry was 25 years ago when SCRS got started. It makes me think SCRS could be a great sounding board for NAPDRT and the national players in these early days of transition.

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