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Shop owners must make careful decisions about their future

Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - 08:00
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With the rate of change this industry is experiencing, and the investment so many collision repairers still face to get their shops equipped and trained to face even just the present (let alone the future), there’s one phrase that continues to come to my mind: It’s time to decide whether to step up or to step out.

It’s a phrase I picked up from Phil Harmon of Precision Auto Body in Tacoma, Wash. Phil in recent years understood what it was going to take to make sure his business could continue to fix vehicles – especially high-end vehicles – correctly. And he’s taken on that challenge, investing the past couple of years in new welding and riveting equipment, new aluminum tools, a new bench and measuring system, and more.

But I also recently got a call from friend of mine who owns a shop in Seattle who surprised me by saying he was closing his shop. Like Phil, he recognized that he needed to step up or step out. But everyone’s situation in business and life is different, and when my friend in Seattle did the calculations, he chose differently than Phil did.

“Right now, I own my house,” he said. “I have my boat and my motorhome. I know at a minimum I’m going to have put at least $150,000 into my shop if I want to continue to play the game. I may have to work for the next 10 or 15 years to make that pay-off. I’m 60 years old, and everything I have is paid for. For me, I’m stepping out.”

He closed his shop, sold his equipment, and went to work as an adjuster for an insurance company for a few years until he is ready to retire.

“I’m totally happy,” he told me. “Life’s good.”

So I can quickly point to multiple examples of people who have stepped up, and others who have stepped out, with both being equally happy with their decision. But unfortunately that’s not always the case, which is why I’m urging shop owners to make those decisions thoughtfully.

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