Industry Advice ASK MIKE: Why Do In-Person Industry Events Still Matter?Mom-in-Training

with Mike Anderson

This month, we “ASK MIKE” for his thoughts on the importance of attending in-person industry events and being a part of the collision industry community. We at Hammer & Dolly hope you find the following exchange useful, and we encourage you to reach out to us if you have a question for Mike on this or any industry-related matter that he can answer in a future issue.

Hammer & Dolly: Mike, let’s talk about something you know a lot about: Traveling! Of course, you’re on the road constantly these days through your work with Collision Advice, but you also hit as many industry events as you could back when you were a shop owner. Why did you make the decision long ago to include travel as part of your professional lifestyle?

Mike Anderson: I just loved it. I loved going around to shops, looking at how they did things and seeing if they had any good ideas. There was always something new to learn, and I thrived on that. It still excites the heck out of me to visit a shop to see what they’re doing and how it’s working for them. 

H&D: How did being actively involved in associations and peer groups benefit you as a shop owner?

MA: When I had my shops, I was part of a 20 Group called the Coyote Vision Group. We’d meet quarterly to benchmark ourselves, do shop tours, get exposed to new ideas and have guest speakers. I loved all of that – 20 Groups really opened my eyes. I will say that being in 20 Groups isn’t always about learning something new; sometimes, it’s about validating that what you’re doing is right. 

H&D: You were a WMABA Board member during your time as an owner. What was the greatest value you got out of being around other shop owners in your area?

MA: I realized that if I wanted something to change, it wouldn’t happen by itself – I needed to be a part of change on a greater scale. It’s not like the Lone Ranger is going to come out on a horse and say, ‘Hi Ho Silver;’ I had to be that Lone Ranger. You can sit around and complain about things, or you can get involved and make a difference. That’s what I thought I needed to do. Being connected with other shops also gives you a chance to just vent to somebody. Sometimes it almost felt like therapy! The more people you gather, the more your voice will be heard – whether by an insurance company, an OEM or a distributor. There’s a power in numbers. 

H&D: How would you compare the sense of community in the collision repair industry 10 or 20 years ago to how it is today?

MA: Social media has changed everything. Back then, you had to go to an association meeting or an event to be tapped into how things were going. Without that in-person setting, you would never be connected. Trade publications were even more important back then because that’s how you kept informed of things that were happening. Because people rely on social media so much these days, they’ve lost the benefits of personal interaction. I can watch church on TV, but that person you see on TV can’t give you a hug. That’s the power of meeting someone in person. We may not be going around giving each other hugs, but sometimes you need personal interaction. You’re not going to get that online. 

H&D: Unfortunately, we still hear plenty of shop owners ask, ‘What has an association done for me lately? Why should I bother being a member?’ What are some things you’ve seen the industry achieve that would not have been possible without an association?

MA: The paint and material law that got passed in Virginia years ago immediately comes to mind. In the ‘Who Pays for What?’ surveys we do through Collision Advice, we look at average severity, the highest rate of reimbursement and things like that. I see a direct correlation between those things and shops being involved in the strongest associations in the country. 

H&D: Let’s talk about something that can be a lot of fun: Going to trade shows. You’re practically part of the scenery at most of them! Some great ones are coming up, like the Southeast Collision Conference in North Carolina – which WMABA co-hosts – and the NORTHEAST® Automotive Services Show in New Jersey. A lot of shows are held either on weekends or at other convenient times for shops to attend. What’s the greatest value you received attending trade shows in the past as a shop owner, and what does still going to these events provide you today as an industry consultant?

MA: It’s the networking, being able to hear about what’s coming down the pike and preparing yourself for the future. As a consultant, attending trade shows is about connecting the dots. If I’m at a show and I hear that XYZ Insurance Company is doing something in market area A, I can find out if it’s doing the same thing in market area B when I later pay that area a visit. I’m able to compare apples to apples and determine if what I heard about at the show is a trend or just the actions of a rogue appraiser in a certain market area. I can only do that by physically being in the room to hear about things going on in the industry. That’s why I think one of the greatest things any shop can do is make the time to travel and be a part of their industry community. 

Want more? Check out the February 2024 issue of Hammer & Dolly!