Industry Advice Ask Mike: What Are Your Main Educational Goals and Offerings for 2024?

with Mike Anderson

This month, we “ASK MIKE” to update us on what attendees of the courses offered through his company, Collision Advice, can expect this year. 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: Obviously, being an educator in this industry requires you to really explore what’s going on within it at any given time and then tailor your presentations to the needs of your attendees. With that in mind, what is Collision Advice’s outlook for 2024 in terms of the courses you’ve developed to address where the collision repair field is right now?

Mike Anderson: Collision Advice’s biggest focus right now is on building the customer experience and understanding financials. What I’m hearing from a lot of shops across the country is that most of them had a two-or three-month backlog that’s now going away. Considering that decline, now is the time for shops to focus on customer experience. We offer a course on this topic called ‘Game Changer Customer Experience.’ Consumers have choices, and success in this industry isn’t just about fixing a car – it’s about building an emotional connection and a relationship with that consumer so they trust us to do the job properly. That’s very important if there’s some out-of-pocket expense the customer needs to pay, whether for OEM parts or OEM procedures.

We still have a talent shortage in this industry, and we need to focus on how we’re getting new hires up to speed with our management systems and equipment, but I would say that financial training is the biggest thing I’m focusing on right now. A lot of people need a better understanding of their numbers. The biggest requests I receive these days are from people who want to make sure their financials are accurate. A lot of shops use a third party for bookkeeping, specifically for taxes. It’s just as important to monitor and quality-control inspect your bookkeepers and accountants as it is to do that with your technicians. Recently, I spoke with a shop owner who had thought their bookkeeper was paying their bills on time but discovered a stack of checks that this bookkeeper had written but never mailed.

There will always be a need to stay current on technical issues, but there’s also a need – from a soft skills standpoint – to develop leaders from within your organization. When I owned my shops, I had a guest speaker named D.J. Harrington come in and speak to my company. He said, ‘You’re only as strong as your weakest link.’ Sometimes, our weakest link is that we’re not setting up future leaders in our organization. Investing in our people through soft skills training – whether it’s on the accounting side or with culture and leadership – is critical.

H&D: Of your current seminars, which ones are currently getting the greatest response?

MA: Our ‘Financial Bootcamp’ and ‘Parts Best Practices’ courses have been selling out. During the ‘Financial Bootcamp,’ we teach people everything they need to know to maintain proper bookkeeping. We’ve had three sold-out events so far this year, and we’re in the process of scheduling more of them.

With parts now 40 to 42 percent of shops’ business – and with an average of 17 to 21 parts per estimate – it’s a strong profit center for them. It’s important to properly order the right part the first time and then properly process them through the shop. Parts can be the number one delay for a collision facility. Parts can be broken or missing, or the technician puts the vehicle back together without all of them installed. If you hire someone who isn’t trained properly or who isn’t mirror-matching the parts, that kills you on production and puts stress on everybody. Some shops aren’t maximizing the square footage of their facilities when it comes to parts. How can shops use alternative storage methods instead of just storing all their parts on a cart? These are some reasons why we’re doing a lot of training on parts right now.

H&D: You know better than most that many issues discussed in courses and on industry panels have been around for a long time. For example, there are people in 2024 who may look at a course that has ‘ADAS’ in its name and think, ‘I’ve already been to five of these classes on this topic. Why should I go back again?’ But the reality is that an ADAS course from 2018 is nothing compared to one being presented in 2024. What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced as an educator in keeping your material fresh and relevant to the here and now?

MA: Honestly, the biggest challenge is getting people to take time out for training. Obviously, devoting time away to attend training could impact a shop’s production depending on when that training is offered. I totally get it. If you own a shop with multiple OEM certifications, it seems like you have someone out every week to attend training. That said, here’s an old cliché that’s true: ‘What if you train someone and they leave? Well, what if you don’t train them and they stay?’ Vehicles are changing at a rapid pace. Just because you took a class last week, last month or last year doesn’t mean there isn’t something new you need to learn.

Don’t miss Mike’s classes, ‘Future-Proof Your Shop: Tomorrow’s Success Starts with Today’ and ‘100 Percent Disassembly’ at the Southeast Collision Conference on May 17 and 18 (see page 24 for more details)!

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