More to Learn at the 2024 Southeast Collision Conference

by Chasidy Rae Sisk

Ongoing education is a vital part of life and success for collision repair professionals hoping to keep pace with the constant changes pervading this complex industry, and the Southeast Collision Conference (SCC) provides an optimal opportunity for the entire shop – owners, managers, repair planners and body techs – to update their knowledge by training with some of the industry’s best educators and presenters.

Hosted by WMABA and the Carolinas Collision Association (CCA), SCC 2024 takes place May 16-18 at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in Greensboro, NC, and the third iteration of this regional event promises to deliver more than ever before…more training, more exhibitors, more hands-on experiences and more excitement! This year’s agenda features a full slate of educational offerings through Collision P.R.E.P. (Professional Repairer Education Program) that will engage repairers at every level in the shop.

“Having two full days of classes gives repairers multiple facets from top experts, including calibration, repair planning, shop trends nationwide and so much more,” emphasizes WMABA Executive Director Jordan Hendler. “The classes offered, in addition to the tradeshow, ensure you will leave informed, have purchase options, and elevated your community. Being around many of the best repairers in the country is the intrinsic benefit of being where our industry shows up. We pride ourselves on national level community with personal connection. It will be the highlight of your entire year.”

The educational extravaganza kicks off on Friday morning with none other than industry icon Mike Anderson (Collision Advice) as he shares insights on how to “Future-proof Your Shop: Tomorrow’s Success Starts with Today.” Brand new in 2024, this class covers a variety of topics that today’s top shops need to know to stay ahead of the curve; attendees will acquire valuable information on industry trends related to employee retention, OEM certification, DRP and non-DRP models, AI and building customer relationships. 

Anderson returns the next morning with his “100 Percent Disassembly” course. “One of the most common things I see while traveling over 300 days a year and visiting so many shops is that most people believe they’re doing 100 percent disassembly, but they’re actually doing more like 80 or 90 percent disassembly,” Anderson points out. “Repairers need to realize 100 percent disassembly is the foundation for so much. It’s necessary and required to write an accurate repair plan; it’s critical for capturing all the items that can be removed and installed, improving the quality of your repair plan and minimizing supplements. It’s also critical to the parts mirror-matching process. If we don’t remove everything, it’s much more difficult for the parts person to mirror-match the parts.”

Disassembly is actually vital for all stakeholders, according to Anderson. “The customer service person can set more accurate delivery expectations for the customer, and it’s critical when we order parts from our vendor. Really, it’s critical to everything we do and to all stakeholders. One of the most important things I want to impart to everyone who attends this class: When I had my shops, a big mistake I made would be to tell people what to remove instead of telling them WHY it needs to be removed. If we can help our team understand WHY something needs to be removed during 100 percent disassembly, it’s more sustainable, so I’m very excited to share some insights on this subject with SCC attendees.”

Complete disassembly puts estimators in position to write an accurate, detailed repair plan…but perfecting the process often leaves repair planners feeling stuck. As Danny Gredinberg (Database Enhancement Gateway) and Kyle Motzkus (Hunter Auto Body and Missouri Auto Body Association) engage in an honest conversation about “Self-Confidence: An Advanced Repair Plan You Can Expand On,” they encourage attendees to weigh in.

“Repairers are challenged with limited time to perform repair planning being able to capture all the required operations to complete safe and proper repairs. Locating the information can be a time-consuming process, but it’s an absolute necessity with today’s complex vehicle designs,” offers Gredinberg, who recommends, “Focus on a fact-based conversation sticking to the information provider’s p-pages and required OEM procedures prescribed by the OEM. We will share where to find your supporting proof to your evidence package.”

“When shops transition from writing ‘estimates’ to effective repair planning, it’s important to have those tough conversations with customers upfront,” Motzkus stresses. “All the customer knows is they need to get an estimate for the damages from the shop, but in reality, as a repair facility, we cannot write an upfront estimate because we don’t really know what needs to be done until we do our research, reference procedures and put a detailed repair plan together. Repair planners often fail to effectively communicate why we need to perform those steps; they talk too much, too little or get too technical in their explanation, and as a result, they alienate the customer before they’ve even had a chance to do anything with the vehicle. 

“This industry is full of ego, yet repairers who insist they do everything correctly often have issues with customers leaving poor reviews,” he adds. “Would they have bashed you online if you treated them like a person during your interactions? Remember: this is a stressful situation, so if you spend five minutes with them and five minutes with the car before writing a (likely inaccurate) estimate and expect them to schedule, how can they be confident in you as an expert? We need to look at repair planning from a customer’s perspective and help establish their faith in us by presenting ourselves as the repair experts we actually are. There’s no one turnkey answer for these issues, so Danny and I will cover multiple scenarios as we discuss how repair planners can boost their confidence to tackle these conversations with customers. Be prepared for an engaging, hands-on conversation – we look forward to questions from the audience, and if you’re confident enough to challenge our ideas, you might just be confident enough to have these difficult conversations with customers too!”

Panel discussions provide a great chance for attendees to interact with presenters and ask clarifying questions, and SCC 2024’s two Lunch-and-Learn segments are expected to arm repairers with valuable real-world tips they can apply in their shops. Friday’s “Efficiency Unleashed: Rethinking Roles in Collision Repair” features Michael Bradshaw (K&M Collision; Hickory, NC), Barry Dorn (Dorn’s Body & Paint; Mechanicsville, VA) and WMABA President Kris Burton (Rosslyn Auto Body; Alexandria, VA), who will take participants on a transformative journey into strategic role segmentation as they explore its impact on maximizing shop efficiency. 

“Everyone can’t do everything anymore,” Burton simplifies the concept. “With all the technology on modern vehicles, it’s virtually impossible to be thoroughly trained on every make and model, so today’s technicians need to specialize by focusing on just two to three manufacturers and becoming the expert on those. Segmentation offers an interesting approach to how shop owners can best utilize employees’ talents to maximize their potential and promote greater efficiency in the shop immediately. This approach also benefits facilities from a retention standpoint as it keeps younger technicians engaged by allowing them to focus on learning and mastering specific tasks, rather than being overwhelmed by trying to tackle everything all at once.”

Seeing the industry’s future and moving into it gracefully is one of the panel’s goals. “Most shops still operate in a very traditional way as far as how roles in the facility – from the front office to the back of the shop – are defined and how work is assigned,” Bradshaw observes. “It’s been the same for 25 to 30 years; there typically is not a lot of innovation in the way the majority of shops approach this, but we want to show them that segmentation offers a lot of power. This panel provides a really unique opportunity to learn more about this new-school approach from three shop owners who have used it to revolutionize our businesses.”

“Collision repairers tend to believe that our industry is unlike any other industry,” Dorn adds. “In some cases, we have differences, but we have common issues and shortfalls just like any other industry, and we can look to other industries for solutions. This program will discuss ways to make your facility and culture more defined with efficiencies, technology and effective implementation. Repairers can expect to have a better understanding of preparing themselves and their teams on OEM future trends and why the OEMs are going in the directions that they have been. This will enable them to set themselves apart as the employer of choice and create a culture that doesn’t repeat or continue the legacy traditions of how collision repair facilities have operated in the past.”

On Saturday, lunch-and-learners will tackle the topic of “Repairer to Repairer: RTAs and PRIs, The Process & the Shop’s Role” with Adrian Mora (Collision Consumer Advocates), Billy Walkowiak (Collision Safety Consultants) and moderator Steve Krieps (Collision Safety Consultants of WV).

“With regard to Right to Appraisal (RTA), a lot of people see it as a way for shops to ‘get paid more’ for the repair, but the shop actually has no dog in that fight; it’s a mechanism for the consumer to handle loss disagreements with their insurer,” Krieps continues. “It’s useful for shops to understand what the RTA is, so they can educate the consumer about that option, but the Appraisal Clause really just allows the shop to put the indemnification process back in the consumer’s hands so they don’t feel powerless. The shop’s job is to generate the repair plan, properly execute the repairs with the customer’s approval and get paid for what they do. Whether the insurer fully indemnifies the consumer is between them and their insurer, and RTA puts that ball back in the customer’s court. From a shop perspective, it’s not your monkey, not your circus.”

“Shop owners will benefit from our discussion on post-repair inspections (PRIs),” explains Walkowiak. “Implementing a strong quality control system protects shops from potential liability issues if a technician neglects to perform procedures according to the OEM guidelines. It’s also very important for shops to understand the Appraisal Clause in order to educate customers about the need for proper repair procedures as well as how to make sure their vehicle is being valued appropriately. Attendees will walk away with more knowledge of the insurer’s legal duties according to the policy, and shops that are better educated about consumer rights tend to be empowered to assist customers when they receive pushback from their insurance carriers.”

“When it comes to PRIs, shops never want to get caught up in a situation where they did something horribly wrong and wind up owning a car they didn’t want to purchase, not to mention the potential for consumer fraud issues,” Krieps adds. “As a collision repair facility, you want to be very familiar with the repair requirements, proper documentation and also your state’s consumer protection regulations. Consumers have become less trusting; you can have the best shop in the world, but if one customer destroys your reputation on social media, you wind up with a giant question mark over your head, which could lead to customers asking for a PRI to make sure things were done correctly, not just from a repair standpoint but also in regard to documentation. Attendees will learn more about PRIs from people who actually perform them, and we’ll provide a little insight into some of the factors that might trigger somebody to go digging around. We’ll share some estimating tips and identify some commonly missed items that shops may or may not be performing. As a shop owner or manager, it’s impossible to look over your technicians’ shoulders 24/7, so you need to implement a system of checks and balances because even an honest mistake could open up a whole can of worms that lands you in a buy-back situation or worse.

Following OEM repair procedures to perform a proper repair, of course, is firmly located within a shop’s purview, but the wide variety of ADAS available on today’s vehicles often presents challenges. Greg Peeters (Car ADAS Solutions) will explore this subject during “The Critical Steps Involved to Achieve an OEM-Centric Calibration.” 

“Vehicle safety systems protect people by helping to prevent or minimize accidents and injuries,” Peeters expresses. “These safety systems are often compromised after an accident and the subsequent repair process. Calibrating these safety systems to OEM specifications is critical not only to the future safety of this vehicle, but also every vehicle and pedestrian they encounter. Repairers who attend this class will learn more about when a repaired vehicle requires a calibration and how to integrate this into the repair plan, OEM calibration procedures and how they affect the performance of vehicle safety systems, how to get a calibration center ready for OEM-compliant calibrations, the importance of following OEM procedures for successful and accurate calibration and why an inaccurate calibration can be worse than no calibration.”

On the non-technical side of the business, the biggest challenge many shops encounter is “Navigating the Challenges of Recruiting and Retaining Technicians,” which is the topic being presented by WrenchWay’s Jay Goninen, who notes, “Shops often say that people are their number one priority, yet they spend very little time on their recruiting and retention plans. With the challenges in today’s market to find quality help, this needs to change. In this session, we’ll talk through ways to recruit and retain top level talent, and attendees can expect to walk away with ideas to take back and implement in their shop immediately. They will also understand what it is that quality technicians are looking for to ensure their business is a destination for good technicians.”

Goninen will share insights into what technicians are looking for in an employer, based on data from WrenchWay’s 2023 Voice of Technician Survey, plus he’ll offer strategies for recruiting technicians via job boards, career pages, social media, partnerships with schools, etc. as well as tips for retaining technicians by focusing on training, career development, communication and more.

Shop owners pour their heart and soul into their businesses, but ensuring life after the shop looks the way one hopes, it will require strategizing and building value in advance. During “Building Value in Your Shop,” High Lift Financial’s Matt DiFrancesco, CExP™ will share insights that allow owners to focus on growth and prepare to exit the business on their own terms.

“Building value is about increasing cash flow, which obviously offers an immediate benefit but is also important for a long-term transition,” DiFrancesco says. “The shop is typically one’s biggest asset, so we want to grow it to benefit the business in terms of cash flow, employee retention, attracting top talent and also from a risk management standpoint by putting vehicles in place to ensure business continuity in case disaster strikes. Most shop owners neglect to maximize the value of the business by establishing proper vehicles to increase that value, yet 100 percent of shop owners will exit the business at some point in time – whether that’s through sale, transition, death, disability or divorce – and building that value in advance ensures they have the means available to live the lifestyle they want and are able to create a multi-generational legacy for their family and their community.”

Growing one’s business can often feel overwhelming, and for many, it’s certainly not a fun task. Bruce Schronce (StrongLead) will guide shops on ways to grow and sustain their business, while enjoying the journey, as he presents “Nurturing the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg.” 

“We work with every type of business – from industry to the education system to government and even non-profits – and one thing that most of them have in common is that people start their businesses because they have skills, passion and opportunity, but they have a hard time sustaining or growing that business the way they’d like to,” Schronce states. “Their business often ends up controlling them, instead of them controlling their business, and it’s vital to help owners learn to develop and grow their organizations in every aspect AND enjoy the process.”

To help shop owners do this, Schronce will be sharing a clear proven process of “what it looks like to do this from the simplest perspectives, and we’ll also offer an opportunity to partner with us to help that become a reality. Consultants often tell customers what to do but don’t really help them through that process, but because we’re a business consulting firm and a leadership development organization, we actually help businesses through the process by sharing five critical aspects to help them develop a sustainable, growing business, and we’ll teach them how to do it in such a way that they enjoy the journey. To present our method, I’ll be partnering with an organization in the collision repair industry that we have helped successfully go through this process, so attendees will have the chance to ask questions of someone who does what they do, day in and day out.”

Additional courses include “Do You Have Leaky Profit? Find Out Where Profit Leaks from Your Collision Center and How to Fill the Holes!” with OEConnection’s Taylor Moss as well as “Increased Profitability Through Proper Documentation: How Communication, Documentation and Collision Shop Positioning Must Change in 2024 and Beyond,” presented by Keith Manich of Automotive Training Institute.

Plan ahead by checking out the full class schedule on the preceding page, and register now for SCC 2024 and its can’t-miss classes at

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