Showing Up to Embrace the Opportunities

by Kris Burton, WMABA President

I’m writing this article after just getting back to work from our 2024 Southeast Collision Conference.

It was truly an awesome event, starting with the reception and awards dinner on Thursday night. WMABA gave out two awards: one for Board Member of the Year and another for Most Improved Shop of the Year. The awards went to a well deserving person (Phil Rice) and company (D&V Autobody). While Friday and Saturday were filled with awesome educational classes and the tradeshow floor was packed with vendors and booths supporting our industry, there were so many more positive things that happened!

One of the coolest things I saw take place happened on the center stage of the trade show floor when the Carolinas Collision Association (CCA) gave away tool grant scholarships to eight deserving younger technicians. We all hear about labor shortages and how there are no young people who want to get involved in the industry; the narrative is always focused on how kids don’t want to work anymore, but I’ve found that to be quite the opposite. Here is a local collision repair association, pushing back on that inaccurate narrative and changing their market by impacting one student at a time. The genuine appreciation on their faces when the apprentices received the tool grants lets you know the lasting impression this made and how this was one of those special moments that will change their path and hopefully guide toward making the collision industry their career. 

I wanted this article to share what was gained and what was missed by not attending. Hands down, one of the biggest opportunities has to be networking – the opportunity to meet and talk with other shops truly has no substitute. All the shops that attend are doing so to improve their businesses and grow. No one has all the answers, but the first step is always just to show up, walk up and introduce yourself. Meeting with other operators who have the same mindset is refreshing and motivating. While there weren’t as many WMABA shops there as I would have liked, the ones who attended were fully engaged, and I guarantee they learned a lot…enough to make a change in their businesses. 

The trade show floor was packed with vendors and booths demonstrating the latest frame machines, welders and rivet guns along with paint companies and their jobbers. There was also a vast amount of software companies offering different types of products from estimating, shop management, marketing, paint material calculators, ADAS, scanning and calibrations, rental cars and diminished value and total loss companies. 

The biggest takeaway for me was the number of shops in the Carolinas that show up, and they did not just show up; they also “listened with the intent to be influenced.” All different types of shops were there, and although not all of them operate the same, they all let their guards down and don’t see each other as competition but as peers with whom they can share their experiences and learn from one another. It’s something I’d love to see WMABA shops get to – where our meetings are packed and we all come together to learn and prop each other up!

Lastly, I’d like to thank all the vendors because we wouldn’t be able to do this without them. I’m grateful to the volunteers and the WMABA and CCA teams for the hard work put in behind the scenes to make it a successful conference. Next year, we will be hosting in our region, and it’s up to us to show up in strong numbers!

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