by Alana Quartuccio
They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but for those who attended the October 31 Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in conjunction with the 2023 SEMA Show, that statement could not be further from the truth!
One of the most well attended CIC events in recent years, industry professionals walked away with newfound knowledge and the promise of a healthy future with a healthy dose of amazing memories, from the smash hit Jeopardy-inspired game show Repairidy to a night to remember on the Red Carpet in celebration of CIC’s 40th anniversary complete with an award ceremony.
“We have to think of the consumer in everything that we do,” CIC Chair Frank Terlep (Opus IV) reminded the audience as the day got underway. “We have to focus on who is getting into that car after each repair, after it’s been calibrated, and ask ourselves if we’d put our child or grandparent in that vehicle.”
Consolidation is the future, and during a special presentation, an all-star panel featuring Matt DiFrancesco (High Lift Financial), Laura Gay (Consolidation Coach), David Roberts (Focus Advisors), Cole Strandberg (Focus Investment Banking) and John Walcher (Veritas Advisors) agreed that it cannot be ignored.
So where does that put the independent repairer?
“The environment with consolidation is very bright. I think the independent shop really has a place in this environment,” DiFrancesco said during the panel’s candid conversation. “It may be a different place, but I think it’s a very important one.”
Gay agreed, adding that independent shops shouldn’t feel pressure that they will have to sell in order to survive. “There’s absolutely a place for the independent repair shop. One hundred percent.”
There are many different deal structure platforms taking place, according to the panelists. There’s MSOs buying other MSOs, private equity deals and shop owners looking to grow their business by acquiring other shops, or those simply just entering into a succession plan. In analyzing the different platforms that exist, Strandberg noted, “Really the perfect storm for a platform level comes when you have an engaged owner who’s in it for the long haul, wanting to roll significant equity. It shows they’re around. They’re a believer in the story, and they’re going to drive the ship for you.”
CIC attendees heard an encouraging and engaging discussion via the Talent Pool and Education Committee, featuring instructors of the Collision Engineering program, their students and the repair shop owners who employ them about their experiences and how the program is really helping to shape young people for the collision repair universe.
Both instructors agreed that in addition to engaging these students in their program, a key component is finding the right shop managers who are willing to work with these up-and-coming technicians. “We do a lot of footwork with the shops and get to know their cultures and who will be their mentors. That is the biggest piece in all this,” stated Laura Lozano (Contra Costa College).
“I need someone to be able to shake my hand and not lie to me,” stressed Octavius Cavozos (College of Lake County). “You need that trust. If you don’t have the willingness to work with the college and the student, we won’t succeed.”
The term EULA (end user license agreement) has been a frequent subject at CIC this past year. The November forum dove a bit deeper into exactly what the concerns are surrounding transparency – or the lack thereof. The discussion also posed the questions of who is responsible for the data and what repairers should keep in mind when using scan tools.
Since so much uncertainty is involved, the best thing a collision repair facility can do is protect the data, which can be done with work authorization forms. Educating the consumer about the data is another key in protecting one’s business.
Safely repairing vehicles goes well beyond clearing DTC codes. Today’s vehicles require a technical skill set that not everyone in the body shop may possess. In fact, some shops may not even have someone skilled enough in this area to effectively and correctly address ADAS calibrations.
Emerging Technologies Committee Co-Chairs Chuck Olsen (AirPro Diagnostics) and Bob Augustine (Opus IV) led a panel discussion addressing the procedures, tools and needs that many body shops may be overlooking. Identifying system checks is key in doing diagnostics, Olsen explained in regard to using scan tools. “You need to go to the service information. That’s what a diagnostic technician does. You need the tool to get it done, but the tool won’t do it for you.
“There are different codes, and you may have to go in many times and re-check the function of that system,” he added. “You’re not home yet when just clearing the code.”
“Nearly all mechanical shops have a diagnostics person, and we don’t see that much in the collision space,” observed Augustine. “There is a skill set missing when you are doing diagnostics on the vehicles. The workflow and vision doesn’t really have a place for that person. It’s something we need to figure out. This is not about just taking things apart and putting them back together; there is a lot more going on behind the scenes.”
Closing out the day was an exciting event that will undoubtedly be talked about for years to come!
Clad in a red-sequined tuxedo jacket, the Estimating and Repair Planning Committee’s very own Danny Gredinberg (Database Enhancement Gateway) took the podium with an equally red-sequined Erin Solis (Certified Collision Group) as co-host to present the one-of-a-kind “Repairidy” game show, filling the the last hour of CIC with applause and chuckles! As Terlep put it, “I thought I’d seen everything in my 30-plus years of coming to CIC!”
Contestants Amber Alley (Barsotti’s Body and Fender; San Rafael, CA), Darrell Amberson (LaMettry’s Collision; MN) and Liz Stein (OEConnection) were good sports as they hit their buzzers to chime in on questions in the following categories: 40 Years of CIC, Repair Planning, Repair Process, Claims, Drop Off and Empty Chair. Alley walked away the winner with 30 points!
A Vegas CIC event would not be complete without an amazing reception at the Westgate Resort. The event was immediately followed by the Red Carpet Awards, which was tied into the CIC 40th’s anniversary festivities. See page 25 for award winners.
The buzz has already begun for the next CIC event, set for January 17 in Palm Springs, CA. To register, please visit ciclink.com/schedules.
Want more? Check out the December 2023 issue of Hammer & Dolly!