Make the Right Choices

by Matt Ciaschini

We are more than halfway through 2023, and AASP/MA continues to move forward on our campaign to “Break Free in 23.”

We have made a lot of progress this year. Our bills continue to gain traction in the state legislature, and we continue to educate our membership on current industry topics. But our association is only as strong as our members, so we need you more than ever. We need your support as much as you need ours. We also need you to shift your outlook. If we remain positive and resolute, we will not be denied the things we are seeking to better our industry.

There are a few different ways we can look at our businesses and lives to help shift that outlook. 

“The greatest pleasure in life is obtained by improving.”
– Ben Hogan

We all can attest that it is difficult to improve our businesses, our employees’ lives and our own lives when caught up in the mundane minutiae of the collision industry. Even owners of the largest shops can get caught up in the smallest part of the repair process which monopolizes their time and makes it hard to focus on the big picture. Constant improvement is a must for our business and our lives, despite all the pitfalls and shortcomings which we deal with every day. What you choose to focus on can and will make all the difference. We could choose to focus on the labor rate inequity or choose to educate our customers, making them aware of all we have to do to fix their vehicles for little compensation. We could choose to focus on the lack of labor force in our industry or choose to focus on the continued training of our techs, appraisers and front-line staff. We could choose to ignore proper repair procedures and to do things like we always have or we could choose to embrace technology to help us ensure we are doing the right thing to repair every vehicle. All the choices on the latter side would allow us to improve ourselves and our business and to not wallow in all the negativity that can so easily seep into our industry daily. Focusing on improvement doesn’t cost you anything but effort if you don’t want it to. Most of the positive improvements I mentioned are free of cost – and not just monetarily – but free of the cost of the burden that weighs on us when we choose to focus on the negative aspects of our industry and the stress it causes everyone connected. The first thing to improve is our mindset. 

“Look at life through the windshield, not the rearview mirror.”
– Byrd Baggett

The obligatory car reference does not cheapen the sentiment in the above quote. We can all get caught up in the past. Caught up in the days when it was easier to fix cars. Caught up in the days when the labor rate was more equitable. Caught up in the negative relationship you may have always had with an appraiser or insurer. Focusing on the past can be wasted energy, especially if it’s negative. Using an opportunity to educate an insurance appraiser who may be denying a proper repair instead of dwelling on their  history of abstinence can not only get you what you want, but also lessen your burden and stress from fighting and arguing. Look toward what the collision industry will become instead of focusing on what it was. Educate customers on problems we face and how they are affected by them instead of just sticking them with a bill. We should try to learn from the past but not dwell on it. Take what we learn to make our present business and lives better, and work toward shaping the future we desire. 

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something and to learn something new.’
– Barack Obama 

We don’t know what we don’t know. The collision industry is full of this sentiment or at least should be. The problem is pretending you do know. Vehicles are filled with safety systems, blended metals/substrates and cutting-edge technology we could have never comprehended 20 years ago. We should never assume we will simply know what we are doing when fixing these modern vehicles. We need to ask those who can help us the questions that will make us better repairers. We need to use our industry resources to ensure we are making proper repairs to these vehicles. Use our OEM data providers along with our estimating platforms as well as asking our vendors when those systems fall short of the data necessary to perform the work correctly. Use all the member benefits AASP/MA offers on its website that can help with so many aspects of our businesses (insurance and appraisal law and countless other documents). Or take advantage of our in-person educational meetings, whether it is a local chapter meeting or a statewide seminar with a national collision consultant /educator. These are all venues in which to ask questions, or ask for help to strengthen our businesses and our lives. We will all be better repairers if we continually ask the questions we need to educate ourselves and our staff. 

AASP/MA thanks our members for their continued support of the only association that supports our industry in the Commonwealth. Without you, this is not possible. Please spread the word of our Alliance, and we will continue to help you improve your business by providing you with the answers to your questions so you can look forward to a bright future in the collision industry. 

Want more? Check out the September 2023 issue of New England Automotive Report!