WE LIKE MIKE: New Jersey Automotive Honors Industry Icon Mike Anderson

Americans have become more polarized than ever before in recent years.

DRP or OEM-certified facility. Single shop location or multi-shop operator (MSO).  Manufacturer or aftermarket parts…Collision repairers have even more reasons to bump heads. Yet, despite the many sources of contention within our industry and society, there’s ONE thing that everyone can agree on:

Mike Anderson (Collision Advice) is an amazing human being, and our world would be a much better place if more people emulated him.

Whether you know him personally or have had the pleasure of sitting in one of his engaging seminars at SEMA, the NORTHEAST® Automotive Services Show or at a local event (as he is known to present in just about every corner of the world) or even if you only know his name via “Ask Mike” features or “Who Pays for What?” surveys, chances are you are a fan too, if not a friend.

Mentor to many, inspiration to even more, Anderson epitomizes the heart and soul of the collision industry, and repair professionals from all over the country weighed in to explain why “We Like Mike.”

“Mike is the best thing that ever happened to the collision industry,” according to AASP/NJ Executive Director Charles Bryant. “He speaks the language of those involved in the collision industry and has the ability to get his message across like no other. At the same time, Mike is a true gentleman.”

Although Bryant met Anderson “so long ago that I can hardly remember the details,” he recalled being “extremely impressed with Mike’s knowledge of the collision industry and his drive to do everything in his power to make things better. I enjoy seeing Mike and hearing him speak so much that it is difficult to pick one memory as my favorite. Every time I see Mike, it becomes a new favorite memory.

“Mike saw how much the industry needed someone to help deal with the many issues that arise as the automobiles change from year to year, and then he made his mind up to become that person,” Bryant continued. “The most valuable lesson that I learned from Mike is that you can accomplish anything once you make up your mind to do something.”

“Mike is a ball of energy and a wealth of knowledge,” AASP/NJ President Jerry McNee (Ultimate Collision; Edison) praised. “Since the first time I met him while attending an AASP/NJ class he taught, I’ve seen that he is all about bettering the industry, and he’s taught me that you can never stop learning. Mike is an inspiration to all of us when it comes to improving the industry. His efforts are unparalleled and have resulted in the game being changed forever.”

“He was one of the first to try to standardize what people did in their work stations, and he was ahead of his time in that respect,” reminisced AASP/NJ Treasurer Tom Elder (Compact Kars, Inc.; Clarksburg), who met Anderson back when he was running Wagonwork Collision Center in Virginia and “preaching the standard operating procedures around the shop. He’s an individual who isn’t led by others; he’s a leader and a very knowledgeable guy when it comes to research and how systems function. If it’s time to learn something new, he learns it, and becomes an expert. He’s totally committed to helping ALL the people in the industry. And he’s good at what he does.”

The most important lesson Elder has learned from his friendship with Anderson is “Consistency – be consistent, following the same operating procedure every time. Mike also realizes that a lot of people in our industry struggle to remember things, so he’s repetitive to drill important factors related to our industry into your mind. ‘Can I get an Amen? What are you supposed to do? Right, can I get an Amen?’ He feels a room every time he speaks; you always walk away with something, no matter how many times you’ve seen him present!”

Although Elder does not speak to Anderson daily, he knows “I can pick up the phone anytime, and he’ll answer. Every meeting with Mike is an earnest hug and a friendly greeting. He never forgets anyone. He’s a God-fearing man with a kind heart, and he respects people and their feelings. Mike is a very committed guy. I’ve never met anyone else quite as committed to this industry. I don’t know if he sold his shop and started Collision Advice because he loves the industry, he wanted to travel or he just didn’t want to deal with the day-to-day hassles of body shops, but no matter why he made that decision, I’m sure glad he did it as he’s made the collision industry so much better.”

“Mike is one of the most passionate people you could ever hope to know and call a friend,” Aaron Schulenburg, executive director for the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), stated. “He puts his everything into this industry. His genuine passion comes across in everything he does. His energy inspires people, which is why they gravitate toward him and love him.”

Schulenburg has known Anderson since the early 2000s when he began attending national level events – “Mike has been around for the vast majority of my career in this industry” – and though he has many fond memories from their decades-long friendship, his favorite took place years ago when Schulenburg was still learning how to present in front of people during a multi-night campaign for the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG).

“It was such a great learning experience at that stage in my role, learning how to get in front of these big groups and share information that was meaningful to them. Learning how to communicate on a personal level with the right amount of energy to connect with people…that was a pivotal point for me, and though I’ll never be as masterful at it as Mike is, I learned a lot about how to communicate in a way that connects with people and makes a difference from watching Mike. He brings the right energy that makes people want to listen to what he has to say, delivering information in a way that resonates with people, and that’s a big piece of what Mike has taught me.”

Thomas Greco, president of Thomas Greco Publishing, met Anderson in 2007 “when we started publishing Hammer & Dolly, but I really got to know him through all the years at NORTHEAST. Mike is just about the only person I know, at least in our industry, who is universally loved. Mention his name to anyone, and you get an instant smile! Mike is so full of positivity that he lights up every room he enters with his mere presence, and I cannot express how much I respect and admire him.”

Anderson and Greco bonded over a shared love of music. “We are both avid music lovers, so my favorite times with Mike involve diving into our record collections to talk about everything from Elvis to KISS. Industry-wise, every time you see him is a favorite moment because he is an amazing human being who genuinely cares…about you, your family, your business, this industry. Mike is a remarkable man, and he’s also extremely loyal. Whether it is good news or bad news, Mike is going to be loyal to you as a friend and tell it to you straight. What greater lesson is there?”

“Kindness, empathy and the importance of keeping your word,” veteran collision industry journalist Joel Gausten listed among the lessons he’s learned from Anderson. He recalled interviewing Anderson for the first time in 2007 when he returned to Thomas Greco Publishing as the editor for Hammer & Dolly.

“This was my first automotive-related interview in a long time – and my first as editor of Hammer & Dolly. I admit that the pressure was on – after all, I was following in the footsteps of the legendary Sheila Loftus – but Mike instantly made me feel at ease thanks to his incredibly friendly and supportive demeanor. His infectious enthusiasm for the industry was second only to his kindness. He welcomed me to my new position with open arms. Right after I finished the interview, I looked at Tom and said, ‘This is going to be great!’ That first phone call with Mike was a big reason why I ended up serving as editor for the next 15 years – and I value every conversation I have with him to this day.

“My favorite memories of Mike – which are ongoing – are of all the times he selflessly moves Heaven and Earth to help me out when I’m on deadline!” Gausten added. “Mike’s sick? No worries. Mike’s sitting in a cab heading to an airport? Not a problem. He always gets on the phone to talk to me…even after I tell him I’d rather reschedule so he can get some rest. Even when he’s spinning 100 plates at a time, he never makes me feel rushed. He’s the best friend any writer/editor could ever have!”

Gausten dubbed Anderson “the collision industry’s humble hero. In all the years I’ve known him, he has never said no to me – and I doubt he has ever said no to anyone! He puts others ahead of himself and always delivers on the promises he keeps. Honestly, I don’t know how he keeps so many commitments – he is the absolute busiest person I’ve ever known – but he somehow never lets anyone down. Knowing him – and following his example the best I can – has made me a better human being.”

Collision leaders from all over the country have benefitted under Anderson’s tutelage and the example he sets every day.

“Mike is full of energy with a BIG heart,” lauded Danny Gredinberg (DEG) who met Anderson in 2008 when he conducted in-house estimating training at the shop where Gredinberg worked at the time. “He brought the power that night! And he’s taught me to live life to the fullest by helping everyone around you. Don’t worry what anyone thinks; always be true to yourself.”

“I’ve worked with Mike for more than a decade, and would be hard pressed to name someone who works more tirelessly on behalf of the collision industry,” shared John Yoswick (CRASH Network). “As busy as he always is, I don’t think he’s ever ended one of our phone calls without asking, ‘What else can I do for you, sir?’ I really appreciate and admire that.”

Collisionista Petra Schroeder first met Anderson back in 1996 when his body shop, Wagonwork Collision Center, was a customer of the paint supplier for whom she worked at the time. “He was totally committed to doing the best possible in every interaction, and I fondly remember his dedication to quality repairs. Mike is amazing. He remembers so many business facts and presents without any papers. Everything he says is true, but it goes beyond the business because he remembers so many personal details about his contacts. He’s a businessman, but he’s also the type of man anyone can be proud to call ‘friend.’

“He pulls people in because he has a fascinating, unique way of presenting,” Schroeder continued, offering high praise: “He makes things very clear, he is very direct, and he says it as it is. Mike is fascinating, loyal and committed to doing the right thing. He’s dedicated to the people and has taught me what matters most…First: You can be an expert in what you do, but if you do not care for the people, you miss the ball big time. Second: Integrity. I am so glad I got to know Mike.”

No one can accuse Anderson of not caring. In fact, his passion for the collision industry has often inspired others to find their own passion.

“I met Mike at a point in my career and life when I was working in a dead-end job. Things were not going particularly well, and my passion for the collision industry was fading,” recalled Dave Luehr (Elite Body Shop Solutions). “Mike was teaching a class on ‘lean processes;’ it was my first time seeing him teach, and I was blown away! I was inspired by his passion and his knowledge of the industry, but even more than that…He helped me realize I could do more to serve others than I had been. He helped me regain my own passion!”

After Luehr founded Elite Body Shop Solutions in 2014, he was accused of being a “Mike Anderson wannabe,” and although “at first it was hurtful, I realized that if I ‘wanna be’ like anyone, it was Mike Anderson, so I embraced the accusations with a smile and set out to do my own thing. Mike has been such an inspiration of my own career, and I look up to him greatly, so my most cherished memory was sitting on panels with him as his peer. It’s such a treat to share that experience with him at a conference. Mike is a shining example of how an entire industry can be positively shaped when a person passionately seeks to serve others above self.

“He is like a fireball of energy. Where does that energy come from? It’s the passion he carries for the industry,” Luehr added. “You ask almost anybody about Mike, and that is the first thing they say.  He’s energetic and passionate. Combine that with his knowledge. I don’t know how he does it all. He’s everywhere. Constantly learning and teaching in this non-stop cycle since I’ve known him. Mike is so magnetic because he, like Dolly Parton, attracts people with his generosity. I’ve found that the most magnetic people you want to be around draw you to them because they are so generous with themselves. That’s what I’ve learned from Mike above everything else.”

Of course, no one knows Anderson quite as well as the ladies who work with him day in and day out.

Tracy Dombrowski (Collision Advice) met Mike in 2001 during his early days of facilitating 20-groups. “Axalta brought Mike in as a subject matter expert to help build out a new estimating class. His training material was a two-inch binder filled with copies of trade articles and reference materials. When I first met him, he had shaved his head in support of a kid in his church group who had cancer. He called everyone ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir’ all the time, and he was so passionate (and loud!) during his seminars, the hotel staff often had to ask him to be a bit quieter.

“But that’s because he is extremely passionate about the collision repair industry. The most important thing I’ve learned from Mike comes from Proverbs: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ Mike is constantly pushing to improve – improve the industry, improve our training, improve ourselves.  He has built a business and a reputation for excellence, and you can truly see that in everything he does. He genuinely wants to help the shops he works with improve and grow. In that pursuit, anything he can do to help improve the industry he’ll do. For most people, their legacy is their children. For Mike, it is this industry!”

Although Anderson is dedicated to the industry, he never loses sight of the fact that the industry is made up of actual people, and he’s just as passionate about those individuals as well.

“Like a step-dad, Mike always makes sure I’m happy and that I don’t need anything. He really likes making my kids happy too! Mike always wants the best for those he loves and will do whatever it takes to make sure it happens,” shared Tiffany Driggers (Collision Advice) whose parents were close friends with Anderson. “I met Mike in 2002, while I was in my senior year of high school, and he begged me to come and work for him because he was impressed with the way I cleaned house.”

Driggers has learned many important lessons under Anderson, but one stands out above all others: “Don’t give up! Mike has been through a lot and has never once been ready to just give up. Things might have changed courses over the 20 years we have been working together, but he has always stuck up for his company when he needed to, and he never gave up!”

Persistent. Loyal. Energetic. Selfless. Positive. Dedicated. Passionate. Humble. Caring. Inspiring. Few people earn even a few of these affirmations, yet Anderson deserves these descriptors and more.

“Mike has touched so many things; he is special within this industry,” Schulenburg summed it up nicely. “We wouldn’t be who we are as an industry without a lot of the things that he has done to influence it. Mike is absolutely a doer. He wants to be a part of this industry; he wants to support it. He finds ways to support shops, bring them information and liven them up. It’s awesome that he’s being recognized and honored in this way because the collision repair industry wouldn’t be what it is without Mike Anderson.”

Can we get an Amen?!

Want more? Check out the November issue of New Jersey Automotive!