Baby Steps

by Burl Richards, ABAT President

I recently took a vacation to Florida, and since I like to visit shops in different markets when I travel, I walked into a local body shop while I was there.

From my perspective, that panhandle market is very suppressed, and I wanted to learn more, so I started a conversation with the shop owner and some of the guys working there. And what I saw reminded me of why we started ABAT 10 years ago.

This shop isn’t pre-scanning vehicles. They aren’t performing post-repair scans. They don’t know which vehicles should be calibrated or why those calibrations are so incredibly important. Yet, most of their clients are happy when they pick up their cars after a repair because they look great. The bumper has been replaced, and the paint is flawless, but they have no idea what is going on underneath the surface and how that could possibly impair their vehicle’s ability to perform properly and protect them in a subsequent accident. The owner doesn’t know what his monthly sales are, couldn’t tell me his severity and had no idea how much profit his shop collects on paint and materials. There is so much they don’t know. 

I had some really good discussions with those Florida repairers, and I’m confident that I can help them by providing various resources and connecting them with some trainers and other people I know. I believe they have good intentions, but you don’t know what you don’t know. When we parted ways, I left my business card behind and encouraged them to call me, and I hope they do. The ball is in their court, though, because they have to be willing to accept the help; they have to want to learn more and do better. And they don’t need to turn their shop upside down overnight; there are many small baby steps they can take to move in the right direction. They just have to be willing to take that first step — that’s usually the hardest part!

I used to have a lot of similar conversations with Texas shop owners before ABAT was founded and in its early days, but fewer and fewer shops that I visit in the Lone Star State struggle with this type of lack of knowledge. I believe that’s a testament to the power of a strong association and all the hard work we’ve done over the past decade. But many more shops should be involved in ABAT, and some of them may not know the things that our members know. They may be struggling, and if you know a shop like that, I challenge you to reach out to them and tell them about ABAT. 

Our goal is to help shops learn more, to ensure consumers are receiving safe and proper repairs and to improve shops in all Texas markets. Again, you don’t know what you don’t know, so don’t look down on someone who doesn’t know what you know – I challenge you to reach out to them and encourage them! Invite them to an ABAT meeting. Tell them about the Texas Auto Body Trade Show. Offer a little guidance at a time to help them get to a better place. When we elevate one another, we elevate our entire profession. We do better together!

Want more? Check out the May 2024 issue of Texas Automotive!