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What will we do ?

Okay, I have been studying the collision repair technician. For the most part and I mean a very high majority of them they wish to provide quality repairs based upon some pretty high standards, often times their own. All that are engaged would expect higher quality than they are providing now in their workplace. The trouble is that the demand is not there. They are delivering what is expected of based upon compromised practices and unrealistic workflows.

Most repair work only needs to pass the first impression test. If it looks good then it’s good to go. It meets the level in which the dollars collected provide for, no more and often times less. We have far too few savvy customers able to see between the obvious lines in front of them into the root of the repair. To compound that level of acceptance is the insurance company who comes in and has found a way to influence compromise of the standard most high quality technicians are trained to provide. (We can talk about this deficiency in another segment).

This presents a confusing set of directions to the repair technician. Is it about quality, cost, cycle time, or integrity. The lines get foggy and unclear a lot of the time.

I have been thinking of how it can be that repairs are performed based upon expert recommendations and methods rather than cost and time. I’ll venture out there to say that most engaged technicians would love for this perspective. It would sharpen the skill level preparing the repair technician the ability to pick up on new technologies and training with a desire not just a mandatory requirement to gain certification unrelated to actual repair application.

Can the paradigm be shifted ?

I believe it can with awareness and understanding for the coming challenge in differentiating yourself in the market place. There are few operations that truly get that it is about the product delivered that holds the integrity. There are possibilities and opportunities to create a win for the shop and technician, a win for the customer and a win for the insurance carrier. All have the same goal in mind, that is value for our investment.

I believe too that there are many reputable repair shops with an environment and culture to pull this off. If you are willing give it a try. Let me know the results of your adventure. Can you get back to why you got in business in the first place ?

Did I raise any interest ? Did I influence possibly an action ?

If so get to it and see how your folks feel about the possibility.

 

Who Is Stan Mitchell ?

Hello, my name is Bill Sefcek and I created Stan Mitchell Enterprises as a vehicle for me to work with Collision Repair facilities helping them help themselves achieve their full business potential.

I started in the Collision Repair business at 15 sweeping floors and observing shop operations and repairs. I spent the next 18 years in a couple of independent shops, a couple of dealers, a car crafting company and tried my hand at ownership. I loved most all of it and I will admit I found ownership to be the most challenging.

I got married at a young age, started a family, divorced, got married again and realized I needed a little more stability and security in my life. I found through a customer, who was also my Insurance agent, that the company he represented could use my skill sets in the effort to discover and deal with fraud and misappropriation in estimating internally as well as externally.

It was only a short time and I was managing a team of Estimators and found that working with the repair industry from that vantage point was personally rewarding, at times challenging, and that I enjoyed it very much. I have spent the next 26 plus years managing the company’s “Strategic Relationships” with the Collision Repair industry in Cleveland, Youngstown and Columbus Ohio. I have been very successful working to bridge win-wins for both industries interests and needs.

I retired in 2011 to introduce Stan Mitchell Enterprises as a coaching, consulting partner adventure with associate resources dedicated to becoming a trusted authority to the Collision Repair facility. I work to bring together the internal operational environment and culture focusing it on clarity of vision and consistency. Take a look at www.stan-mitchell.net

For love of the game my best regards to you..

 

“Thermometer or Thermostat ?”

In my interactions with collision shop owners I find that many go to the facility in the morning and read the temperature from the environmental thermometer of that day and adjust to it, comfortable or not. They find themselves responding to the urgency’s and completing tasks that need to be done but are more than likely on someone else’s task list.

What ever the owner had in mind to lead on that day becomes secondary to the demands of the day, this may resonate with you ? Control and leadership are lost and often well intended and necessary steps are missed in guiding the ship that day. Well, these days add up and before long become the norm and leadership is then the exception and often illusive part of their presence. I referred to this in a recent marketing effort labeled “Firefighter or Architect, which are you ?”

Well unlike the weather that determines the climate we live in every day you have some control for the business environment and the climate you work in. You can design the day to be more comfortable and productive for you when you SET the thermostat for the outcomes you desire. You can set the stage for some pretty predictable expectations when you do your job as the commander of your surroundings and in being the leader to be followed.

This, of course, takes real dedication and discipline to the position of business ownership and in placing the right people in the right positions, giving them clear response – abilities and holding them task accountable. This can be overwhelming in itself along with the expected leadership you need to bring as the Cheif Everything Officer..

Get some altitude over your business, be the “Architect” of your surroundings and SET your thermostat for success and watch transformation begin.

To the control of your environment !!

“Shiny New Object Syndrome”

My experience working with the Collision Repair Industry has shown me all too many cases where facilities are ever burdened by what I’ll call the “Shiny New Object Syndrome”. They are always looking at and for the next new product, bit of software, or program, to save them. Some of them have many very nice new tools, loaded software and are operating on some programs that just haven’t worked out the way they envisioned. The items are setting on a shelf, the software is loaded but not being used fully, and the program is just kinda lukewarm.

I believe that the diversion aspect of these instances completely draws the facility from the real issues they may be facing. Most Collision repair facility environments are just not ready to make the most efficient use of new items and/or they couldn’t deliver to the higher degree that the tool, program or relationship might afford to them or expect from them.

Spending some serious time in the study of the internal dynamic of an operation and doing due diligence to be realistic in gauging its status before going after the new item WILL result in the best choices. Going after that “Shiny New Object” when it is what the facility needs based upon its readiness to make the best and most productive use of it makes it the right move.

The key to the success of any addition or change is in being prepared for it first..

“Strategic Relationships !!”

I would like to talk a bit about the importance of “Strategic Relationships” as they relate to todays Collision Repair facility. Reckognizing what they are, maintaining those you have, forging future ones and becoming desirable to those that are looking for them with you. Having clear control in this element of business could bring improvement to the repairer and his or her vendor and Insurance partner interactions.

There is a clear key to creating and commanding these relationships that is within a facility’s control. First let’s look at what a “Strategic Relationship” means:

Strategic Relationships are the working relationships you have with individuals and across organizations that are integral and vital to achieving long-term business and professional goals !

The management of these relationships rely on your ability to jointly and proactively define, build, maintain, and leverage these “Strategic Relationships” so that your business outcomes are optimized !

For many years I had maintained the “Strategic Relationships” on behalf of my Insurance company employer with you, the Collision Repair facility. These were and are critical to the delivery of their promise to our mutual customers. I was very successful managing respectful interactions that led to win-win results. It can be done through open communication !

Applying this understanding, as the leader of your company, to a given day in your life these relationships are found in handshake agreements, the contract you enter into with the rubbish collector, the landscaper, the I.T. company you have retained, your database vendor, paint supplier etc. They are present in the dealings you have with Insurance partners, with any private company you do work for, schools, police or fire departments, rental companies, and even the relationships you have with employees. These relationships are vital to the work you do with those that manage your finances, handle your legal representation, put out your marketing efforts, and of course your individual customers. In all of these relationships you are communicating to negotiate benefit to you. These communications should all be strategic – “I give you this and I get this, it’s a deal”. Extremely Powerful !!

Now some relationships are more strategic than others of course but all of them require your full attention and engagement (the key). They also require the delivery of what is expected based upon the specific relationship objectives.

As a customer yourself you expect the delivery of what you pay for to be seamless, professional and predictable based upon what you are told..right ? If not would it be fair to say that you may reconsider your buy and likely to shop elsewhere in the future ? And rightfully so ?

With all this said and the stage set, so to speak, it has been my professional experience that the #1challenging area to the Collision repair business is the execution and delivery of intended promises in a consistent and reliable manner. Somewhere between the close of the deal and the delivery result there is a breakdown. Something just doesn’t unfold as planned. Many things can happen and often do, some within your control and some currently may be beyond your control. Some have merit and some may not. These occurrences play havoc with your relationships. You could get support and patience from the good ones but they have an expectation that there will be controlled management on your part of the not so good ones. They are watching their strategic relationship with you.

The customer service experience expectations are high for you and no doubt going to get even more demanding. With all of the buzz words surrounding efficiency being tossed about and with the many external measures you are graded on you have to wonder just how good is good enough ?

When it all comes down to it in reality the primary element, which is often overlooked, for the delivery of predictable service is in the continuity of mission within your facility. The environment you work in and the culture you have created within your walls is the only true measure for your ability to perform. It also dictates as well the level of success you enjoy. These are areas you can control and when you do you can maintain strong “Strategic Relationships” and set yourself up to attract new ones that will be needed to stay in business. After all the reason you got in business is to stay in business, right ?

Every “Strategic Relationship” you have and will have hinges on the level of command you have for your internal environment and consistency in your business offering.

I encourage and hope to inspire you to put some really deep and serious thought onto your internal operation. Is it what you want it to to be, what you intended ? If you could what would you do ? Before you enter the next strategic relationship or purchase that next new product ask yourself and answer yourself , the questions will it fit ? Can my team and I make this work ? Will I realize the true benefit ? am I ready for this ? and most importantly WILL IT HELP ME DELIVER TO MY CUSTOMER ?

Take some time to study the relationships you have and determine if they are strategic to your goals. Do they support your BRAND your mission ? Are you prepared and confident that you and your machine can deliver on the promises you make every time, proud with no failure, no excuses ?

I believe and I want you to believe that you can have success without compromise when you execute and deliver on your commitments and promises maintaining and forging “Strategic Relationships”.

To “Strategic Relationships” !!!

Is it in the knowledge or in the application?

“Is it in the knowledge or in the application ?”

I like to speak from my experience and find that today my thoughts led me to execution and performance as it relates respectfully to our widget makers, repair technicians, I love them all. It has been my experience that in most every case where there is a question relating to the quality of a repair procedure there are obvious signs giving merit to the question. When brought to the attention of the responsible technician, again, in most every case they understand why the question exists and agree with the signs that give it merit.

Well, without getting into the various reasons for the failure to meet a standard I find that in most all cases with full understanding of how it got that way it is also clear what could have been done to produce the highest quality result without defect. It is extremely rare also to find a technician in the industry that cannot differentiate and cite to you those points in detail. Invariably the root of the situation is not in the knowledge of what was the right thing to do but in the, scratch your head why, application of that knowledge. While I fully agree with and support training and staying up with the state of the art techniques I find less attention and discipline given to the application of said knowledge as well as the consistent execution for it once learned.

Quality control has been tossed around for many years now and seems to be somewhat confusing when confronted for discussion. It has been like forever that if and when someone critiques the work of another and where there is true merit to do so offense is taken to the mention of it. With that then comes the reason, excuses, hurt feelings, fingers get pointed and rarely is the opportunity taken to fix the issue or issues underlying the resulting deficiency. Learning from a less than satisfactory product result and fixing it is what quality control is all about. The best and most successful QC program is the one that is no longer needed because you have worked through and taken action opportunities brought to you through the critical reviews. This is a good thing!

As stated above I encourage pro-active training and state of the art understandings for procedures, products and tools stay with it, however, I must say too that in most every situation it is not in this training that the trouble lies but in the application of the knowledge, the demonstration and execution of the what was learned that is behind the failure to deliver. As shop owners, administrators and technicians I would ask that you work diligently on the in house root causes for circumstances and situations that cause less than satisfactory results in the quality of your work and correct them.

I am in strong support for the business of fixing the business of fixing cars. It will take all of you in the organization to do this and you can start with the application of the knowledge you have now. It is in the application, the application, and oh did I mention it is in the application of knowledge that makes the difference and sets you apart. I know you know this – just apply it !

To your knowledge!!

 

“It’s always so HECTIC around here !!”

We find in the collision repair industry that most, the higher percentage, of owners/managers don’t have or make time to sharpen the saw or gain perspective as a leader.

They gauge their value and contribution through the level of immersion they maintain in the daily operation. Honorable yes, but they cause themselves and others great amounts of unnecessary stress.

WHY ?

“If I look at it honestly, for myself it’s all about me – it satisfies my need to feel needed, it comes easy for me, and it is way more fun to get caught up in it than to do all that other stuff.”

As with any entrepreneur and leader, or hired in manager their value comes through being the director of output with your eye ever on the procurement of steady input. their value is in the mastery they have for control over all aspects of product delivery, the big picture, and NOT in how much they can contribute to the completion of a repair.

If they try to be both the leader and the widget maker things can be worse. They can’t know it all – their involvement in production could actually inhibit progress because the staff is conditioned to wait for them and the company growth will stagnate because they’re not engaged. An unfortunate reality once one enters the leader zone.

DOES THIS MAKE SENSE ?

I believe you have to back away from the work and observe the whole of your machine. Focus on recognizing the systems applied to each aspect of production. Do you have recognizable systems or standards in place ? Study how it’s done and the people doing them. Is it being done right ? Is it being done by the right people ? and Is it delivering the right result ?

Answering these questions will be a full time job, if you need one, and taking the time to gather and act on the answers will deliver AWESOME results of increased production and employee satisfaction. The ROI of this can be tremendous. You are most valued when you assure the saw blade is sharp and you solidly have perspective or let’s call it altitude over the machine. Remember no else maintains focus on the big picture but you !!!

In my blog consistency over intensity I talk about an approach to change. The idea in this current message is to make studied and necessary adjustments to systems of standards operating in your business right now, TODAY.

Doing this will free up time and “UN-HECTIC-IZE” the day for you.

Long story short: as the leader you are responsible for and your value is in your proficiency for maintaining employee satisfaction and the production of your machine in the delivery of the product promise you made to the customer. (A lot of you is in there I know…)

NOW what truly needs to be done as the leader ?? GET ON IT !!

“Consistency over Intensity”

“Consistency over Intensity”

In all of business when we think about change and making a change we are faced with the question of implementation. Collision repair is no different. How do we get there ? First we figure out where we are at then we look to where we want to be, right ? In that area between the two there are the steps we need to take and grow comfortable with on the way to the realization of the change and it is about the people !!

Think about it this way: When most people get into fitness they’re ALL ABOUT IT—hitting the gym (or track or exercise class or trail or whatever) hard for a couple hours, feeling all revved up about life and their extraordinary commitment to really crushing it this time.

That commitment lasts right up until the next morning when they’re so sore they can’t get out of bed. OUCH!

So, the idea is this: It’s WAY better to simply put on your shoes, head out and do a nice, mellow workout CONSISTENTLY time after time then it is to go all out and then never go back.

Consistency over intensity ! Make the change, make it as simple as possible and work to deliver on it consistently. A little all the time and over and over will get you there.

(Of course, it doesn’t need to be either/or consistent or intensity but, if you’re not consistent yet, focus on that before you go for all the marbles.)

NOW what needs to be done ?? Get after it!