- by Mark Czvitkovits, i-Car
With the change continuing within the Collision Repair industry, the future for smaller businesses often seems grim with the expansion of the consolidators marching relentlessly on. However, as a small business there are many opportunities out there that will potentially provide you with a positive future.
In Australia we are seeing Car Craft, Fix Auto, AMA, OEMs and a host of smaller consolidators all striving to provide their repair networks with the best possible futures. Even the Capricorn Society is becoming more heavily involved within the collision industry. So, what are the benefits of being in a repair network?
The obvious first reason is a presence within the industry as part of a larger entity. This can lead to better pricing for parts, consumables, training and having a voice nationally. Obviously, the more members, the louder that voice can often be.
But the real benefits of being in a group are the networking and benchmarking opportunities for your business against the group and of course similar sized businesses in the same demographic and possibly geographical areas. As a single business it is often hard to gauge your performance in a business sense as there is typically no one that you can benchmark against.
Even if your business is performing well and you are profitable, there is always room for improvement somewhere. The Japanese call it ‘Kaizen’ or continuous improvement.
The networking aspect of a repair network provides every business owner within that group the opportunity to learn from outside the four walls of their business, it is often the small things that can trigger the most beneficial changes. In today’s environment, if you are doing what you have always done without searching for continuous improvement, you will fall behind further. The comfort zone of a business must always be challenged, because as a business you are consistently challenged to improve – everywhere.
The best repair networks will provide your business with tools that measure your business to highlight where improvements can be made. Access to better buying is one area that will improve your business, but the real cost in any business is people as they directly affect the process. Improving processes will bring the most sustainable improvements in any business. Unless you have a benchmark to work against, it is very difficult to determine if your processes are the best or need improvement.
Of course, being part of a network is not for everyone and each individual business must asses this on their own merits. With the growing move to certification and accreditation across insurers and OEMs, training is one area that every network should be involved in.
Having skilled and proficient employees will help improve every facet of your business and will be the biggest asset in any business. The people involved in any process will find it difficult to deliver improvement if they are not trained within their role. When an employee understands their role as well as the flow on affect when it is poorly done, they can then work with their fellow employees to assist in developing a solution, this is one aspect of Kaizen, continuous improvement.
Repair networks bring many advantages to a small business, the key is deciding what is right for you. There is a financial investment in entering into a repair network agreement but if all of the tools offered are utilised it may be money well spent. A clean, well-organised business that continually measures itself against its competitors or partners will look at improving all areas and this is where working with other businesses will bring significant gains.
Any decision should be based not only what the network will bring to you but also what your business can bring to the network. The beneficial outcomes for all businesses involved will provide a range of tools that will help sustain you, your employees, your business, the network and the stakeholders engaged with you.
The future is changing, look at all options for your business to not only survive but to strive into the future.
contents of and any opinions contained in this article may not necessarily
reflect the opinions of Capricorn Society Ltd.