‘Everything Old is New Again’

I have been following a lot of the discussions around at the moment concerning contemporary styles of leadership and how that impacts on the industry.

The Oxford Dictionary defines leadership as, “the action of leading a group of people or an organisation or the ability to do this”.

That’s a pretty broad definition and perhaps one of the reasons that the term can be so easily misinterpreted.

I’m particularly fascinated by what a contemporary style of leadership is? My experience is only of good and bad leadership. Style has always been a matter of circumstance. Then there is the ongoing debate about whether leaders and born or made? I doubt the answer to that question will ever be determined and does it really matter?

Exceptional communication skills, empathy, humility and a selflessness have always been synonymous with the best leaders. The ability to work hard has always been a given.

Great leaders have always built skill and leadership within their organisations. They take great joy and satisfaction in the success of others and encourage innovation and a questioning mind.

The best book I could ever recommend on this issue is, “It’s Your Ship” by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff.


There is nothing New in the principles outlined in this book.

They just work.

A Road to Nowhere……


In Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll has an exchange between Alice and the Cat about where she is going.

The Cat says, ” how do you get ‘there’ when you don’t know where ‘there’ is?

Over the years this exchange has formed the basis of quotes like ….”if you don’t know where you’re going then any road will get you
there” and “if you don’t know where you’re going then you’re sure to get there”.

I think, in the main, we’d all like to know where we are going or at least how we got there.

In order to do that we need a few signposts and a bit of a plan.

An industry that reacts a lot to outside influence can often get a bit lost in those influences. It’s always important to look at what sort of KPI’s apply in each business and across the industry.
Usually the mention of KPI’s has people throwing their hands up in horror at the enormity of the task you’ve just set them. More administration, more detail. More navel gazing over the whole business.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

Picking an area of the business, rather than the whole business is the way to go. ‘Hasten slowly’ as an old headmaster of mine use to say.

Set some simple KPI’s in this one area and communicate them across the business. Make sure both the forwards and the backs in your business both know the game plan. Don’t assume. It’s their business to you know.

In selecting an area to start with, do some analysis around the part of the business that is most used and this will not always be the ‘sexiest’ part of the business.

Golfers will often try in vain to improve performance by just hitting it further. The driver is big, it’s loud and it’s dramatic. In fact, the only club they use on every hole is the putter.

One less out per hole means 18 less strokes.

The signposts you set out need to be visible, achievable and realistic.

An additional benefit is in the presentation of the business to the outsider or investor. The fact that you can demonstrate signposts, KPI’s, call them what you will is reassuring to everyone. It the hallmark of a proactive business, not a reactive one.

Evolution Vs. Innovation?

An innocent phrase in an article I recently read caught my attention. It was a powerful sentence in an otherwise unremarkable PR piece from the Mazda marketing team linked to the release of the all new Mazda MX-5:

“Innovate in order to preserve” was the motto for the fourth generation, as the development team searched for innovations that go beyond simple evolution”. 


As simple as it is, this powerful statement could be linked directly to the industry we work in and all the stakeholders sitting at the table (or punching-on in NSW) at the moment.

Evolution is the key to survival for most species, but sometimes evolving is simply not enough. Just because we evolve to become something else, to take on a new form, or to develop a new ability does not guarantee our survival. What if, as an species, we are evolving at a slower rate than our prey? What if we are evolving at a slower rate than a bigger, meaner predator that likes to hang out in our neck of the woods?

What if we have been so busy fighting and beating each other up (over the NSW parliamentary enquiry) lately that we actually stopped evolving and stagnated?

It is not simply enough that our industry and our repairers evolve and accept change. It is not enough to want to hold on to what we have, and to want back what we had before. We must also innovate, not only to survive, but also to preserve the best parts of our trade and our craftsman heritage.

Commodore History

 Evolution alone can’t make you great and also can’t guarantee your survival..

If we want to avoid a future repair landscape that is devoid of craftsmen and quality, we must innovate in order to preserve our craft and our passion for quality. We must find new ways of doing what we have always done.

If we want to create a future for small business owners in collision repairs, we must innovate in order to preserve our craft for the next generation of repairers. We must find new ways of running our businesses more sustainably.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”Charles Darwin

Adapting to changing market conditions is critical to survival for small businesses. Accepting and adapting to change does not mean that you need to drop your quality standards. It does not mean you need to build a super-shop. It does not mean you need to give up on your beliefs.

Accepting and adapting to change does mean that you need to get smarter about the way you do business. Insurers are customers, just like everyone else on the planet. They are also a business. Insurers need to make a buck and they need to have repairers around to repair motor cars.

Like all customers, they decide what they are prepared to pay for goods and services. Goods and services we provide to them in competition with other repairers. Like most markets, there are many suppliers of our particular goods and services and there are several big customers out there looking for a good deal.

There is only so much money the customer is prepared to pay for the services we have to offer. Guess what? In a year or so from now, these customers will be looking to pay even a little bit less than they are today.

Day-in Day-out the repairers squabble and fight for a share of the available work. The repairers argue about who the real customer is, bickering with the insurer and each other while the policy holder is politely ignored. Repairers moan about how the customer (insurer) does not pay a fair price for a “quality job”. All the while the policy holder is still being ignored.

We’ll happily fight for a few extra dollars to re-skin a door or to paint a sill panel, but we do nothing about the booth sitting idle for 3 hours every day.

We scrimp and save on the price of masking tape and budget abrasives, but do nothing about the hundreds of lost production hours caused by stoppages in our production systems.

We complain about unfair hourly labour rates, but ignore the fact that most repairers still don’t know what their break-even point is or their shop hourly rates are.

We must “Innovate in order to preserve”… But what is it we are trying to preserve? In years gone past there was plenty of fat on the carcass for repairers to enjoy. We could make money in this game without really trying too hard. We could make good money without actually knowing very much about our business, our rates or our customers. Some repairers were clever or greedy (or both) and made a lot of money while the going was good. Others made an honest living plodding along and enjoying for decades a certain degree of commercial innocence. Long-termpreservation of this way-of-life was never going to happen.

As an industry we grew fat and content while our (insurance) customers evolved, grew smarter and learned a great deal about us. The insurers saw the waste and inefficiency in our businesses that they were paying for. They saw the excess and the profits that some repairers flaunted as they paraded around in their luxurious vehicles. The insurers evolved to meet the changing demands in the retail insurance market place and now they are forcing us to evolve as well.

How will you embrace evolution and encourage innovation in your business?

Will you embrace new processes to add value to every vehicle you repair?

Will you find new ways to increase staff utilisation rates or reduce cycle times?

Will you maximise the efficiency rates of your highly skilled technicians with lower skilled support staff?

Will you innovate and evolve in order to preserve your livelihood?


Innovate in order to preserve……..what?

OEM Repair information

In recent months, repair methods have been a hot topic of conversation throughout all areas of the industry. As our industry gradually matures from a low-tech cottage industry into a professional modern outfit we see more and more repairers seeking out technical repair information.

I-CAR can be largely credited for bringing a new level of professional standards to body repairs by offering current and relevant post-apprenticeship training and education in Australia. As repairers and insurance assessors have undertaken training by I-CAR, they have been exposed to the critical need for body repair information.

As more repairers develop a greater understanding and appreciation for the engineering and complexity of the modern motor vehicle, they have also started to understand that the repair processes of yesterday are no longer valid.

A flat rack, spirit level, tram gauge and an Oxy set will get you so far, as long as you are happy to keep working on VN Commodores. In recent years we were all wrapped up in the hype of Inverter spot welders, Plasma Cutters and Silicone Bronze MIG welders.

Tooling and equipment is useless and a waste of money…..If you don’t have the right information.

For every repairer out there are researching OEM repair methods, there are 5 that are not. Despite improved access to OEM data, some repairers continue to quote repair vehicles without researching HOW to repair them first!


For every Assessor out there asking the questions about HOW the vehicle will be repaired, there are 50 more still concerned over HOW MUCH more it is going to cost to repair it right.

Having access to the right data, when you need it in a format that you can understand is a challenge for both Insurers and repairers alike. Dealers are also finding their resources stretched by having to research and provide methods for hundreds of vehicle repairs every week.

Supported by Suncorp, Thatcham has made a foray into the Australian market with the E-Scribe product replacing the old and poorly rated Thatchamnet. Until 2014, there were not really any viable alternatives to the Thatcham offering if you were looking for a single-source of information for all your body repair information.

Many repairers also have an issue with the Suncorp endorsed Escribe program as the methods often contradict OEM processes. There is also the underlying issue that Thatcham is funded by insurers to research ways of preventing accidents and minimising the claims cost when they do occur.

While technology researched by Thatcham undoubtedly reduces injuries and fatalities on our roads, the organisations primary role is to research prevention and cost reduction technologies to reduce claims costs for insurers. Most repairers would argue that Thatchams efforts are assisting in the demise of the industry by leading to:

  • lower incidents of accidents,
  • lower severity of accidents when they do occur
  • More bolt-on components reducing labour sales
  • More plastic, alloy and non-repairable/disposable components
  • Greater complexity by introducing hi-tech components


 “…our purpose is to help insurers to reduce claims cost and … how much a car is damaged during an accident..” Thatcham CEO Peter Shaw.

Accessing multiple OEM sites is expensive and time-consuming for anyone brave enough to try and navigate the various dealer portals. Repairers argue that time taken to research methods is not being paid for by insurers and in some cases can take hours.

Earlier this year we ran an article on a new player in the global market, Ezi Methods.

(read the earlier article here). Since then, the Ezi Methods team has made excellent progress in both in Australia and internationally with the continued roll out of the program. Boasting an impressive client list of both prestige and general body repairers, Insurers and independent assessing companies; Ezi Methods is providing simple, rapid and cost effective access to OEM body repair information.

Unlike Escribe, the Ezi Methods body repair information is derived ONLY from OEM repair data. Many customers report they are keeping vehicles in their shops where previously they would have been moved to an OEM accredited repairer due to a lack of repair information being available. Likewise, insurers are also confident that repairers with access to the system are able to provide high quality OEM approved repairs without the “badged shop price tag”.

Another system we road-tested at The Crash Repair Blog was Alldata (aka: No-Data). Like many repairers we spoke to we discovered the gaping holes in it’s body repair data base and with a premium price-tag, has left many repairers feeling like they didn’t get bang for their buck.

After reviewing the Ezi Methods system this month, we notice the continued production of methods to suit the Australian market. The team have recently listed all common structural methods for:

  • 150 Series Toyota Corolla
  • BL Series Mazda 3
  • 7th Generation Toyota Hilux
  • GD Series Hyundai i30
  • VF series Holden Commodore

Over the past couple of months, The Crash Bloggers have spoken to dozens of repairers, assessors, claims managers and industry commentators about accessing data. We saw evidence and heard stories of repairers quoting vehicles and starting repairs, only to then realise they didn’t have the right equipment to finish the job or had already repaired the vehicle incorrectly. Not having access to the the right data before writing the quote is now costing Australian repairers tens of thousands of dollars in expensive rectifications and un-planned equipment purchases

A huge benefit of accessing repair data is ensuring that you do the job right-first-time. Unlike most other systems we have used; Ezi Methods allows repairers to quickly and easily prepare a complete estimate for a quality repair that unscrupulous loss assessors can’t argue with. Without needing to use a whole box of paper for printing, Ezi-Methods shows all the OEM approved cut and joint locations and repair techniques ensuring the vehicle repair methodology can’t be disputed.

For more information on this inexpensive, cutting-edge service contact the Ezi Methods team here.

Is two out of three good enough?

Many repairers are asking themselves and others what they need to do to find more work. What is the secret to getting on an insurers list? How do I get an OEM badge? And ultimately, what can we do to make more money?

In a previous article “Looking for more work?” we discussed the current trend of a smaller group of repairers securing a larger portion of the available repair work, while the remaining much larger group of repairers is having to share an ever shrinking pool of the remaining work. You can read the article here. What we are discovering in our travels across the country is that more and more of the available insurance work is being directed or steered into a shrinking network of repairers.




Why do insurance work providers want to deal with fewer repairers? Because they want to have fewer specialists to manage in their supply chain.

Why do insurers want to have fewer specialists in their supply chain? Because it is easier to deal with a smaller group of consistent and reliable specialists than it is to deal with a larger group specialists that vary in quality, service delivery, capability, capacity and reliability.

Why is it easier to deal with a smaller group of suppliers? Well if you have to ask this, they you probably aren’t on the insurers preferred list anymore.

It is sad to say that our industry, like many others, does not generally embrace change. As craftsmen and specialists we have the natural mindset to be focussed on ourselves. We see ourselves as the most important member on the collision repair supply chain. Because it is all about us we have a $100k chassis rack in the corner with bumpers stored on it, while our customers drive around in a $2000 loan car! Being technically focussed, we acknowledge change in vehicle technology and welding technology but have overlooked the change in our own people. We overlooked the change in our customers and we decided not to listen when our customers started asking for us to deliver something more than “Quality maaate!

Repairers will (reluctantly) invest in a new welder, a new paint system, a chassis rack or an electronic measuring system because it is all about them, all about quality. But, rarely will they invest in systems, training or procedures. Rarely are they interested in investing resources in recruiting and retaining high quality staff. Training budgets are unheard of and “employee satisfaction” is a relatively unheard of term.

Is your attention focused within the 4 walls of your workshop? Or, is it focussed on your customer, the REAL customer?

So, even with the best chassis rack, an Inverter spot welder and an electronic measuring system in the shed, why can’t you get any more work?

Chances are it’s because you are missing one or two of the three crucial golden elements your insurance and retail customers are looking for.

What are the magic three elements that all the successful shops have in common? What are the super shops delivering that you are not? What are the three key issues that affect your own purchases in a retail or trade transaction?


Quality, Price and Timeliness: 

Pure Gold or an Impossible Utopia?

Insurers are consumers just like you and I. And like all consumers they have these three basic needs. When there is a requirement to purchase a product or service these three needs are weighed up by the consumer and a decision is made to purchase or not to purchase: Can you give me what I want, at a price I’m prepared to pay in a time frame that suits me?

How it happens every day in our world:

Customer: “I want to buy some of the services you sell.”

Repairer: “Great, you have come to the right place we are the best repairer in the town!”

Customer: “How do I know you will do a really good job on my car?”

Repairer: “Mate, we are the best repairer in town, I already told you that.”

Customer: “Um, Ok, I guess all these certificates on the wall must mean something, right?

How much will it cost me to have this job done then?”

Repairer: “Well, there are a lot of different variable involved and I can give you an estimate, here, I’ll write the price on the back of this business card for you… we don’t have time to write a quote for everyone that walks in the door you know.”

Customer: “Right, so is this a fixed price then?”

Repairer: “No, we can’t give you a fixed price, what if we find more damage, or it takes longer to fix than we thought, I don’t have a crystal ball anymore. The apprentice dropped it and the bloody insurer wouldn’t pay to get it fixed!”

Customer: “Hmm, So I’ll have to take your word on the quality of your repairs and you can’t give me a definite price… How long will it take?”

Repairer: “Well, how long is a piece of string? If you drop it off on Monday you should get it back by Friday.”

Customer: “Should get it back by Friday, when will I know?”

Repairer: “Well, if you call me on Friday afternoon whoever answers the phone should be able to give you an idea of when you can expect it back.”

Customer: “So, I have to take your word that you are the best repairer in town, you can’t give me a reliable price and I could be up for a lot more than what you have quoted me. And, on top of that, you can’t tell me with any certainty when I can expect to have my car back?”

Repairer: “So, when do you want to book it in then…?”

This may seem like a familiar conversation to most insurers and some repairers. Those in denial would claim to be nothing like this when it comes to dealing with customers. Sadly, the vast majority of repairers actually do this every day to their insurance customers and these same repairers are asking why the insurers are not sending them work anymore.

Every single day, the vast majority of our repair network treats their insurance customers just like this. Every day we fail to deliver consistent Quality at a suitable Price in a reasonable Timeframe. The best most can manage is one out of three and a few can manage two at a stretch.

If you do high quality work in an appropriate time frame but your price is too high, the customer will walk.

If you do low quality work in an appropriate time frame and your price is right, the customer will walk.

If you do high quality work at the right price but it takes you too long to get the customer in and takes you even longer to finish the job, the customer will still walk away.

In years gone past, two out of three was acceptable. Two out of three could build you a successful business. But these days the insurance customer needs all three and nothing less. They need you to deliver all three to maintain policy holder retention and a competitive edge in the market.


To get the work and get the deals you are going to need to deliver:

  • Every vehicle repaired to an acceptable quality standard, not too high and not too low.
  • Every vehicle repaired for an appropriate and acceptable price.
  • Every vehicle repaired in an appropriate time frame.

If you can manage all three of these things, you stand a very good chance of securing insurance and OEM approved repairer status. Repair facilities that deliver on all three of these points tend to be more professional, more successful and attract a higher grade of customer and employees.

Insurers don’t really give a toss if you have the latest spray booth, the fanciest welders or a whole bunch of certificates on the wall. They want to know why you aren’t job costing every job. They want to know why it takes you 12 days to do 20 hours work on a vehicle. They want to know how you are making an effort to cut down your repair times. They want to know what the price will be and they want you to stick to it!

Because we didn’t listen over the years when the customer asked us to deliver on these three golden requirements, they forced their will upon us. The insurer can’t control our quality or timeliness but they can control cost. They can enforce rates and times and they can now even enforce where we buy our parts. Because we didn’t give them what they asked for they pushed us around and we (sometimes) pushed back. Now as the control of work is taken away from us we sit back and watch the clever repairers soak it all up. The clever repairers re-tooled, up-skilled their staff and delivered the golden three: An acceptable quality repair, at an acceptable price in a reasonable time-frame.

Can you offer the price, quality and timeframes your customers really need?

Can you consistently and sustainably deliver the prices, quality and time frames that your competitors are achieving?

Is two out of three good enough?

Innovation+ heads to Tasmania

Innovation+ Bodyshop Business Solutions is heading to the Apple Isle.

Strategic Partners Robayne Distributors are bringing Innovation+ specialist bodyshop consultants to Tasmania for a state wide visit tour of the industry.

Jason Green, state manager for Robayne was positive about the market conditions in Tasmania and was eager to bring new services and support to his local customer base; “We want to make sure that our clients and the local industry in Tasmania has every opportunity to access and take advantage of the services and support on offer to repairers up on the mainland”.

Robayne Distributors have three branches in Tasmania and have an effective network coverage of the entire state. Robayne supply high quality consumables, tools and equipment to the bodyshop network and distribute a selection of refinishing products including a range from Axalta, and BASF from their branches in Burnie, Launceston and Hobart.

“Tasmania has a great network of excellent body shops and we are looking forward to bringing the Innovation+ team back down to Hobart. Innovation+ CEO Gary Steel had a chance to visit a few weeks ago and we are looking forward to Steve coming down to run some workshops and information sessions with us.”

The Innovation+ team has built a great working relationship with a select group of our customers in WA and SA and has been working closely with the Master Collision Repair Specialists in Adelaide and the Car Craft group in WA and QLD.

The Innovation+ workshops and information sessions will cover a range of topics including:

· An insight into current Australian Insurance industry practices, including what is happening in the rest of Australia and internationally, how insurers are actively and effectively steering the work, and how to maintain your client base.

· What your customers really want, including who your REAL customers are, what they expect from you as a repairer, and what they really need from you as their supplier.

How together, we can deliver sustainable, profitable vehicle repairs into the future, including effective ways to produce more with less, reducing your key-to-key times and gaining a true competitive advantage over your competition

Some Innovation+ cutting edge products and services, including Ezi Methods, The Lean Transformation, Remote Damage Estimating, and our Business Best Practice Networks

For more details on the workshops, information sessions or participating in the Business Best Practice networks, contact Jason Green at jgreen@robayne.com.au

Are you a passenger?

There are two kinds of people in business just like there are two kinds of people on a bus: A driver and the passengers.

The passengers are along for the ride, they don’t get to say who else is on the bus or who gets to sit next to them. The passenger has no control over the bus, its speed or course or the ultimate destination. A passenger is reactive in nature, because they have no control over their environment; they are forced to react to their surroundings. If the bus is too late the passengers are late to work. If the bus was too early, the passengers missed it and have to wait for the next one, and they will still be late for work. The only thing the passenger can control is where he gets on or off. Nothing more and nothing less.

The driver, however, gets to do a lot more. He gets to set the course, the speed and decides if you are allowed on the bus or not. He charges the fare, takes care of the lads playing up in the back row and makes sure the little old lady gets a seat.

In business, the driver has a similar role: The driver sets the course of the business, decides what he wants from it and decides how fast or slow the journey will be. The driver of the business has control over his destiny and the journey, so long as the traffic doesn’t get in his way and he doesn’t get a flat tyre.

The collision repair sector is no different except for one thing; none of us are quite sure of who is driving the bus!


If you aren’t driving the bus, you can’t know exactly where you’ll end up.

Contrary to popular belief, owning a repair shop makes most of us passengers. With the exception of a few really smart cookies, we have little control over the forces that dictate supply and demand for our services. We can’t control the weather, the economy and we certainly can’t control the insurance companies.

So, if we are all passengers and we don’t know who is driving the bus, where the hell are we all going? As an industry, we have been wandering around in the dark for the last 20 years. The bulk of the industry’s overall repair capacity is made up of largely mum-and-dad operators, small business, cottage industry if you like. By and large most small businesses in our sector are being run the same way they were in the 80’s. Sure, there is more technology creeping into (most) repairers, more sophisticated computers and estimating packages, etc. But in the end, what we do has not really changed for 20-30 years.

Our bus got on a roundabout at some stage and forgot to get off. Meanwhile the Insurers bus, the OEM bus, the Consumers bus and every other vehicle on the road has kept moving ahead to where ever it is they are headed. Meanwhile, our profit margins slip away and there is little any of us can do about it…. Right?


We could get our arses off the bus do something else for a while. Or, we could grab a hold of the steering wheel and take control. Just because you have always been a passenger doesn’t mean you always have to be.

Time to buck the trends?

Time to think outside the square?

Perhaps it’s time to get your very own bus and drive the great big bastard where ever you want it to go!?

You just need to do something different to kick-start the change process. You just need to make a decision to do something different today from what you did yesterday. Making tomorrow a little bit better than today is a great way to get your own business back on course. Being prepared to think and act differently is the only way gain a sustainable competitive edge in a tough 2014 market place.

A tough federal budget and the resulting belt-tightening from the community in the coming months may further reduce the amount of work coming in the door as discretionary spending reduces. What we may also see is larger sections of the community moving into lower cost insurance policies from no-frills insurers, or, people dropping comprehensive cover to third party only.

Right now might just be the perfect time to start driving your own business in a whole new direction. Now might be the time to get off the roundabout and really work out what it is that you do and what it is that you want from your business and your life.

When did you last tried something really new, and not just something a little bit different?

A spell in the driver’s seat might do a lot of us a world of good, it might even help a few to get off the bus all-together and start directing traffic!

Now might be a great time to try something different. Repairers making the effort to change the way they do business are reaping the rewards while the rest are content complain about their lot.

Is it time to stop reacting to the world around you?

Is it time to stop being a passenger?

Ezi Methods comes to Australia

A new single source of OEM body repair information has arrived in Australia. Distributed in Australia and New Zealand by authorised distributor Innovation+ Bodyshop Business solutions; Ezi Methods is a low cost, simple to use program that has all of the OEM data available in one place for one low subscription fee.

At present, Ezi Methods have more than 5000 OEM repair methods listed for over 400 vehicle makes and variants and are listing 30 – 50 new repair methods every day.

The site also includes OEM suspension repair information (including the listing of any single use nuts, bolts, etc), specific welding, adhesive or structural foam application requirements. Ezi Methods also lists wheel alignment data for many makes & models.

Ezi Methods has proven to be a low cost, simple to use, single point of access for OEM body and suspension repair procedures for all modern motor vehicles and is saving bodyshop owners time and money.


  • More than 5000 OEM repair methods listed for over 400 vehicle makes and variants, Increasing the listings by30 – 50 new repair methods every day.
  • Majority of the top 20 selling vehicles from 2013 in the Australian market represented.
  • Rapid local support (located in South Australia) for subscribers to source and provide OEM methods that are not listed (new or unusual vehicles).
  • 100% web based access to ONLY OEM based information (no home-made or “alternative” methods allowed).
  • Includes suspension repair and replacement procedures, also includes listing for safety-critical single use items (nuts, bolts, pins, etc.) and torque settings.
  • Details OEM welding requirements and specific glues, adhesives, foams, etc. where required.
  • Is much less expensive than competitor offering.
  • Is easier and cheaper to use than multiple OEM specific site subscriptions.
  • Data is downloaded in .PDF format and can be accessed from any PC, Tablet or smart device.
  • Includes OEM panel gapping tolerances and torque settings for crucial bolt-on panels and components.For information on pricing and subscriptions, contact Innovation+ Bodyshop Business Solutions at: ezimethods@innovationbbs.com.au

How valuable is good market information?

Let’s start with another question first: What are the differences between Data, Information and Intelligence?

Data: Data is generally useless on its own. A single number, a single incident or a single result which, when viewed on its own is pretty meaningless.

Information: Information is a collection of data or a data set. By grouping individual pieces of data together we can start to create a bigger picture. By collating the individual pieces of data into a logical pattern or system, we can create information.

Intelligence: Intelligence is what we have as a result of processing data into information, then using that information to identify trends, threats and opportunities. By analysing current and past information, we can make more accurate predictions about the future.

If you don’t collect data from your business, you won’t have any information. If you don’t have any accurate information, how will you make sound business decisions?

Many repairers struggle to see the value in non-physical things. They don’t see the value in good administration systems, marketing or process development. They would rather spend money on equipment and hardware than on training or developing systems. Data, Information and Intelligence are no different. Most repairers would have no idea what to do with good information so they don’t value it as a commodity.

Consider the CIA, ASIO, Mossad or MI5. These government intelligence agencies spend billions of dollars collecting vast amounts of data from a variety of sources. They pour over it, filter it, screen it and turn the data into really good reliable information. With this information, their respective governments can make strategic, political and economic decisions and policies.

Commercial corporations are no different; take Toyota, Microsoft, Sony and Coca Cola as examples. As commercial businesses, they also spend millions of dollars collecting data and generating information. The more these companies know about their customers, their competitors and the global markets in which they operate; the more opportunity they have to be successful.

As an industry employing thousands of people directly and tens of thousands in-directly, we don’t collect data. As an industry repairing millions of motor vehicles every year; we don’t produce solid information.

As an industry we don’t have any reliable intelligence to guide us through the murky market conditions.

So where do you get your information and data? 


Do you talk to your local MTA reps? Do you listen to the gossip from the insurance assessors and sales reps? Do you read the industry mags and trawl through web pages like this?

If your business doesn’t have good internal sources of data capture and also doesn’t have good sources for gathering external information, how on earth can you make market predictions, business decisions or long term plans?


  • What do you really know about your business?
  • What do we really know about our industry?
  • What information do you have on your local market place or on national and global trends?
  • How many repairers are there in the nation?
  • How many people are directly employed in collision repair businesses?
  • How many vehicles are repaired every year in Victoria?
  • What is the national average repair price?

It is alarming to think how little we really know about our industry sector. Many of the reports out there are using old information and often group repairers in with other businesses like Auto Trimmers, Sparkies and Mechanics.

In an era where repairers are trying to get more professional, more efficient and more profitable, the thirst for good reliable information has never been greater. And the complete absence of good market intelligence has never been more obvious.

Insurers probably have the best sources of data available, they certainly have some great information and rarely will they share it. For years we have been capturing data and providing them with information, often without knowing it. We provide them with detailed applications for contracts. We provide them with detailed electronic breakdowns of repair costs. We feed them average repair prices and cycle times. The insurers vacuum up all this information just like MI5 or ASIO. They filter it, clean it and get a very clear picture of the repair landscape by region and by suburb. The Insurance customer now knows more about the repairers than the repairers know about themselves.

So how can you find out more?

Collect data, lots of it, even if you think you don’t need it right now, collect it anyway. Create your own information. Analyse the data sets you are creating and start to identify trends in your sales, cycle times and average repair prices. Find out what your hourly rates are and your average repair costs.


Is it time to top listening to the rumour mill and the gossip spread by assessors and sales reps?

Getting outside your own four walls is one of the best ways to get information. Get out of the office, get out of your normal networks and open up your mind. There is a whole range of specialists and consultants out there eager and willing to give you their time and to impart their knowledge on those willing to listen.

Get out and attend some conferences. These are a great place to meet people from all over the country and hear from specialists that have national and global experience. The great thing about a conference is that everyone wants to be there and they are all looking to find a better way forward.


Sam Street and the team at Paint & Panel have gone to the efforts of putting together a stellar event in Perth with a line-up of fantastic speakers. If you think you don’t have time to get to Perth to see this, then you probably need to attend more than you realise.

Every professional industry has professional development events. They hold seminars and conferences that allow business people the opportunity to stay up with market trends and identify new opportunities that may exist elsewhere in the world.

Generally speaking, the collision repair industry does not do professional development. Coincidentally, we also happen to be viewed as a pretty unprofessional industry. We don’t do seminars or conferences and we don’t take adult education seriously as we should. Let’s face it, anyone can open a panel shop but only a few are really good at running a business.

Is it time to get off your arse and get out there, to open your mind, to open your eyes and open your ears?

The latest paint & panel Live in Perth has a line-up of presenters with collective international and local experience of more than 200 years.


Are you working IN your business or working ON your business?

Are you collecting data and information?

What is good information worth to you and your business?

Are you watching the competition?

In a recent conversation between friends in the industry I picked up on a particular thread. A younger body shop owner was chatting to an more “experienced” body shop owner and was looking for some advice and guidance:

Comment from younger man: “….. it must have been tough building your business back then, with all the competition being more established than you were. That’s where I am now, trying to get started and grow my business but the competition is making it hard to get going.”

Response from more “Experienced” man: “That’s exactly where you are going wrong. I never worried about the competition. I just focussed on being the very best I could be and doing the best possible job of running my business. If you do this you will be successful because you stop trying to copy everybody else. Build and run a business that is right for you, not like what everyone else is doing…”

The more experienced business man went on to tell the young Bodyshop owner to stop worrying about the guy down the road and to stop worrying about what everyone else was doing.

A large portion of our industry members waste a lot of time on the competition. They watch the shops all around them to see what they are doing. They talk about the other repairers to find out more about what they are doing, how much work they have and what gear they are using. We gossip about them and rubbish them because we are jealous, angry or disappointed in our own abilities.

As body shop owners, we spend a lot of time talking about how the little guy down the road is making it hard for us and also how the bigger operator up the road is taking all the work and doing it for nothing.

Without realising it, the body shop owner has spent so many years watching and talking about the opposition and worrying about the competition, they forgot to become the competition.

“Be the best you can be and do the best possible job of running your business…”

If you focus on being the best you can, and doing the best possible job every day, the competition becomes irrelevant. By building a business that successfully understands and exploits the customers desires and needs, what every one else does doesn’t matter anymore.

Do you really understands what your customer wants and needs?

Do you consistently deliver what the customer wants, when the customer wants it, and at a price the customer is prepared to pay?

If you can answer YES to these three questions, it would be safe to say that you have become the competition.


When you become the competition you don’t need to worry about looking over your shoulder all the time. You don’t need to worry about what everyone else is doing, because everyone else is busy trying to catch up to you, trying to copy you, trying to be like you.

They will be too busy talking about you and complaining about how you have taken all their work and have stolen all the good technicians to ever really become a threat to your business.


Is it time to stop sitting on the fence, waiting to see what everyone else is going to do?

Is it time to start making business decisions that are right for you, rather than what is right for everyone else?   

A few years ago the buzz in the industry was “fast-track”. Everyone had to have a fast-track area set up in their body shop. It was the supposed Holy Grail to fixing the bottlenecks in the paint shop and every one ran out to buy the gear because the guys down the road had it and the sales reps said it was a good thing. 10 years later we have an industry of repairers kitted out with fast-track bays yet we have the same average key-to-key time and less work around to play with.

These days we all get excited over aluminum repair bays, computerised measuring systems and automatic spot welders. Will some repairers need the gear? Sure they will. Will all repairers need the gear? Absolutely not.

Forget about the competition. Forget about what the sales reps are telling you and forget about what everyone else thinks is right for your business. Thinks about what you need and what is right for you.

  • Do you need to repair every car in the state?
  • Do you need the Suncorp or IAG badges?
  • Do you need to apply for the RACQ tender?


Like their friends the chickens, turkeys also like to sit on fences..

What’s right for you might be low-volume high-paying work. Or, it might be high-volume low-paying work. You might specialise in one make of vehicle and become known far and wide as the specialist when it comes to that particular make.

What is wrong for you is trying to push high volumes of low paying work through a conventional shop just because the guy down the road is doing it. What is wrong is signing up for a contract out of fear and not having the resources or infrastructure to make the contract work for you.


Sitting on the fence and waiting leaves you exposed to falling further behind than you already are. Sitting on the fence makes you a “me too” organisation that is always trying to catch-up. Waiting and watching leaves you slow to react to the rapidly changing market place.

Is it time to focus on being the best you can be and doing the best possible job?

The problem with the theory is this: to do it successfully you need to think and act differently to the way you do at the moment. When you start thinking and acting differently you might run the risk of becoming successful……..

When you become the best at what you do, there is the added risks that:

  • People will notice you,
  • People will be drawn to you, and
  • People might start to believe in you.

When you believe in what you do, people will start to believe in you. When you start to change the way you think and act in your business, you might be at risk of becoming a market leader, a pioneer or of building a business working at the cutting edge.

If you just keep sitting on the fence you are really only at risk of falling off getting a sore arse!

Is it time to forget about the competition?