As much as 2020 was a pain in the butt for small businesses everywhere, it was also full of valuable lessons for those who paid attention. A handful of collision repairers in North America refused to fall prey to the challenges faced last year. Some business leaders charged ahead, growing and improving their businesses, while many others facing the same challenges fell victim. As always, I am curious about what sets these businesses and the people who lead them apart.
The first differentiator
There were several practical factors that we noticed which enabled savvy body shops to learn and grow during this time. However, as is always the case, the biggest differentiating factor was quite simply attitude. Successful people always seem to approach problems and challenges in a very different way than those who become victims of those same problems and challenges.
It’s not that high performers necessarily like problems, but they seem to embrace them with a sense of curiosity as opposed to fear or avoidance. I would compare this attitude to a curious child who, despite being nervous about dismantling their new walkie-talkie set, will take it apart anyway just to discover how it works! I believe this is a healthy mindset for business owners who live in such uncertain times as we do now. Changing fear and victimhood into a proactive problem-solving mentality is at the foundation of success in our modern collision repair world.
Once shops approach circumstances with a positive mental attitude, several other factors come into play for those dominating right now. First, it is important to understand that the majority of shops still primarily perform collision repair with insurers as their primary source of income. This is what we call a “red ocean.” It is red because you are competing with many other sharks who will fight you for the same pool of work.
The red ocean of collision repair is ominously occupied by large private equity players who depend on their relationship with insurers to survive. These are the “Great White Sharks” of the red ocean. As an independent repairer, one must ask themselves if this is the pool they want to swim in?
I whole-heartedly believe that independents can survive and thrive in these waters if they are willing to play that game better than the big boys. in my opinion, the best way to play this game better is by leveraging loyal customers and building a brand so strong in your market that it makes the competition nearly irrelevant. Most shops do not do a good job of this. They simply focus on doing a slightly better job at processing insurance claims than their big competitors instead of being laser focused on building loyal raving fans each time a customer walks in the front door!
For those tired of drowning in the red ocean, might I suggest finding a blue ocean instead? A blue ocean, as it is described in Blue Ocean Strategy, a book written by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, is the ocean where there are a lot of opportunities and not a lot of hungry sharks. This is the ocean many successful collision players seem to be shifting their attention to lately. Some are seeking specialization, OE certifications, fleet repairs, express services on customer pay work, and other profitable sources of work overlooked by other shops.
The biggest opportunity to grow your business.
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is how to serve customers differently. Many of my most successful clients paid attention and developed new, more efficient ways to interact with customers while enhancing the customer experience along the way. Many found ways to offer drop-off and pick-up services in conjunction with using photo app technologies to source work and build customer relationships without them driving across town to the service center.
People often ask me, “What is the biggest opportunity to grow my collision business?” I always say… “Simple… your customer.” Instead of shops trying to out-compete one another for work, they could turn their existing customer base into an army of supporters.
Looking at our shops differently
Another overlooked opportunity shops can take advantage of to start dominating the competition is the all-important infrastructure of their own business. While many shops scurry around attempting to survive, top shops spend as much time as possible reinforcing the foundation of their business for the long haul.
This is another reason I believe some shops are coming through the pandemic so much better than others. They simply have a stronger and more sustainable business model. I am not only talking about cash reserves, which certainly will help, but areas like culture, retaining A players on the team, and the repeatable processes they develop to reduce chaos.
Which ocean will you swim in?
Shop owners have never had more opportunity for successful growth than they do right now. It all starts with believing it, avoiding the tendency to feel like a victim, and then finding all the opportunities contained within the challenges.
As independent collision repairers now is the time to determine which ocean to swim in. You can be a fish and get swallowed up. Or perhaps you can become the shark’s dreaded foe, the dolphin, and protect your corner of the red ocean. Or perhaps you can be a powerful creature of your own making dominating the waters of your own blue ocean!
If you truly want to DOMINATE the Competition this year
click here and sign-up for our new online course ‘Dominating the Competition’! With the 6 Step Framework in this training, I’ll help you build a custom plan for your business to stop competing and start dominating.