CARSTAR hosted its Acceleration 2019 Conference in Chicago from July 10 to 12, bringing together franchise partners, vendors, insurance carriers and industry leaders from across North America.
The conference kicked off on the morning of July 10 with a “Soul Stroll” through the streets and parks of the windy city to raise funds and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. Over 300 participants walked for the cause in CARSTAR colours. Before the walk, Cystic Fibrosis Canada and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation presented awards to the top cystic fibrosis fundraisers in the CARSTAR network.
Post the walk, several pre-conference breakout sessions were held. Some of the sessions were: Bradley Tyberg from Mitchell discussing the CARSTAR/Mitchell Re-launch, New RepairCenter bundles, and ongoing training opportunities, among other things; a panel discussion on Developing & Training Women in the Industry with Cathy Shirtliff from CARSTAR Peterborough & Markham and Romena Deokinandan from CARSTAR Newmarket as the Canadian panelists; Mike Jones, President & Master Trainer, Discover Leadership Training speaking on the subject Developing a Smokin’ Hottt Culture; and Diane Chaîné, Luis Enriquez and Ian Ward from Progi discussing about the company’s new capacity planning solution.
Matt Bell, Vice President of Human Resources conducted the opening ceremony in the afternoon and moved on to update attendees regarding the new CARSTAR Foundation.
President Michael Macaluso took to the stage next to welcome everyone to the conference and share the plans of the network to advance the profitability of its franchise partners for the rest of this year and beyond.
Journey of the creators
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the network, CARSTAR founder Lirel Holt and Canadian founder Sam Mercanti came together to share stories of their success, challenges, and partnership throughout the period.
“This was initially an idea to bring a new level of professionalism to the collision repair industry and to offer resources to independent facility owners,” said Holt. “My fondest memories are of creating this model and building the best team. It was hard then and would be 10 times harder today.”
Narrating his memories about joining CARSTAR, Mercanti said, “CARSTAR was an incredible concept. We (Mercanti and Holt) met in November 1994 at NACE to put together a partnership. We were ready to go but the lawyers got in the way. We threw the lawyers out and made a deal.”
The first conference had 25 franchise partners in attendees. More than 1,100 franchise partners, vendors and industry members came together for the 30th edition this year.
Awards and close of Day 1
CARSTAR also honoured the Franchise Partner of the Year for both Canada and the U.S. The Canadian winner was Paul Cross, owner of CARSTAR Lindsay, CARSTAR Haliburton and CARSTAR Bancroft. Jamie White won from the U.S. side.
“These two franchise partners, Jamie White and Paul Cross, are the leaders of the CARSTAR brand now and for years to come,” said Macaluso. “Their commitment to excellent performance drives their success and the growth of our overall network. We’re proud to honour them with our CARSTAR Franchise Partner of the Year awards.”
Following a presentation on “The myths and truths of A.I for the automotive collision repair sector”, the first day of the conference closed with attendees visiting the Wrigley Field ballpark.
Updates and presentations
Post the opening ceremonies on July 11, Jacky Wu, EVP and Chief Financial Officer updated attendees regarding the Driven Brands portfolio and the network’s impact on the overall business.
Jeff Labanovich, General Manager CARSTAR Canada highlighted the importance of KPIs for modern collision repairers and also discussed the future of the industry. His U.S. counterpart Arlo Johnson commented on the relevance of industry relationships and shared his views on why customer experience is crucial for continued profitability.
Presentations on the second day of the conference included: Hannah Ross, Director of Marketing’s discussion on the subject of Marketing & Customer Experience; Jason Verlen’s views on Technology Driven Innovation; and Jay Baer’s presentation on Talk Triggers – Turn Your Customers Into Volunteer Marketers.
Several breakout sessions took place post the presentations. The day ended on an exciting note as the afternoon was dedicated to Vendor Expo. CARSTAR’s valued vendors came together to display their best and latest products and service offerings.
On July 12, attendees received development updates from Dave Foster, Vice President, Franchise Development, who highlighted the achievements of the past 12 months for the network. Matt Miano, Vice President, Procurement focussed on the value addition provided by the department to the entire network.
A presentation by Sean Carey talked about The Impact of Rapid Change to the Collision Industry. His discussion focused on how OEMs and Insurers will sustain and coexist in the evolving landscape and how collision repair networks like CARSTAR would benefit from the changes.
The third day also had two panel discussions. Carey hosted the first one consisting of John Eck from GM, Mark Zoba from Nissan and Joseph Marini/Dean Bruce from Ford. The OEM representatives touched on how their initiatives on certifications, ADAS and FNOL would impact the CARSTAR network.
Labanovich and Johnson led the panel of franchise partners who shared their individual approaches to driving performance and higher KPIs.
COO Dean Fisher delivered the closing remarks, looking back on the journey of the network throughout the 30 years.
Breakout sessions and a gala time
The third day of the conference saw several breakout sessions from morning till late afternoon. Since a variety of subjects were chosen, attendees had the chance to select the sessions they wished to attend.
The morning session had two options. The first one included two back-to-back discussions on The Future of Hiring Techs with CREF by Brandon Eckenrode, CREF and a presentation on Acceleration Through Footprint Growth by CARSTAR’s Development team. The second option was a discussion on Estimatics Best Practices presented by Marty Smith for the Canadian side and L.J. Burns for the U.S. side.
Conference attendees were able to select from three options for the post-lunch session. The session options included a presentation on Solving Your Personal Technician Shortage by Paul Gage, Owner and President, Performance Training Consultants; a discussion on Leadership vs Management: Skills for Accelerating Change by Paul Webb, Founder & Elle Artison, CEO, A Division of Paul Webb Training; or a talk on the subject Growing your business through Fleet by CARSTAR’s Driven Fleet Team.
The late afternoon session had three options as well: a discussion on Improving the Customer Service by Rosie Queen, Tracy Tuckett, Jennifer Paulino and Madison Gates; John Burns and Tony Mammone’s views on the subject Quality Control & Hard Stop Process- Is Your Store Set Up for Success?; or a talk by Brett Downs on the topic Grow & Sustain Your Supply Margins.
The conference ended with an awards ceremony and a gala dinner. The network presented awards to Canadian and the U.S. sides separately. The awards given away were for Top Cycle Time, Customer Experience, CARSTAR Rookie of the Year, CARSTAR Next Generation Award, Ironman Award, President’s Awards and Marketer of the Year. The network also presented Service Awards to facilities for completing 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years with the network.
The glitzy gala dinner brought the eventful conference to a glamorous close.