These three factors are among the most critical for future success, says Sylvain Seguin.
Sylvain Seguin serves as Vice President, Operations, Fix Network Canada. He started out as a collision repair technician and held a variety of increasingly senior sales and management roles before joining the Fix Network in 2018. Collision Management asked him to share some of his own industry experiences, as well as discuss some of the challenges impacting our industry and possible ways to effectively tackle them.
Based on your own career trajectory, what advice would you give to young people about pursuing opportunities in the collision repair industry?
When I look back, I consider it a milestone to achieve what I’ve been able to and be in the role I am today. I see a lot of young people who have been and are reluctant to get into this business, but the opportunities are there and it can be extremely rewarding. I’m living proof of that.
What does your current role entail?
As Vice President, Operations for the Fix Network I’m responsible for all brands within the network nationally. This includes not only Fix Auto and ProColor on the collision side, but also Speedy Auto Service and NOVUS Glass. This has given me a real opportunity to go outside my comfort zone as well as understand the mechanical and glass side of our operations— it’s fascinating and dynamic. It’s never the same from day to day.
We talk a lot about the challenges facing the industry, such as recruiting qualified technicians, vehicle complexity and pressures on profit margins. What are some of your thoughts on this?
I think finding and recruiting technicians and the right people for this industry is probably the most significant. Today, there’s no question, you need skilled, knowledgeable technicians. This is no longer a default career path. It’s one reason why our network has made the investments it has in our training centres and beyond that, I feel we need to reach out to young people as soon as we can, even grade 10 and 11 students. We’ve been working on a program to create a boot camp for high school students, so they can get an understanding of what this industry is all about.
When it comes to vehicle complexity and pressures on profit margins, there is still money to be made in this industry but you need to make sure you are diligent. I often hear of stories where collision centres find it difficult to work with insurers and get the margins they need. Ultimately it comes down to diligence, having the data and documenting everything. If an insurer is aware of why a procedure needs to be performed, such as ADAS calibration and scanning, or a specific tool used to fix a specific part of the vehicle, as long as it is documented, there should be no reason why there is any pushback.
What are your thoughts about ADAS systems and the pressure on cycle times?
ADAS calibration requires new tools and new skills, and we are starting to see cycle times increase because of the need to perform these procedures. Again, it goes back to being transparent, understanding that repairing the vehicle correctly is a top priority as is the proper training and education for your staff and technicians. Our number one objective should always be to repair the vehicle to pre-collision condition.
Do you have any thoughts on the future of the industry and some of the steps we need to take collectively to ensure its viability?
I really think a big one is creating awareness. For decades now, the stigma of dark, dirty shops where somebody is sanding while sitting on a milk crate persists. The reality is, today’s shops tend to be clean, modern, highly advanced and well-run operations. In order for us, as an industry, to get the message out we need to spread awareness, and that starts with the next generation. Participating in high school and college career fairs, putting together introductory courses and boot camps—showing kids [and their parents] that this is an exciting, high-tech and rewarding industry. Currently, there are very few high school students that seem to want to pursue this career path and I think a lot of that is down to the lack of awareness. We need to do more as an industry as well as working with government and educators to change that.