Performance Group Pointers by Melanie Allan

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Melanie Allan, VP Sales, Craftsman Collision Group, U.S. Photo: Craftsman Collision Group

Knowledge exchange provides fresh ideas.

If you’re an independent shop, when was the last time you thought about joining a performance group?

Although I run a Craftsman Collision shop here in Long Beach, California, I operate almost like an independent due to the many nuances of U.S. operations. I’ve been a part of two performance groups (sometimes called 20-groups) for the past four or five years. The value and learning I’m able to exchange with other shop owners is very helpful, especially during these pandemic times.

In most cases, performance groups are organized by paint suppliers like Axalta, PPG, BASF, or PBE suppliers. There are usually 10 or 12 independent shops that get together either monthly or quarterly, and we discuss KPIs, the shortage of technicians, working with vendors or dealing with customers. The groups are organized so there’s are no competing shop in the immediate area.

Pandemic practices

In my group, organized by BASF, we’d get together three or four times a year before the pandemic. The meetings would often be held in one of the shop’s cities so we can organize a shop tour. Everyone’s very open about sharing best practices, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and there’s lots of tips and tricks to pick up.

Now, we get together once a month on Zoom, and might spend two or three hours talking. Of course, we put together an agenda beforehand by email, to decide what topics we should cover. COVID-19 comes up quite often!

Performance group meetings can help shops elevate their operations. Photo: Huw Evans

With COVID-19, it’s been really valuable to see what other shops are doing, and how successful some of their measures have been. Most of us are doing complete valet service, pick up and drop off.

I’ve discussed what I do in my shop, and others have picked it up. When customers drop off their car, not only are we using a disinfecting spray like everyone else, but we give the customer a branded shopping bag. We ask them to take any loose items out of their vehicle so we don’t touch them while we’re doing the service. Things like spare blankets, umbrellas, sunglasses, gym bags, re-useable shopping bags.

For example, if a customer carries a gym bag in their trunk, we’d have to move it around when doing a bumper repair. Before COVID, we’d just put it in the back seat. But we don’t want to do that anymore.

So now that’s part of the drop-off. It protects both our staff and customers. It lets the customer know we’re thinking of them and helps boost their confidence in our service. That’s one example of the learnings shared in my performance group, and many others have adopted it.

Another change we’ve made in the shop is the all-hands morning production meetings. We used to get in a huddle at 8:00 am every day. Now it’s still a hands-on meeting, but we form a big circle, so staff are distanced from the person next to them.

Everyday issues

I’ve found the shops involved in these groups are committed to improvement. Pre-COVID, we would talk about GPs, part percentages, pay plans, cycle time, marketing, all the issues that come up in our shops. We still focus on these as well and challenge each other in friendly competition which helps us grow as the industry evolves and changes.

The other performance group I’m in is organized by Dave Luehr, from EliteBodyShopSolutions.com. We have shops in both the U.S. and Canada in this group. His website is full of great information and resources, from SOPs to finding repair procedures and ADAS. Dave is awesome at facilitating these meetings and there’s nothing he doesn’t know about the industry!

Dave’s website is a great place to start if you want to explore the performance group idea. Otherwise, check with your paint supplier or PBE vendor. If you’re an independent shop you need that kind of knowledge exchange, especially during a pandemic.

Melanie Allan is Vice President, Sales, Craftsman Collision Group, U.S.


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