Things Are Not Good: What Should The Association Do?
|Throughout the course of the year, our office receives many calls from shop owners – member shops and non-member shops alike – who ask what actions they can take that would be in their best interests regarding issues such as pricing, rates, services, appraiser demands, insurer contracts, DRPs, etc. The expectation seems to be that we have solutions and should do the dirty work for them, or that we don’t have the solutions and we are stupid and dysfunctional. When it gets to the name-calling, we typically answer with, “in your opinion, what should the association do?
Look, we know things are not good out there at the shop level. We hear you when you tell us that you feel labor rates are scandalously low and pricing levels on products and services may be at break-even or worse. We hear you when you say that insurers insist on bigger discounts, more free services and administrative work, faster cycle times, cheaper parts, and ever more concessions from shops. We understand that it is enough to make your head spin and the average shop owner generally feels inundated trying to deal with all kinds of frustrating and generally unanswerable questions. We try to be a good sounding board for you and help you get some of that frustration off of your chests.
But, shops seem to be asking us questions that we cannot solve. First, we are not a “collective bargaining” association. We cannot negotiate deals with insurance companies for your individual business or for the entire industry. We are not a labor union, so that kind of bargaining just can’t be done. This is, quite frankly, an expectation that some shop owners have of our organization and it’s an expectation that simply cannot be met.
Second, we cannot dictate or even try to tell you what you should charge for anything – labor, parts, and/or services. Doing so would violate our country’s anti-trust laws and we would never do that. In fact, prior to chapter meetings and board meetings we always read “anti-trust guidelines” so that everyone knows what they can and cannot say. In those guidelines, we state that anyone who even mentions anything close to the wrong things will cause the meeting to be stopped and will be escorted out of the meeting.
In addition, the organization cannot organize boycotts against particular vendors or insurers, and we cannot be a party to the splitting up of markets for particular businesses. In essence, we are not in the business of getting involved in issues such as the setting of prices, procedures, business practices, etc., of companies in our industry. And, whether you like it or not, or disagree with that, it is the law of the land and you’ll just have to accept it.
Now, what we can do is educate our members so that they, as individual companies, can perform more profitably in their businesses. We can provide information and a forum for discussion – so long as those discussions do not violate anti-trust laws – so that shop owners can get a better handle on how to deal with important issues. But we cannot hold your hand and tell you what you should do. Our education has to stand on its own and you have to stand on your own and make your own decisions.
Since the beginning of 2011, we have been presenting our “Education Matters” series of events. We have brought many speakers before you who have offered great information on issues that are very important to our industry. “Education Matters” addresses three important areas – technical training, business management training, and insurer relations. We feel we have done a pretty good job so far, and that is reflected in the many people who tell us that we’re on the right track in terms of what we’re doing. We hope to continue along that path and need feedback from everyone – especially you – to keep us moving in the right direction.
As we go into the fall of 2012, AASP is finalizing plans for a most unique educational opportunity for our members. It is our hope that those of you who look to us for leadership in education will recognize what we will be offering as an important part of helping you reach your business goals. Please watch for more information in the coming weeks.