Over 40 Next Generation repairers came together for an afternoon of networking and learning on April 5 at VACC House in Melbourne.

Sponsored by Right2Drive and VACC, the aim of the seminar was to connect these younger repairers and create a network where they can help each other with their businesses.

The afternoon began with lunch followed by a truly inspirational talk from Pat Farmer a man who never gives up. He discussed his motivation for runs such from the North to South pole and had everyone squirming in their seats with some of the hardships he endured. His talk was mesmerising with everyone agreeing they could have listened to his amazing tales of perseverance all day. Jason Trewin from I-CAR challenged the room to dream up their perfect tradespeople employees. Interestingly attitude not skills were on everyone's list. Our attendees were looking for team players, people with initiative, adaptable, loyal, driven, reliable, organised else.

Damian Mullins, Right2Drive's managing director gave a presentation on the three key pillars of customer satisfaction and invited the groups to note what they could implement to improve their businesses.

One of the top notes of the day for the repairers was hearing from their peers. First off was the Lozenkovski brothers from Bears Auto Hospital in NSW. While there are seven shops in the group Bears also run a hail business. Steve and Mitchell Lozenkovski told the room about the very different repair challenges and advantages of the hail business.

Mark Walker from Walker Crash Repairs in Adelaide demonstrated the advantages of diversification. When his shop lost out on the NRMA RFP they began to specialise in caravan repairs and are now busier than ever. Walker told the room that many caravan repairers lack the technical expertise that collision repairers have and so often the caravans can be written off when they are actually straightforward to fix. Word about Walker's has got out in the caravan community and people are coming impressive differences to make sure Walkers fix their caravans. The insurers are happy too, happy customers and quick turnaround times make their life easier and that renewal all the more likely.

Our current reigning rising star Brad Kolich from Weststar Prestige talked about the advantages and disadvantages of flying the prestige manufacturer flag and also about his journey since taking over the business at 25 and how he has grown Weststar in that time. Carly Ruggeri from Europanels in Geelong talked about the benefits being on the body repair division of the VACC and how having a voice in the industry and knowing about policy changes and industry facts has helped her family's business. Her take on the afternoon was: “The Next Generation - empowering each other, with a little nudge from Paint & Panel”.

Tommi Popovic from ARM in NSW was croaky on the day so his father Steve kindly took his slot and talked about the differences in specialising in fast repair and working for one insurer rather than traditional all repair-types for a number of insurers.

The seminar ended with a fast and furious session from Ben Fewtrell of Max My Profit on mangement. Drawing on his own successes and failures he was able to stimulate everyone to think about what they do well and not so well in managing a business and a team.

One of the successes of the first Next Generation seminar in 2015 was repairers helping each other out. Kevin Mullins from SA met the Barry boys from Flagstaff Autobody in Melbourne and went to work there for a few days. “I would highly recommend all people to get out and do these sort of things,” Mullins said. “I found I benefited immensely from this, whether it was from managing work flow, processes, or just a workshop atmosphere. Pick out what would suit you and your business and build on that. I was fortunate enough to work at a cream of the crop shop so I would find someone who is proactive about their business and different from the rest. Get out of your own environment and see what's out there.” Chris Rijnbeek from Goolwa Elite Collision in SA recently bought a second shop and is already teeing up to visit Bears Auto Group and ARM in NWS to see how they manage running multi-site businesses.

“It was great in a room full of people that actually want to be in the industry and are positive about it. MTA meetings can be full of doom and gloom merchants. The co-operative attitude was fantastic.”


Kane Mac from Keilor Autobody in Victoria said: “It's always great to hear and learn from others around us so that we can continue to try and run our businesses in a healthy and efficient way to be successful in the future. I thought all that spoke on the day did a fantastic job and I thank them for giving myself and others an insight into some of their ideas and operations. There is no benefit for those who did present to us except that they might give us some help in allowing us to continue to try and operate successfully in a sometimes hostile environment. I think it is great to see the next generation of people in this industry not working against each other like some of the older generation did before. So cheers to everyone for being friendly and to all for the day.”



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