Currently headquartered in Henderson, Texas, and in existence since June of this year, ABAT was formed by a group of collision repair professionals hungry for information and determined to use that information to influence positive change for the industry sooner rather than later.
"A group of us that were getting tired of being told 'we were the only one' making requests to ensure fair compensation on our repairs," said ABAT President Burl Richards; "and we were getting concerned over what we perceived to be insurance overreach through programs like PartsTrader. Most of us were from a rural area and it was becoming obvious we didn't have enough access to information that would help us make informed decisions and take an effective stand against what we thought were unfair practices. We'd visited the Houston Auto Body Association and saw the power of having a bunch of sharp operators in one room. We also understood that there was a need for education on the fundamentals of estimating and other subjects. Thus, we decided to form our own association."
Forty like-minded shops found themselves together at an educational seminar in Tyler, Texas given by local paint jobber Chad Neal. The prospects of forming an association were discussed and developments moved forward rapidly. "At first people were hesitant to talk about much, because we didn't really know what the anti-trust laws allowed," added Richards. "With the help of Barrett Smith, a consultant out of Orlando, Florida, we quickly got up to speed. After a few more meetings things really took off and we were attracting some of the biggest shops in the state which gave us the numbers we needed to be effective as a united voice. Jobbers, suppliers, and local OEM paint reps that joined were given an equal voice."
United by the motivation to effect positive change in a timely manner, the fledgling association reached out to SCRS. "They had a track record of getting the right things done and getting them done quickly, so it was only natural to turn to them," explained Richards. "They bring a wealth of practical knowledge and educational information to the table, which is exactly what our members were looking for-SCRS has its finger on the national pulse of the industry and that's especially important to our members given their tendency to be geographically remote."
"There are many areas in this country where repairers haven't had a consistent local voice to support their businesses and the ABAT is an example of an association that developed to meet that need," notes SCRS Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg. "Groups like this strengthen our industry and play an important role in the survival of body shops that continue to experience unrelenting pressures on their profitability. We extend our heartfelt welcome to the ABAT, and look forward to providing whatever leadership and assistance they may need as they grow and mature, in addition to providing a national network of experienced professionals at their disposal."