In addition, we have two great people on staff—executive director Allen Wood and our lobbyist Richard Steffen. These two individuals work in Sacramento to keep us well informed and to guarantee our voice is heard by the state legislators.
We are all committed to our membership and pledge to stand against any unethical business practice committed by insurers and shops alike. We will not allow insurers to push us around. We only want to align ourselves with the best repairers that commit to running their businesses in a way as not to bring shame on us. We will not be the pot calling the kettle black. If you want to help turn our industry around and are convinced that you have integrity (the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards), please come join us.
No substitute for communication
That being said I want to tell a story about a particular situation that happened to me prior to becoming president of the CRA. I had written an article several issues back in Autobody News about a particular insurer forcing me to pay them for what they thought was an excessive tow bill. I paid this money out and they made me pay them back a portion of the money that I paid out because they thought they could have towed the vehicles cheaper. I called this extortion in my article and ruffled a few feathers. Although I have never named any names, they knew exactly who I was referring to. For my part, I wanted to rough them up a bit because I was really upset when I wrote the article.
I soon received a phone call from an angry supervisor asking me why I wrote the article. I replied that I was angry and I wasn’t going to let anyone rip me off no matter how much work they sent me.
He said that I should have called him and we could have worked this out without me writing a nasty article. I explained that I did in fact call him and he didn’t return my call. He told me he didn’t return my call because he didn’t like the way I left my message. Things went from bad to worse and he told me that I should remove myself from the program and I refused. I said if you want me off your program (DRP), you will have to do the removing.
This situation could have easily been avoided if I had sugar-coated my message or if the supervisor had returned my call. So we were both to blame because we didn’t show mutual respect. He didn’t return my call because he thought I was disrespectful, and I wrote the article because I thought he was disrespectful.
Before this incident, I really had a good relationship with this company, but remember they were taking my money, not the other way around. I wouldn’t sit back and allow this to happen – absolutely not! I believe in certain principles, and putting my principles aside would mean giving up my dignity. I will never do that.
Like a marriage, everything is give-and-take until one takes too much or goes too far and needs to be put in check. No one will stand for a cheating spouse. I will never sit back and have money extorted from me; it’s the principle, not the money.
As I waited for the hammer to come down, a call came from the original supervisor’s supervisor. I naturally assumed this was the call to pull the account, even though several weeks had passed and I was calmed down by now. With my contingency plan in place, I was prepared for what seemed to me to be inevitable—a parting of the ways.
He asked me why I never asked to speak to him. I said I didn’t know but we are talking now so what’s up. I wanted to get right to the point. I figured I wasn’t about to kiss up to anyone now that the account was over, done, history.
He was very calm and allowed me to speak, then asked me what exactly I wanted. I asked him what he would do if on payday his check was $500 short, and was blown off by his supervisor who told him that was all he was getting because that was all he was worth.
Would he go home angry at his employer and bad mouth them to his wife? That was when everything turned around and he asked me again what I wanted him to do to make things right. I said, “pay me my money back” and he agreed. He asked me if we were good now and I said yes.
The entire relationship was salvaged and we still have the account. I have respect for this individual because he could have just blown me off but instead put himself in my place and understood why I was upset. At the same time, he showed me that he valued the relationship my shop had with his company.
I learned a big lesson from all of this, giving me a prospective on the leadership of the CRA. I still believe that any misconduct by an insurer needs to be put in check. We do need to make a stand, and by doing so, things will change.
But I have learned that we should begin with dialogue and communication with the people in charge. If they listen, many problems can be avoided. Had I left a friendlier message with the first supervisor, I’m convinced things would have been worked out without the second supervisor even getting involved.
So my commitment is to pave the road of communication between the insurers and the CRA membership, while at the same time demanding the laws be respected and kept. Illegal steering, bogus labor rate surveys (which is price fixing) and paint capping need to be stopped. We will work within the CRA to gain the respect we deserve as industry leaders.
CRA needs members and if you can’t be a member, please send a us a donation to help us change this industry. Please join me and the board in the stand we are taking for the entire industry (www.cra-ca.com).