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Tuesday, 29 July 2014 00:00

HABA’s Focus: Re-imaging Collision Repair in Texas

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Back in May, the Houston Auto Body Association (HABA) held their 4th Annual Body Shop Owners and Managers Appreciation Event at the Cadillac Bar and Grill on I-10 in Houston. Attendees were treated to a buffet-style dinner, beer and margaritas as they indulged in a fun evening of networking with their collision repair industry peers. Prizes were presented by event MC Corey Cook.

HABA President Leo Kozadinos says, “the event went great—it was a lot of fun! The attendees enjoyed themselves, and the food and company were terrific. As promised, no official business was discussed; we just enjoyed networking and fellowship with other collision repair professionals. The door prizes were also terrific, and lots of folks walked away with items, including an iPad mini, $250 store gift certificates, restaurant gift cards and even a beautiful Lexus model car. We can’t wait until next year!”

One of the keys to the upbeat atmosphere was obvious in retrospect: No business was discussed. Not all  association meetings can be quite so carefree since the association itself has a serious purpose.

For the Houston Auto Body Association (HABA), improving the image of the collision repair industry and promoting consumer advocacy are amongst the most important actions an association can take. As “an organization devoted to the advancement of the collision repair industry objectives,” HABA encourages cooperation between dealer-owned and independent body shops in order to establish a professional and profitable organization, to promote harmony and cordial business relationships, and to establish common ground for better understanding between insurance companies, shops, vendors and consumers. Leo Kozadinos, President of HABA, shared some of the association’s goals, projects and progress thus far.

HABA was formed four years ago when a core group of independent and dealer-owned shops recognized the need for a local industry association to promote consumer advocacy, to improve the image of the industry, and to empower industry professionals. Kozadinos notes, “these efforts contribute to our ability to restore our customers’ vehicles to pre-loss condition. It’s all about safety and maintaining the value of the vehicle—this is what the customers expect and what they deserve, so we decided to come together and start from scratch.”

As a group comprised of collision repair professionals devoted to advancing the industry, HABA’s mission is “to create an environment of professionalism, respect, accountability, excellence, enthusiasm, and the ability to collect fair and reasonable compensation for collision repairers who properly restore vehicles to their safe pre-loss condition.”

In addition to improving the image of the industry and acting as consumer advocates to ensure that vehicles are safely repaired, HABA is currently working on further defining the nuts and bolts of their organization as well as seeking more benefits to offer members in hopes of increasing membership.

Servicing the formidable 50-mile radius of Houston and its surrounding suburbs in Southwest Texas, HABA boasts members from 44 collision repair businesses, excluding their associate members. Currently, the main benefits the association provides are networking opportunities and support for the critical issues that impact the industry as a whole. Kozadinos says, “we successfully lobbied for a reduced franchise tax rate, and we were able to thwart a city ordinance that would have been very expensive for our members in Houston. HABA is focused on the things you expect and need an industry association to do. A lot of people who do not currently participate in HABA will benefit from our efforts, but it’s not about receiving credit—it’s about furthering the industry as a whole!”

Of course, no matter how great an association’s intentions may be, every new association faces certain challenges. “Like any new organization, HABA is an all-volunteer association,” Kozadinos explains. “This means that everyone has to step up for the greater good and take time away from their busy professional and personal lives to further our association as it grows. Eventually, we hope to be able to hire a full-time staff for the administrative tasks, but for now, we are just focused on continuing to move in the right direction.”

Kozadinos identifies two key challenge areas: a lack of organization in terms of formalizing processes and procedures, and a shortage of qualified technicians. “A lot of people stumble into the collision repair industry. That’s why HABA is so focused on promoting the industry and improving its image. We want to demonstrate what a fantastic career it is and how much money can be made in this industry.”

Though HABA takes a stance against mandated parts-procurement systems, such as State Farm’s PartsTrader, and anything else that involved outside entities interfering with collision repair businesses, Kozadinos states, “the reality is that insurance companies wanting more control of the repair is nothing new, and it will continue, but everyone has to make their own decisions about what’s best for their businesses.”

HABA has developed the following position statement for the insurance industry: “At HABA, our position in dealing with the insurance industry is one of mutual respect and accountability where every insurer believes they have received a quality repair at a fair settlement for quality work in a reasonable time and in a respectful manner due any professional relationship; where all services that are performed are paid for and all services paid for are performed; and where ethics and morals, respect and appreciation are the norm, not the exception.”

Going forward, HABA plans to get more organized in terms of their administration and goals, to increase the benefits they offer members as a means of providing more value to local shops, and to continue their lobbying efforts on the legislative front. Because all of HABA’s legislative goals were met during the last cycle, they do not currently have anything in the works regarding legislation. When working on legislative issues, Kozadinos admits that the association’s lack of resources is the biggest challenge since they cannot afford to hire professional lobbyists; however, “our legislators generally have open ears to collision repair professionals, especially if our proposal is beneficial for the consumer. We just have to demonstrate how the legislation harms the consumer and is bad for the collision repair industry as a whole… It takes time and resources, but people CAN bring about meaningful change, even if there’s only a handful of people working together.”

HABA
14027 Memorial Drive #378
Houston, TX 77079-6826
281-589-5343
www.habaonline.org

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