Although Jeff Franco, President of Elite Sales & Marketing Group, has been active in several local associations and aided shops in coordinating the meeting, he has relinquished the reins to Brian Davies, owner of Bodyworks Plus in Charlotte, and Josh Kent, Territory Manager for Elite Sales & Marketing Group in NC, who he says are "very passionate about this industry."
For Davies, the goal in forming this association is "to create a group of individuals, owners and vendors that are truly dedicated to the continuous improvement of this industry in NC. I would like NCACAR to become one of the most progressive, innovative and professional associations in the United States, leading our industry with integrity by example. In addition, I want to create a collective voice in our state that reflects the needs of all stakeholders involved: clients, shop owners, technicians, vendors and insurance companies."
NCACAR's first meeting attracted a full house with a mixture of shops and vendors from Charlotte, Newton, Shelby, Gastonia, Salisbury, Matthews and Monroe. Dealerships, DRP and non-DRP shops participated, as well as rental car vendors and PPG company managers.
Kent said, "Everyone mingled and got to know each other, and everyone looked to have a good time. Nobody was there to solicit anything; all were there out of support and because they want to be a part of this."
After Phillip Torres read the Anti-Trust statement and other rules, Jeff Franco and Brian Davies addressed attendees, explaining the intention of the association's formation which is "to bring change to this industry, to educate shops and the public on their rights, and to help promote safety and quality to collision repair."
"There is a standard that needs to be upheld in this industry. We need change, and there needs to be opposition when it comes to bills being passed. Businesses need a voice, whether they are a non-DRP or a DRP shop. It shouldn't matter how someone chooses to run their business, but it should matter what standards we ALL practice," Kent explained.
Mark Tantillo of Certified Collision Services, who will likely be a member of NCACAR's Board of Directors, said, "The benefit will be better trained repair shops across the state, not only in performing sound, quality repairs, but also for shops to better understand what our insurance partners desire to help facilitate some of the day-to-day struggles they are faced with. We hope to see the professionals in our state unite and set forth benchmarks for all to achieve a better, more efficient process for our mutual customers."
Tantillo also said, "The event went very well with a better than expected turnout. We discussed the importance of developing an association for our state. Attendees were very responsive to the meeting and continue to stay involved by showing interest in the association's progress."
Kent has also spoken to attendees who enjoyed the meeting and plan to be involved with the association, but he admits, "Some are skeptical because of past efforts of trying to bring change, and lack of leadership derailed the efforts from what I understand. They also understand that change will come with shops coming together as a group and taking the proper steps in order to accomplish the things that need to get done."
Still, Kent is optimistic that a new association can affect the changes that the collision repair industry in NC so desperately needs. "These changes have to come by taking the proper steps. These steps come from forming an association, voting on steps to take, and having the right people who can help by being professional and can promote new legislation. We make change by numbers. Five shops aren't going to make a difference, but 100 shops will. Shop owners and managers are ready for a NC association to take form and thrive. They are frustrated but passionate, and we all believe the association can help."
In addition to helping with legislative initiatives, Kent hopes that NCACAR will provide education to North Carolina shops. He and Davies are working hard to ensure the association will be successful at offering benefits to its members. "Guests in the industry will come to speak, and shops will be able to ask questions that they haven't been able to without the proper connections. Vendors, such as paint suppliers, rental companies, waste management and insurers, could help bring discounted services to members which helps with continually rising prices. It also allows shops to come together to learn from one another to have better businesses."
The association is writing and reviewing bylaws with assistance from Jeff Franco and WMABA's Jordan Hendler. Once they are complete, NCACAR will vote on adopting the bylaws and then file for their 501C and federal ID. They've purchased a website domain, www.ncacar.com, and hired Absolute Perfection media to create the website. They've also established a Constant Contact account to facilitate communication with their membership, and Davies is working with a local marketing design company to create a logo for the association.
Tantillo pointed out, "The state of NC has been and is still going through major growth. The days of the past need to remain in the past, and we all must embark on the developmental importance of our futures."