Auto manufacturers. Insurance companies. Customers. Everyone with input into your business will demand that you’re familiar with the particular complexities and specific design elements of each and every vehicle model you repair. Reputation and professionalism—the hallmarks of the collision repair business for decades—are no longer enough. In fact, without the proper certifications, training and OEM-approved equipment, you’re going to have a hard time staying in business.
Earning OEM Certifications is the easiest way to make everyone involved comfortable with your work. And while it’s true that some certification programs are more complex and more expensive than others, it’s increasingly important that you make those investments, because the days of pulling and hammering every job back to its original condition are over.
When you’re weighing the benefits of certification with the costs in time and money, there are several things you should consider:
Certification is expensive, but not earning your certification has its own costs. Certification requires an investment. But like any good investment, it pays off. When you choose not to receive certification from a particular manufacturer, you’re saving on overhead. But you’re also limiting your revenue. It’s not easy for most shops to receive certification from all major manufacturers. You have to find the right balance of manufacturers that minimizes costs without minimizing your shop’s opportunities.
Before deciding to pass on a manufacturer’s certification, research their certification requirements. You may be much closer to a manufacturer’s requirements than you think, so don’t pick and choose which certifications you’ll pursue without doing a little research.
Know your market before making a decision on an OEM’s certification. Do domestic brands far outpace imports in your market? Do you have fewer trucks than cars? Are you in the suburbs where SUVs and minivans dominate? Understand the vehicle landscape around you to make the best decisions for your shop. Looking at your historical data on repairs—the manufacturers and models—is also a good indicator of where to start (and stop) with certification.
Certification may be less expensive than the “sticker price.” Understanding that collision repair shops view the certification process as a “necessary evil” when it comes to expenditures, several OEMs have implemented rebate programs based on a shop’s performance. And many manufacturers will assist with your marketing efforts when it comes to their specific certifications.
Certification isn’t the only expense of certification. Certified repairs often require specific, specialized tools to meet the certification standards. This equipment is often expensive, so keep this in mind (and in your budget) as you begin any certification process.
Certification often requires re-certification. Certification is rarely a one-time process. Most manufacturers make improvements—if not complete design and engineering overhauls—on their lines every year. That means processes and necessary equipment evolve year-after-year, as well. Once you become certified with a manufacturer, you should expect and budget for certain costs associated with this annual recertification process.
Certification is an opportunity to perform better repairs. After all, most certification programs include a manufacturer’s representative coming to your shop to train you on their specific series and models. This can only improve your techs’ capabilities and skills. And their improvements translate to your shop’s finished product.
Certification benefits you. Not just your business, but also you and your techs. Changes in the world aren’t coming any slower. In order to keep pace and adapt accordingly, you have to develop a learning mindset. When you accept that new information is an everyday fact of life and that you’re never going to know everything, you train your brain to find the nuggets of knowledge and wisdom in numerous areas that can make your business—and your life—much more successful.