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Another meeting. Another trip across the country. Three more days away from my wife, family and business to attend yet another conference. Do I do this because I enjoy being trapped in a silver bullet traveling at ungodly speeds at altitudes man was never intended to be at with 148 suspicious looking strangers just to build up my frequent flyer miles so I can be trapped in this metal cocoon again in a wider seat? Or do I just like meeting with people from all over the world who have questions, problems and solutions they would like to share with others in their own and related industries? If you guessed the latter you are on the money!

ADP has once again used excellent judgment in creating a client advisory council. This council was made up of representatives from all over the United States and Canada from four distinctly different and surprisingly similar industries. The automated automotive claims, estimating, inventory and interchange industry was represented by our gracious host ADP, ADP/Hollander. The insurance industry was represented by involved, intelligent and astute independent and company-employed appraisers, supervisors, managers and directors. The collision industry had representation by a group of independent shop owners and managers who did a fantastic job of bringing to light the questions, problems and difficulties they experienced daily in operating and maintaining their facilities, retaining and attracting customers and trying to show a profit while doing so. The fourth group, and one I am most familiar with, was the Automotive Recyclers. Another group of intelligent, insightful, focused professionals that made me proud to be considered one of them. I personally think I received the invitation in error, but what the heck; I was honored to be with them.

The main purpose and focus of this conference was to open communication, promote understanding and (of course) create and develop new products to connect all of the pieces involved in the automotive damage, claims, parts and repair puzzle.

Aside from the meeting being held in a beautiful conference center (resort) in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the weather, food and activities being "just perfect", it was a wonderful business opportunity as well. This was a golden opportunity to hear directly from our customers, suppliers, insurers and vendors what is wrong, right, old and new in each of our industries. We heard complaints, made complaints, voiced our problems and concerns and listened to theirs. We asked for understanding, were asked to understand and came away with a whole new understanding of the process that governs and controls the way we all do business together. Then we came home.

Normally after any conference, meeting or convention we all come home with plans and ideas that are forgotten by the time we take the first phone call of the day. This time I am determined to make it different. I am going to follow the lead set by our conference hosts and create my company's own client council. I am going to get together with a few of our local collision and repair shops, insurance adjusters and appraisers and try to create an environment where we can discuss problems and seek solutions. Maybe it will be over lunch once a month, before or after hours every other month, or whenever we can manage a free hour or two. You should do the same!

Ask your wife, husband or significant other what they most want from you and I'll bet you the answer will be for you, "to listen and understand." I am also sure your customers feel the same way; the only difference is that your customer wants lower prices and your mate wants a vacation in the islands.

So what should you do? Make it your first order of business to attend as many industry and inter-industry forums as possible. Read everything available about ALL of the industries you depend on daily. Use your local and international associations to gather information, attend meetings and widen your sphere of influence. In other words, get out there and start listening. Don't worry if you don't have anything to say at first. Listening is much more important than talking. As my mother always told me "You are supposed to listen twice as much as you speak. That's why God gave us two ears and one mouth"!

Gary Wiesner is co-owner of Pro-Auto Recyclers, Williamstown, New Jersey

Visit their website at proautorecyclers.com


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