Inaugural BodyShop News International Collision Congress A Huge Success

Leading body shop industry identities from around the world and across Australia converged on Sydney last week for the highly anticipated BodyShop News International Collision Congress (BICC).

Held in the Grand Ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel, the BICC attracted an audience of body repairers, industry suppliers, and OEM representatives who heard from leading local and international speakers including Robert Snook, Dave Luehr, and Dirk Fuchs.

Supported by the International Bodyshop Industry Symposium (IBIS), the Congress also attracted significant corporate sponsorship from ACM Parts, Celette, Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, Automan Equipment and the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC).

Dave Luehr.

The opening event, the Black-Tie Welcome Dinner, was hosted by former Supercars driver Cam McConville on 25 July and included entertainment in the form of a surprise performance by Dave Luehr, who displayed his outstanding talent for country music and singing.

The following morning the BICC sessions began with an official welcome by BodyShop News Publisher Michel Malik, and the opening keynote address by Dr Hannah Tonkin.

Currently the Director of Disability Rights at the Australian Human Rights Commission, Tonkin spoke of the value of diversity in the workplace and gave an inspiring account of her work as an international lawyer and policy adviser at the United Nations, where she focused on protecting civilians in armed conflict and prosecuting war crimes.

During the following sessions, delegates learned of practical, proven solutions that business owners and managers could implement to improve profitability, lower stress, and reduce working hours.

The first session, ‘Leading the Way to a Better 2024: Supporting your success’, examined how industry associations support their members and show proactive, interdependent, and forward-thinking leadership. Moderated by Kathy Zdravevski (VACC), the panel consisted of Stephen Jenkins (Motor Traders’ Association of New South Wales (MTA NSW)), Kaes Cillessen (Motor Trade Association of South Australia and Northern Territory (MTA SA/NT)) Rodger Nardi (Australian Automotive Service and Repair Authority (AASRA)), and John Khoury (VACC).

During the second session, ‘New Vehicle Technology: The learning gap and the price of getting it’, Fuchs, a leading US-based world expert in electric mobility, led a lively discussion on new vehicle technology including the effect on the collision industry learning gap and the risks faced by repairers due to technological revolution. He was joined on stage by renowned local experts Adrian Parkes (ADAS Solutions Australia) and Mark Czvitkovits (collision industry consultant).

Luehr, founder and owner of US-based Elite Bodyshop Solutions, was next on stage. Luehr presented an uplifting session titled ‘Thriving in Chaos: Why do some succeed wildly while others struggle?’, where he shared the attitudes, cultures, and practices of people who have fostered a change-driven organisation and risen to the top. Luehr was joined on stage by Snook and Trent Walkden (South Tweed Autos Smash Repairs), who also provided valuable insights about negotiating change and creating a positive work environment for staff.

The session ‘Alternative Supply Chain Models: The new normal becoming just normal’ followed, featuring industry expert Chris Daglis (Auto PARTnered Solutions), Adam O’Sullivan (ACM Parts), and James Knox (Auto Parts Group), who discussed supply chain models that are providing early adopters with significant operational and financial benefits.

Jason Moseley.

With staff shortages severely impacting the industry, the next session, ‘Nurturing Talent: Because without talent what is a business anyway?’ was eagerly anticipated, with recruitment experts Michael Wentworth (Apprentices R Us Australia), Ash Jardine (Bodyshop Recruitment) and Adina Nijemcevic (AMA Group) sharing how leaders are doing things differently to attract and retain employees.

In the next session, ‘Unblocking the Cashflow Waterfall’, Snook (Business Success Global; IBIS Conference Moderator) and Marc Johnstone (Shirlaws Group) discussed the benefits of investing in smart methods of cash generation rather than simply trying to work faster, harder, and longer, and emphasised the importance of implementing change rather than just identifying what needs to be done.

The final session, ‘Leading from the Front: The CEO’s perspectives’, featured Pierre Nicolau, President and CEO of Celette; Carl Bizon, CEO of AMA Group; and Steven Brett, Managing Director of Axalta ANZ. The panel discussed the current and future market outlooks, and provided valuable insight on how businesses can move toward a better 2024.

A full report on the BodyShop News International Collision Congress will appear in BodyShop News magazine soon, while a video of congress sessions will be posted to the BodyShop News website.