With hugs and squeals of joy, women greeted each other at the recent 2022 Women’s Industry Network (WIN) Conference in Greenville, S.C. After WIN skipped the 2020 conference altogether due to the COVID-19 pandemic and went all-virtual in 2021, attendees were overjoyed to be able to connect in person once more at the 2022 conference. Everyone was quick to admit that having the conference online just wasn’t the same. Of course, it’s been a long two years, and as a result, the WIN Conference looked a little different than in the past.
For one, attendance was scaled back. As part of its pandemic protocols, only members were allowed to attend this year and could not bring spouses or guests. In addition, the 2022 conference was WIN’s first hybrid conference, streaming all of the sessions online simultaneously. Finally, even the atmosphere was different this year. Instead of being held in a ballroom, for instance, the conference was located at Zen, a small event-rental property with a quasi-industrial yet escapist feel (with a beautiful zen garden-like courtyard) in the heart of downtown Greenville.
Give the past two years of uncertainty and strife, it was only fitting that the theme of this year’s conference was “Recharge, Reset and Renew.” The lineup of speakers for the event proved to do just that for attendees, making everyone examine her own psyche and challenging her to step outside her comfort zone.
Day 1: Getting Into the Right Headspace
On Monday, May 2, the WIN Conference lineup began with a deep-dive into mentality. Dr. Debbie Sorenson, PhD in psychology, spoke about emotional intelligence and psychological flexibility in the workplace, delving into what emotions are culturally “acceptable” and “unacceptable” for men and women, how to accept those emotions in yourself and how to use those emotions to take action for what you value.
Afterwards, WIN representatives gave an update on the organization’s recent enterprises, including WINconnect, a networking and career development program; a WIN photo contest to highlight women in all parts of the collision repair industry; and initiatives in WIN’s education space, including updating its education database, restructuring its scholarship program to align with school schedules and recent economic impacts, as well as the gifting of 55 $1,000 scholarships to date.
Next, Hannah Whitesides, senior vice president of marketing with Maaco, discussed how to reach the right audience to drive impact though setting specific goals and structuring simple, easy-to-follow plans to reach those goals. Her three key lessons included:
- Strategy drives structure
- Listen to consumers
- Cultivate culture
Day 2: Time to Change
The next day, Dr. Michelle Rozen, also known as “The Change Doctor,” kicked things off with her presentation on how to thrive through change with confidence. She looked at the scientific reasons for why we resist change (hint: our brains don’t want to exert more than the usual 20% capacity they use to get through our normal day-to-day) and how we can more successfully follow through with our plans to change. “It will never be the right time for change,” Dr. Rozen reiterated throughout the presentation. So, her advice? Just go for it.
Afterwards, a panel of experts from all segments of the industry came together to discuss changes, challenges and opportunities for collision repairers in the post-COVID world. Panelists included:
- Brenda Hewitt, Liberty Mutual
- Mary Mahoney, Enterprise Holdings
- Genevieve Dombrowski, LKQ Corp.
- Laura Kottschade, Jerry’s ABRA Auto Body in Mankato, Minn.
- Jake Rodenroth, LUCID Motors
- Denise Kingstrom, BSAF
- Angie Babin, Caliber Collision
This panel was a definite favorite for attendees due to its well-rounded approach. Together, these panelists addressed everything from consumer behavior to the labor shortage, inflation, supply chain issues, insurance and rental consumer relations, and more with a diverse set of perspectives.
For instance, Mahoney gave some important insight into total losses: “One of the things that we’ve noticed during this time is there’s kind of a shift around the total loss area. So … we just did our quarterly report on the length of rental, and the length of rental for total loss was over 18 days — it was 18.4, and that was a significant jump over four days from prior year same time quarter one. And yes, some of that is due to the severity of the hit, but we think some of it also might be because of the actual cash value calculations the carriers are providing. I think everybody recognizes that the vehicle costs, vehicle values are rising — new and used car — and we think they’re going to continue to rise. We think if you continue to see actual cash value, ACV, rise, we’ll probably see a decrease in total loss, because it would be more economical to repair it than to total it.”
Next, Rodenroth took attendees on a tour of the future with a look at technology and electric vehicle repair trends. Using the LUCID brand’s cars as a basis, he explained the great differences between internal combustion engine vehicles and electric ones — from the size of the engines/motors to how the frames are welded or riveted in place — and what electric vehicle repairs would and wouldn’t involve as a result. In addition, he noted that these smart cars would be able to assist collision repairers in the future by cataloguing maintenance and diagnostic issues.
Afterwards came the WIN Gives Back presentation. Each year, WIN chooses a charity local to the conference location to which to donate. This year, David White, founder of Fostering Great Ideas, came to speak to attendees about his nonprofit, which assists foster children in South Carolina — particularly through SibLink, a program meant to facilitate visits between split-up siblings. WIN presented a $2,000 check along with gift cards from attendees meant to be used during these sibling visits. In addition, the National Auto Body Council (NABC)’s Recycle Rides program — in conjunction with GEICO, who donated the car, and Caliber Collision, who donated the time and resources to restore it — presented a 2019 Honda Accord to Olivia Carter, who has been in the foster system.
That night at the WIN Gala, WIN honored its 2022 Most Influential Women in Collision Repair. The Most Influential Women award recognizes women who have enriched the collision repair industry with their leadership, vision and commitment to excellence. These women not only excel within their own companies but also actively mentor others to help them advance within the industry and, in doing so, serve both their local communities and the collision repair industry. The nominees were:
- Allison Boever, chief human resources officer, Repairify
- Alicia Figurelli, vice president, Thomas Greco Publishing
- Shirin Hezar, director, strategic accounts, Caliber Collision
- Jennifer Hubbard, client engagement manager, CCC
- Samantha Kita, regional vice president, operations, Gerber
- Debbie Menz, strategic account manager (retired), Axalta
- Micki Woods, owner, Micki Woods Marketing Genius for Body Shops.
Day 3: Being Open to Innovation
On the final day of the conference, several attendees started early by participating in the Scholarship Walk along the Swamp Rabbit Trail in downtown Greenville. What started as a beautiful, paved riverwalk quickly became enshrouded in trees, creating a pleasant buffer from civilization. You can join in virtually on the walk and get to know the attendees on our Facebook Live video post.
To start off the conference for the day, Jenny Anderson, chair of WIN, gave another update on WIN, including listing the outgoing board members — Cheryl Boswell, Debbie Menz and Denise Kingstrom — as well as recipients of the Cornerstone Award: Kathy Coffey and Kim Frasher.
Next, Duncan Wardle, founder of ID8 and head of innovation and creativity at Disney, gave a remote, out-of-the-box presentation — complete with several cartoon drawings on classic, giant sketch paper set up on an easel — on embedding a culture of innovation into everyone’s DNA. Wardle challenged attendees to build on new ideas rather than judge them right out of the gate. For instance, he noted, instead of saying, “No, because,” to a new idea, try saying, “Yes, and,” prompting others to build upon it.
The final speaker for the day was Renee Cacchillo, CEO of Safelite, who discussed her life and leadership journey to becoming Safelite’s first female CEO. She offered three takeaways:
- Inspire and embrace change
- Evolve from functional leadership to an organizational leadership
- Think “now” to “next” (i.e. look to dealing with potential problems rather than only reacting to those that come up in the present)
Attendees left the conference feeling recharged, reset, renewed and anxious for the next one. Stay tuned for more details on the 2023 conference, which will once again feature a hybrid format.