Value-added services drive differentiation in market for Sherwin-Williams
Lakewood, Colo.—Working in a city like Denver that is experiencing boom-style growth is great for reaching sales and profitability goals, says Kurt Hammond, but he also advocates keeping processes top of mind, even during an economic swell.
“Right now, all of our customers’ shops are busy,” said Hammond, Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes West-region director of sales. “Volume is up, which is great, but there still needs to be a forward-thinking mentality. I think now is the best time to search for ways to improve so that you’re ready when the economy changes.”
Hammond advocates a partnership with shops that offers value-added services – because that’s the real difference.
“Sherwin-Williams is much more than a paint supplier. Every paint manufacturer has quality products; it’s the value-added services that make the difference.”
Hammond sets up shops with Sherwin-Williams’ business consultant division, the employees of which have worked in MSOs and in larger collision shops. They conduct an “impact assessment” of a prospective shop, which is an evaluation to find bottlenecks and pain points that need to be improved upon.
He also said Sherwin-Williams EcoLean workshops are eye-opening training seminars offered by the company to help shop owners maximize profitability.
“Collision shops are being squeezed - margins are thinning and the insurance companies are increasing their demands,” Hammond said. “EcoLean workshops are something Sherwin-Williams has developed to help shop owners solve these problems by training them how to maximize profitability by improving production and eliminating waste.”
The workshops are hierarchical, starting at Level 1 and continuing up to Level 3. Level 1 training workshops begin with logical principles of lean manufacturing, following with a live walk-through of a Toyota, Ford or other area OEM vehicle assembly plant. Level 2 involves traveling to a Sherwin-Williams customer’s shop, which mirrors the attending shop owners in size, layout and volume, that has put instruction into action, and exploring the benefits of those changes. Level 3 is deployment – a final step in the EcoLean process after the shop owner has laid the groundwork necessary for Sherwin-Williams to come through and physically assist with deployment of the techniques taught in the EcoLean workshops.
Hammond said the length of time required to institute EcoLean processes is dependent on the shop owner and whether or not they translate training into action.
“Before participating in an EcoLean workshop ask yourself: ‘Am I ready to change the culture of my organization?’ These workshops propose radical ideas that will unhinge the way an owner has done business, sometimes for more than 30 years,” Hammond said. “Change is never comfortable, but it’s impactful when executed. Execution is the hardest part. The way to be successful using the EcoLean training is to piecemeal out implementation - pick a pain point and apply what you learned at Level 1 and see if it gets better, then move on from there.”
Beyond Sherwin-Williams’ shop layout services and EcoLean workshops, Hammond said Vision Groups are one of the company’s best value-added services.
“The mission of Vision Groups is to facilitate business success through teamwork, adaptability and innovation,” Hammond said. “You have to get out of your ‘day-to-day bubble’ and learn from others. The Vision Groups offer shop owners an opportunity to realize that their struggles aren’t isolated to just their shop and lets them explore similar solutions with others who’ve faced similar challenges.”
Sherwin-Williams partnered with Square One Systems, Inc., which is the company that facilitates the business development groups of 15-20 shop owners, who are strategically placed in mixed-market groups to encourage openness.
“Vision Groups are very ‘numbers driven’; member shops must be willing to share and discuss business financial data within their group. For that reason we never put two shops from the same market into the same group,” Hammond said.
Sherwin-Williams offers Vision Groups for both dealership collision shop managers and independent service providers and feedback he’s received has been positive.
“I’ve had customers tell me their business has drastically changed over the course of one year being involved with a Vision Group and that they wouldn’t be where they are without learning from others,” Hammond said.
Recent acquisitions support distribution chain
Hammond said the recent acquisition of Valspar by Sherwin-Williams has helped the company better serve its customers by adding distribution support. While Sherwin-Williams has traditionally filtered service through its company owned stores in metropolitan areas, Valspar’s distribution model was more traditional, using jobbers. Sherwin-Williams kept that model in place after the acquisition, and also didn’t change the labels, sales representation, or the regional managers that shops were already dealing with.
“One of the benefits is that we’ve gained market share through added distribution,” Hammond said. “Sherwin-Williams decided to keep the business model that Valspar had in place intact – right down to the labels and the sales representatives.”
He added that as Valspar was a Midwest company based out of Minneapolis, and Sherwin-Williams is a Midwest company based out of Cleveland, the two company cultures came together seamlessly.
“I think a lot of our company values were the same which has been great as we’ve developed our work relationships,” Hammond said. “Nobody on either side of the deal came in with any arrogance and business has seen a boost as a result.”