The Pulse on Custom Powder Coat shops across North America
S&B Finishing reports on first live 20-group meeting since COVID-19
Kansas City was the site of the first face-to-face meeting of our 20-group since conferences were put to a halt back in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Seeing the faces of group members from custom powder coating shops from around the U.S. and Canada was a welcome treat.
The group has convened over the past 10 years to tour each other’s facilities and learn from each other. Since owners of other shops have a lot in common, the insight and suggestions shared during facility visits is always worthwhile.
To learn more about the 20-group, please read this S&B blog post.
With unprecedented shifts happening in the industry, the group found plenty to talk about
Discussions centered on timely topics such as how each business is currently managing COVID health measures (mask policies and vaccinations). Time was also spent discussing issues facing the manufacturing and logistics industries today.
Sharing specific concerns – how supply chain issues, employee shortages and multiple price increases are affecting our businesses – with people working in the same industry creates an opportunity to brainstorm actionable solutions. It’s also helpful to vent frustrations with others who truly understand our day-to-day struggles. Nothing is too mundane to address. Topics easily range from masking techniques and equipment maintenance to powder storage and packaging for delivery. Overall, there’s a shared camaraderie knowing that all of us are facing similar challenges.
How confidential 20-groups facilitate candid feedback
Organized by two industry associations, the Powder Coat Institute (PCI) and Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI), the peer group program groups shops from different parts of North America together. This eliminates potential conflicts of interest. All participants take an oath of non-disclosure of any business practices so that shop owners can be direct and help each other yet rest assured that no trade secrets will leak. No photos are allowed and they do not share any of the information outside the group.
Sizewise, the peer group is large enough to allow for varied responses and consensus-building while being small enough to be manageable and support personal connection. The level of trust is phenomenal.
There are 20-groups in many industries today. Nearly 200 are sponsored by the National Automotive Dealer Association, which initiated the idea in the 1940s when non-competing car dealers united to exchange best practices.
Another key benefit of being a 20-group membership, outside the bi-annual meetings, is the network of industry experts ready to help whenever they are needed. Throughout the pandemic, peers conducted regular check-ins via video conferencing. The mutual support and collaboration of our PCI peer group was indispensable during the long months of weekly meetings where S&B had to manage ever-changing health and sanitation protocols, pandemic-related employee safety and work force issues.
Loyalty and appreciation on an upswing
Participants from the Kansas 20-group agreed there are new mutual appreciations between shops and customers these days. Shops are busy and supply chain issues sometimes slow delivery times despite best efforts to stay on schedule. Yet customers have shown a high level of patience, understanding and loyalty during these times. At S&B, our longstanding policy is that regardless of the size of a job or the businesses we work with, all are treated with the same high level of importance and priority.
Whatever the economic climate, S&B prides itself on unfailingly providing the utmost quality and service in order to build customer and employee loyalty. That includes regularly seeking out candid feedback about what we can improve. For S&B, our 20-group membership, like our quality ISO audits and Top Shop participation, is a way to assess our business on an ongoing basis.
We work continually to build our quality and improve operations. This effort has resulted in over 40 years of flourishing repeat business, word-of-mouth referrals, and a phenomenal employee retention track record, based on mutual respect and trust.