Expert says understanding generational differences helps success of collision operations

Cam Marston, generational expert, delivered keynote address at MVP Business Solutions conference

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio, April 22, 2010 – Success in today’s collision repair industry is highly dependent on how well owners and managers understand the differing attitudes and preferences of today’s four distinct generations. That’s the view Cam Marston, authority on multi-generational communications, shared during the recent PPG Industries (NYSE:PPG) MVP Business Solutions Conference at the Paradise Point Hotel in San Diego. The sold-out conference, themed “Beyond Tomorrow,” drew more than 320 PPG-affiliated collision center professionals, making it the most highly-attended MVP conference to date.

In his address, Marston said preparing for the future includes bringing out the best from employees. With four generations – known as Matures, Boomers, Xers and Millennials – now working side by side, part of that challenge is communicating and managing effectively across generational lines by treating employees as individuals. Marston defined the generations by age: Matures are those 65 and older, Baby Boomers are those 46 to 64, Gen Xers are those 31 to 45, and Millennials are those 30 and younger. He described each generation’s characteristics and expectations, and how those qualities affect their work.

According to Marston, understanding generational differences can ease workplace frustration while increasing teamwork and productivity. For example, most Matures and Boomers value their work ethic and job commitment, while Gen Xers’ and Millennials’ primary identity is outside the workplace. That doesn’t mean one generation is more productive than another, just that each has its own way of doing things, he said, and that tailoring communications to reflect these distinctions is the key to success.

“I was very impressed,” said Sharon Wells, general manager of Collision Clinic, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. “We’re so busy just getting the job done, we sometimes don’t think about our work force as individuals. His information was of paramount importance. I was with two others from my shop – we represented three different generations – and we now understand each other better.”

Another difference Marston pointed out is the greater use of social media by Gen Xers and Millennials than by Matures and Boomers. His statistics show 77 percent of Millennials and 61 percent of Gen Xers maintain an Internet social media website profile, compared to 36 percent for Matures and 46 percent for Boomers. This also ties in to the younger generations’ thirst for information.

“In terms of pure numbers, social media plays a big role in how we need to communicate in the future,” said Norm Angrove, senior manager, PPG Value Added Programs, who facilitated a discussion group on the social media. “There are 900 million visitors to social media sites every day, and 74 percent of that is in the United States. Twitter is growing at a 3,000 percent pace. Marketing today involves the five ‘Cs’ of social media – content, community, conversation, collaboration and connection. We can’t ignore that. Collision shops have to put their message out there using this new media.”

Marston said shop owners must recognize generational differences when selling their services: what is learned about communicating inside the collision center applies to cross-generational customers as well, especially with social media marketing.

“Social media is already a big part of our marketing mix. It is an essential tool that will help us stay ahead,” said Sal Contreras, marketing director for Mike Rose's Auto Body in Concord, Calif. "I heard a lot of great ideas at the conference, so we plan to use the information significantly more in the future to connect with customers, insurance agents and the insurers.”

Additional speakers, seminars and breakout discussion sessions focused on providing attendees with assistance and tools for improving their business model and preparing their centers and employees for success “beyond tomorrow.” Industry experts Chris Miller, senior editor of ABRN Magazine, and Githesh Ramamurthy, CEO of CCC Information Services, addressed the topics of “The State of Collision Repair” and “Data and Analysis the Industry Must Understand,” respectively.

For more about MVP Business Solutions, contact a PPG territory manager, e-mail or visit

When introduced more than a decade ago, MVP Business Solutions was the first program of its kind in the collision repair industry. Since then, thousands of collision center owners and managers have taken advantage of MVP’s innovative services to improve the way they run their businesses. Green Belt Training is part of the MVP program.

About PPG
PPG Industries’ vision is to continue to be the world’s leading coatings and specialty products company. Founded in 1883, the company serves customers in industrial, transportation, consumer products, and construction markets and aftermarkets. With headquarters in Pittsburgh, PPG operates in more than 60 countries around the globe. Sales in 2009 were $12.2 billion. PPG shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol: PPG). For more information, visit

Norm Angrove
PPG Automotive Refinish