Insurance Adjusters—Friends or Foes

Bob Spitz—Management Success

I was talking with a fairly new shop owner the other day on the state of his business and the challenges of getting a new business off the ground. During the talk the subject of adjusters came up.

This particular owner like many in the business has a passion for his art; he is a master painter, does beautiful work.  And like many new operators he has some collision guys but he is still the one who does the painting.  He has goals.  He wants his shop to be the best collision shop in his market and I have no doubt that with his drive he might make it.  The reason I say might is due to the fact that he is currently stuck working in the back and trying to run the business which includes writing his own estimates.

He is experiencing his first case of true stress and it is starting to manifest itself in the way he handles people.  He looks at adjusters as the enemy who is there to drive him crazy and whittle down his profits to the point where he is not making any money.

I asked him if he provides a space for the adjuster to work while the adjuster is in your shop.  His reply was instantaneous and filled with antagonism.  “Why should I do that?  He is not here to help me!”  I knew immediately that he was looking at the adjuster as an adversary and not a potential ally.

I was not trying to find fault with him.  He is a well trained and experienced painter with a lot of knowledge and talent in that area.  His problem is he is not trained in the fine art of handling people, which as an owner is more important than his skills as a painter.  As a result he is trying to handle the wrong problem in his business.  Killing adjusters will not improve his bottom line!

I got him to calm down and take a look at what an adjuster does. How the adjuster plays the fine balancing act between the insurance company and the shop which has the customer’s interests as the priority.  I got him to also look at that fact that he needs the adjusters help in accomplishing his goals and yelling at people and being belligerent is probably not the best way to win someone over.

I agreed with him that not all adjusters are sweethearts. Some are a real problem.  They can be difficult and unreasonable.  Maybe they just got chewed out by the owner of the last shop they were in.  Maybe they have a chip on their shoulder due to their own failures in business.  It does not matter.  You need this person to help you get what you need.  Maybe just offering them a bottle of water and a place to sit down for a moment to talk about anything other than the business at hand would help.  Not all of them are out to get you. In fact if he would put down his sword and shield he might find the majority of them are just trying to do a difficult job the best way they know how.

Dealing well with people is not only a skill; it is an art form that has got to be mastered by anyone trying to run a business.  There are many things to know about business. Understanding personal relationships and knowing how to negotiate is among the top items on the list.

Understanding people and how to handle people well is a priority for those who have to deal with people.  Very few people are born with these skills, they have to be learned.

I asked him “what if you had the same ability in dealing with adjusters that you have in dealing with the cars?  Where would you be?”  He stopped dead in his tracks.  I continued, “You are a gifted talented painter who only knows how to do the job one-way, the right way. Your upset with the adjuster is you feel he is trying to get you to do the job in a lesser way, a way that will not satisfy you or the customer. You do not have the skill to get the adjuster to see it your way.  This leaves you with limited choices of short cutting, or accepting what is being offered which reduces your profit. Neither one of these is acceptable, nor should they be. You are going to do it the right way regardless.

Two things need to happen here and happen quickly or you will burn out and never achieve your goals.  The first is you have got to learn how to recruit, hire and train the right people so that you can back out of the paint booth and run your business. You are killing yourself trying to do both.  What is currently happening is you get short fused when you have to stop what you are doing to handle the insurance adjusters. You start the conversation with the adjuster with an already negative attitude.

The second thing is you have got to learn how to deal with people and negotiate in order to get what it is you need to do the job right and put money in your pocket.”  His shoulders sagged and he said to me, “where do we start?”

I am happy to report that this particular shop owner did not blow up his business and is now in a much better condition.  He smiles easier and has a good business.  He is well on the way to achieving his goals.

Collision shop owners are in the people handling business.  If you are not achieving your goals, feeling fed up and frustrated, give Management Success a call—we can help.


Management Success!, is a company that specializes in training and consulting the independent automotive repair shop owner. Bob tours the country as an educational speaker and writes numerous columns and articles for trade publications. Additional articles on management can be read online at



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