Monticello body shop scholar receives national honor
Ben Rouw, general manager at Steele’s Collision & Glass in Monticello, will head to New Orleans next month to receive a national auto repair industry award.
Earlier this month, Automotive Management Institute (AMI) and the Automotive Service Association (ASA) announced Rouw had been named the 2012 recipient of the Emil Stanley Merit Award, which honors the former publisher of Automotive Body Repair News (ABRN). Stanley was committed to strengthening the professionalism of the collision repair industry through education. He was recognized as an advocate of the International Autobody Congress & Exposition (NACE), the world’s largest collision repair event, which is sponsored annually by ASA. Rouw has worked in the automotive and collision repair industry for more than 19 years.
AMI was established to answer the demand for continuing education tailored specifically for the business needs of the automotive service industry. The Institute offers the Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) designation, the first business management accreditation exclusively for the automotive service professional. Rouw is currently completing the necessary requirements to earn the Institute’s Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) designation. As this year’s national scholarship recipient, Rouw will receive $1,000 toward expenses to attend educational sessions and view the latest repair technologies and equipment at the 2012 International Autobody Congress & Exposition (NACE), Oct. 10-13, in New Orleans. Rouw said he applied for the NACE scholarship.
“Auto Body Repair News is one of our biggest trade publications,” he said. “This has turned out to be a more prestigious thing than I had originally thought.”
Rouw started out the industry as a Chevrolet mechanic, but a disease in his ankles started to create problems, resulting in five knee and ankle operations.
“I have a lot of knowledge about the business but I have no education about the business” he said. “I went to school to be a mechanic. Everything I’ve learned about auto body work I’ve learned in our shop. This award will help me meet people who are high up in the industry and learn what’s going on in other shops.”
According to Rouw, it’s becoming very difficult for body shops to become profitable. The price of parts keeps going up while the price of labor stays the same. “Insurance companies control body shops and tell us how much we can charge,” he said. “You have to find other ways as a business to remain profitable.”
Rouw has another story to tell. Four years ago, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the autoimmune disease that affects the brain, spinal cord and the central nervous system. “MS has made my life better,” he said. “That’s the truth. The first year was tough. I have two young daughters, and I have to be a good role model. I want people to recognize I’m a strong person. This is just something that I carry along with me. I’m going to work and do the best I can”
Rouw gave his co-workers and ownership plenty of credit for lending a helping hand when he needed help or time off, especially Rich Ree, assistant manager.
“The best thing I’ve done as manager is hire him,” he said. “We call each other left-brain and right-brain, because together, we figure things out. He’s been my go-to guy when I need help or time off. I can count on him. We have 11 employees total. That includes the owners. It’s a small company, but we are like family.”