COVID-19 Small Business Loan Accelerator Helps Submit Applications for CARES Act Relief

COVID-19 Small Business Loan Accelerator Helps Submit Applications for CARES Act Relief

COVID-19 has been an unprecedented disruption for organizations and individuals globally. While the impact has been universal, small businesses have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. 

In response, the recently passed CARES Act includes critical access to financial assistance for small businesses. But with many options now available, it can be hard to determine eligibility and apply, potentially delaying access to needed funds.

As a part of our ongoing efforts to help our communities during these unique times, we’re excited to share the launch of the COVID-19 Small Business Loan Accelerator.

What is the Small Business Loan Accelerator?

Developed in partnership with Quick Base and Vista Equity Partners, this free, publicly available online diagnostic tool helps small business owners quickly evaluate eligibility for and prepare applications to financial assistance programs offered by the Small Business Administration.

The application provides the following to small businesses: 

  • Information on key programs available through the CARES Act
  • A diagnostics tool to determine eligibility for these programs
  • Guided form completion and generation to speed up application

How does it work?

Simply visit the application page here and go through the following process:

  1. Answer a series of short questions about you and your business
  2. Learn what programs you’re eligible for
  3. Your forms will be filled out automatically and ready for submission

You can determine eligibility for a number of programs available through the SBA, including:

  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): This program provides 100-percent federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EDIL): These lower interest loans of up to $2 million are available to pay for expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred.
  • 7(a) Loans: The SBA’s primary loan for providing financial assistance to small businesses—terms and conditions vary by specific loan type.

“With COVID-19’s devastating impact on small businesses, the CARES Act puts forth a range of substantial programs and money to help small businesses adapt quickly,” said Jay Jamison, chief product & technology officer at Quick Base. “The problem is that small businesses often struggle to navigate the maze of government regulations and programs successfully. Quick Base is committed to doing our part to help, and we have built this app to provide a way to streamline the process small business owners will have in applying for relief, aid and loan programs.”

Learn more about the COVID-19 Small Business Accelerator. To see other resources available to you, check out the COVID-19 response page.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Advanced Digital Claims and Repair

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Advanced Digital Claims and Repair

The insurance and automotive ecosystems currently face a revolutionary business process innovation: harnessing maturing technologies to add considerable value to the digital claims and collision repair process. With an abundance of mobile technologies and machine learning capabilities available, properly combined with expertise, powerful data and content, breakthroughs are possible for all stakeholders to unlock significant value by employing a new, modern workflow where the time from initial incident to claims resolution is significantly reduced and the consumer experience exponentially improved. 

With advanced telematics, connected vehicles, augmented driving programs and the like, driving and insuring a vehicle has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. The data gathered through insurance monitoring programs and manufacturer reporting can be used to not only shed light on driver behavior for advancements in safety, but also to predict vehicle damage and assess repair costs.  

Solera  has been studying the practical application of AI and machine learning in regard to vehicle damage assessment through guided image capture. This technology utilizes AI to accurately identify vehicle damage and automate an initial estimate. The company’s proprietary solutions combine advanced photo analytics and next-generation mobile claims technology, supported by a robust database composed of global data assets. 

Solera’s solution  also allows drivers and assessors to model and report light, cosmetic* vehicle collision damages  through guided image capture and markup tools. This in turn allows the repairer, after accessing the images, to determine what parts are needed for the repair prior to the vehicle leaving the scene of the accident—thus the wait time for parts can be significantly reduced and the claim settled at a much faster rate.  

With reduced cycle times and more accurate repair diagnoses, more vehicles can be repaired and returned to customers in their original state, improving overall vehicle safety. Additionally, total losses can be more appropriately and factually determined, reducing the number of hazardous vehicles on the road. 

Users of these technologies can make better decisions for their businesses and in turn serve customers with greater care, fulfilling a higher mission to provide convenience and transparency in the handling of their vehicle. 

*Cosmetic auto collision damage claims are defined as external only damage of $2,500 or less, for a drivable vehicle that did not deploy airbags. 

To download the complete white paper on artificial intelligence and machine learning, please visit https://try.audatex.us/digital-claims/

Paying It Forward in Vehicle Repair Education

Paying It Forward in Vehicle Repair Education

Written by Betsy Fata, Solera Content Writer

If you pay attention to the automotive news cycle, you’ll hear a familiar refrain: there’s a widespread shortage of skilled technicians. Shops and dealerships have been hurting for entry-level workers for many years now, and the need is only increasing as more vehicles, often with complex technology packages, are rolled out to consumers. 

CREF, the Collision Repair Education Foundation, estimates there are 14,000 new job openings every year, due to turnover and workers leaving the industry, which means 14,000 new technicians are needed each year to keep the industry growing and thriving. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job outlook for educated automotive service technicians is very positive—so, what explains the lack of bodies to fill these bays 

One potential deterrent could be the perceived difficulty of the career in relation to the expected pay. Sure, you can potentially earn more as a full-time Starbucks barista than as a first-year technician. Carpentry and trucking have starting salaries similar to this kind of trade work. However, according to CREF’s Director of Development, Brandon Eckenrode, if technicians are willing to put in the hard work in the beginning of their career, they can potentially make six figures in as little as five years. It may be that the level of difficulty and technical skill required is enough to deter younger workers from entering the field, despite the potential payoffs.  

The schools responsible for educating and training the next generation of technicians face constant uphill battles with each incoming class—lack of funding and scarce resources have contributed to a decrease in U.S. schools, with more than 100 of these specialized programs closing in the last five years.  

But it’s not all doom and gloom. CREF is one of several organizations determined to build up the industry’s workforce and educate skilled men and women to address the growing need for techs. Since 2013, the number of schools CREF supports has grown from 443 to 599, awarding grants and donating materials to the programs that sorely need the resources. 

Many educators are forced to come up with their own materials to train students or even dumpster dive for spare parts to show in class. With the support of CREF, these teachers can equip their classes with brand-new equipment, donated software and crucial items like safety glasses. 

Bodyshops have also started giving back to these programs and contributing materials and spare parts that will help the future workforce gain valuable experience in the classroom and in the shop. In case you’re not moved by our podcast on this topic and the stories of dedicated teachers stretching just $50 per student for an entire year of class, consider a high-school class whose program can’t afford to purchase professional shop shirts for the students. Knowing that a professional look can help students feel confident and work at their best level, local businesses have started sponsoring uniforms and outfitting students in the look of a polished, skilled technician—proving the old adage that even a small thing can make a big difference.  

CREF was founded under the name I-CAR Education Foundation in order to fund schools and train a workforce that was steadily aging. CREF created and distributed curriculum to the high schools and colleges so students could graduate with industry-recognized training and entry-level skill sets. In 2008, CREF became a solely philanthropic entity and has since raised over $100 million in support for these programs. 

If you’d like to learn more about education and donation opportunities with CREF, please visit collisioneducationfoundation.org 

Simple Tips to Protect Your Shop from Cyberattacks

Simple Tips to Protect Your Shop from Cyberattacks

Written by Betsy Fata, Solera Content Writer

Cybersecurity can seem like a complex issue. We all know we need it; however, the installation and facilitation of high-quality software and systems is pretty daunting. Luckily, we have some practical tips for shops and business of all sizes—and budgets—to follow for safe and secure business operations.  

Keep Customers First 

Treat cybersecurity as an integral part of customer service. Your shop goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure customers leave your shop happy—you should be treating their data and protecting your systems the same way you treat their vehicle. 

Investments in high-tech systems may not be feasible for you; however, you can make cybersecurity a top priority through your actions and priorities. Meet weekly with your staff to discuss best practices and educate them on the cost of attacks—ransomware, a type of software designed to deny access to a system or data until a ransom is paid, is expected to become a $11.5B industry by the end of this year. Host a local IT team to present on tips for shoring up network vulnerabilities. When customers feel confident in sharing information with you, they’ll be more likely to return for service. 

Know Your Level of Vulnerability 

Every 14 seconds there is a ransomware attack somewhere in the world. If you’re doing business, your data is valuable. Hackers will try to destroy, obtain or make your data unusable unless you pay a ransom. It may be hard to imagine, but there are lists of connected devices out on the internet for hackers to query and unleash mass attacks on. These devices include, but aren’t limited to, everyday tech like laptops, phones and Internet of Things devices, such as an Alexa or a smart thermostat. If you happen to be one of the thousands of users running an outdated PC, you may be targeted simply due to lack of security updates on your device. However, by no means are attacks simply random or senseless—nearly half of all cybersecurity incidents in 2018 were committed against small business owners, and 71% of those were financially motivated. Just because you may run a smaller outfit doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. A monthly subscription for ransomware protection and a strong list of passwords (never written down) are simple ways to protect your business and devices from random or targeted attacks.    

Be Skeptical and Discerning  

A more recent tactic of cyber hackers is to appeal to targets on a personal level. A hacker may email or call your business under the guise of a desperate family member or friend seeking money or private information. They may claim to represent the IRS and ask for verification of your personal or professional identity in order to file your taxes. Be very cautious about giving away any information to someone over the phone or over email. Verify their identify by asking for a reference ID number or their name and agent ID. If they claim to be a personal relation, ask them questions that only the supposed individual would know. Go beyond public information such as name, address and phone number or personal data points like a dog’s name, something someone could find easily on social media. You won’t sound foolish, you’ll sound shrewd, even if it is in fact an acquaintance.  

Do What You Can 

Installing a million-dollar security software may be out of reach for you. However, there are plenty of inexpensive and free resources for you to protect your data and your customers. You may even look to hire an IT consulting company to perform a security health check. If so, be sure this partner understands your business before you pay for their solutions. Cybersecurity is a multibillion-dollar industry. You want to partner with someone who understands your business and your data landscape.  

There’s always more to learn about protecting yourself and your business from malicious cyber activity. Take an hour each week to skim cybersecurity-related blogs and test yourself and your staff to learn how to properly identify cyber threats. Here are a few resources we recommend: 

Staying educated is the first step to combating cyber threats—so keep your staff informed and be on the lookout for more tips from Solera. 

And listen to our new podcast, Solera Innovation Labs, where we feature industry experts and discuss the future of the automotive ecosystem. Subscribe to the podcast on your favorite channel to be notified when new episodes drop.  

Solera Holdings Announces Darko Dejanovic
to Take Helm of Company

Dejanovic’s CEO and board experience across multiple enterprise software companies will be instrumental in positioning Solera for continued growth

WESTLAKE, Texas — Solera Holdings, Inc. (“Solera”), a global leader in risk and asset management data and software as a service (SaaS) solutions for the automotive and insurance industries, today announced that Darko Dejanovic has been appointed as the company’s Interim CEO. Dejanovic replaces Jeff Tarr, who stepped down as CEO, effective November 5, 2019.

“Darko’s extensive experience leading enterprise software companies through various phases of transition and growth make him uniquely qualified to serve as Solera’s Interim CEO as the company continues its focus on its products, customer service, talent and growth,” said Christian Sowul, Solera Board Member and Principal at Vista Equity Partners. “As a director on Solera’s board, Darko has a deep understanding of the company and industry and will be able to leverage the opportunities for growth that lie ahead.”

Dejanovic is an Operating Principal and serves as President of Vista Intelligence Group at Vista Equity Partners. He currently sits on the board of Wrike, Solera, 7Park Data, AGDATA, Social Solutions, Upserve, Stats Perform and works with Vista’s investments across a number of portfolio companies, including, EagleView, Omnitracs, The ACTIVE Network and Vivid Seats. Prior to joining Vista, Dejanovic worked as the Executive Chairman, CEO, President, and Chief Technology, Product, and Innovation Officer at The ACTIVE Network.

Over the past five months, Dejanovic worked side-by-side with the Solera leadership team on a comprehensive assessment of the organization that identified the opportunities for continued growth and enhanced products and customer service.

“Solera’s brands, market presence and product offerings provide a tremendous foundation for the company’s continued and expanded growth,” said Darko Dejanovic. “I want to thank Jeff for his contributions and steering the business toward a focus on customers and growth. I look forward to continuing my work with Solera’s team and board, as we position the company for continued success.”

In addition to serving as Interim CEO, Dejanovic will continue with his current responsibilities at Vista Equity Partners until a permanent CEO is in place.

About Solera

Solera is a global leader in risk and asset management data and software as a service (SaaS) solutions for the automotive and insurance industries. Solera is active in over 90 countries across six continents. Solera has over 235,000 customers and partners, including many of the largest U.S. and European P&C insurance companies and most of the world’s largest vehicle OEMs, as well as national governments, financial institutions, vehicle dealership, vehicle repair shops, salvage yards and vehicle buyers and sellers. For more information, please visit www.solera.com.

Media Contact:
Dafna Tapiero
solera@laurelstrategies.com
202-776-7776

Small Changes for Big Gains in Bodyshops 

In a recent episode of the Solera Innovation Labs podcast, our collision repair guru Don Mikrut interviewed Gethyn Davies, Head of Bodyshop Commercial Development for Audatex UK and a collision industry expert, on small changes a bodyshop owner could make for incremental improvements to their business operations. We’ve highlighted some of those small changes here, in a post originally featured on audatex.co.uk 

In September, we launched our ebook Small Changes, Big Differences in the Bodyshop, looking at how marginal gains can improve the bottom line of modern vehicle repair businesses. In this small changes series, we will delve into the incremental gains which can be made from streamlining bodyshop workflows, and investigate how bodyshops can improve profit margins by protecting the estimate. 

Streamlining the Workflow 

With the workshop placed firmly at the center of high-value work, it is easy for owners to focus on how quickly and effectively technicians are completing repair work. The danger here is that any costly inaccuracies within the shop’s wider assessment or administrative processes can quite easily fall by the wayside and impact the overall profits gained on each job. 

Although every repair is different, many bodyshops typically follow an independent staff model where techs have a decent amount of autonomy. When that model is deviated from, it impacts the amount of collective resources it takes to carry out repairs. While it may seem obvious, finding efficiencies in the repair workflow, from estimate to completion, can eliminate non-valuable work and protect every dollar made on each repair.  

It’s important to look at the individual processes themselves and consider whether any areas of your bodyshop are running on outdated processes. These may have been introduced initially as workarounds for specific issues or simply to get something done quickly. However, they are likely now standard practice and may not necessarily be the best and most effective ways to work.  

So, where do you start? 

Implementing a resource portal or documenting FAQs for staff to access easily can provide ongoing support and minimize periods of downtime which threaten the progress and overall profits made on repairs. While the impact may not be immediately visible, the small efficiencies gained will add up over time, shaving essential seconds, minutes and eventually hours from repair work. 

Protecting the Estimate 

The vehicle damage assessor is at the heart of bodyshop profitability. Every estimate must be carried out with maximum accuracy to ensure technicians have a clear blueprint of the exact work accounted for within the cost of the estimate.  

With bodyshops already operating within extremely tight margins, any work completed in addition to that accounted for on the original assessment inevitably adds on further time and costs required to complete the repair. When this occurs, the assessor needs to go back and revise the estimate to account for all the work completed.  

Taking simple steps to provide a constant flow of communication and in-repair images between the assessors and technicians can improve the clarity over the work required and allow workshop staff to raise questions when necessary to avoid any additional work being carried out and not captured within the assessment.  

While at first this may seem to add another step to the repair process, by documenting communications and providing the required evidence for each step, this could ultimately determine whether a profit is lost or gained on a job. 

To read more, download the full ebook here: https://www.audatex.co.uk/news/small-changes. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Solera Innovation Labs podcast to get notified when new episodes drop.