The Quest to Be the Best

Late last year, we started a new feature on our website: a guest blog, written by Amanda Schuier of the Omaha Truck Center. Schuier has taken on the monumental responsibility of mounting Nebraska's first annual truck technician competition, and when she expressed an interest in blogging about her experiences on our website, we were more than happy to oblige.

From the very start, we here at Fleet Maintenance were impressed and inspired by Schuier's attitude towards starting a statewide competition from absolute scratch. Some people might have been terrified to take on such a project, some people might have refused, but Schuier took it on without hesitation. In fact, she told us that this was the project she was born to do. It shows.

Perhaps one day you, too, will be called upon to organize a technician competition for your company or your state. Perhaps you'll be asked to volunteer. Perhaps you live in Nebraska, and Amanda Schuier is planning on calling you today!

Shouldn't you be ready?

We have reprinted Schuier's entire blog, thus far, to help you prepare for just such an occasion. You can learn a lot from her experiences, even if it's just a new appreciation for the people who do all the work behind the scenes...

December 1, 2008--

The exact series of events leading up to my involvement with SuperTech may be a bit hazy, but I do distinctly remember a friendly email from Larry Johnson. Johnson, Nebraska Trucking Association President, had recently heard of the SuperTech competition from long-time TMC member and mentor Darrell Hicks. Hicks' enthusiasm must've rubbed off on Johnson, because next thing we knew, Nebraska was poised to have its first SuperTech competition.

Of course, Johnson had to recruit some volunteers to help guide the competition first. Fortunately for me, Omaha Truck Center is a company that fully supports both the Nebraska Trucking Association and professional development events such as these.

After a brief moment that included virtually no hesitation, I decided it was a challenge I was ready to take on. I had the privilege of attending the 2008 TMCSuperTech competition with another representative from Nebraska, Jerry Wessel. Wessel and I were both overwhelmed by the kindness and friendliness of TMC members. We met a lot of great contacts, many of whom offered to help us. Everyone was encouraging. Honest, but encouraging. I can't even begin to count the number of times someone said, "It will take a lot of work, but you can do it!"

Upon arriving home from Nashville, we've kicked it into high gear. Since September, we've created a steering committee of seven members, including representation from fleet members, dealer service members and an NTA representative. We've set a date for our competition (07-08-09, so it's easy to remember!), so there's no turning back now.

In the next few months, I look forward to sharing with you a behind-the-scenes perspective of the inaugural Nebraska SuperTech competition.

December 11, 2008--

My mind is spinning, thanks to all the wonderful comments and suggestions I've received since the launch of the blog. Please don't be shy, feel free to comment anytime.

The SuperTech Steering Committee (STSC for ease of use) had a teleconference this week. Early on in the discussion of SuperTech, one of the members pointed out that we should try to have the competition in a central location. For those of you not familiar with our fine state's geography, Omaha and Lincoln are considered to be in the eastern part of the state. There are a lot more technicians in the western part of the state, and we want them involved.

Fortunately, Kelly Christensen at Central Community College in Hastings stepped up to the plate and hit a SuperTech homerun. Christensen is the associate dean of instruction for trades and industry at Central, and as luck would have it, the campus has a brand-new, state-of-the-art instruction facility for its diesel and truck driving programs. It was a match made in Heaven: a central Nebraska location with enough space to host the first Nebraska SuperTech competition. Christensen is also serving on the committee.

The STSC has divided itself into sub-committees, based on TMC's fabulous "How to Host a Technician Skills Competition." I've marked that manual up so many times; I had to print a second copy. We have three sub-committees: "Competition Directors," responsible for logistical organization of the skills stations and contest preparation; "Rules & Judges Directors," responsible for recruiting volunteers and running the judging table; and "Publicity, Promotions & Sponsorship Directors," who will focus on promoting the event to fleets, dealers and vendors.

It's been a busy month for Nebraska SuperTech. As we head into the New Year, I know it will only get busier. I'm looking forward to TMC's Annual Meeting in February where I can solicit help from many of you!

December 18, 2008--

After the first couple of meetings of the SuperTech Steering Committee, we found ourselves a little overwhelmed. We have the date and we have the location, but now what?

As we sat down around our long oval table, the one problem we got stuck on was "how do we actually figure out the scenarios to create for the competition?" We glanced around, waiting for the answer to magically make itself known to us, but it didn't come. As we all shook our heads, I said, "It's time to call in the reinforcements."

Actually, I didn't really say that, but you get the idea. It was the perfect moment for me to pull out the stack of business cards I gathered at TMC's SuperTech in Nashville.

Fortunately for me, I didn't have to twist any arms. I had several great conversations with Carl Tapp and Mike McBurney. Tapp helped established the competition in Arkansas, and McBurney works for Mitchell1. Also, DC Collins from Haldex has been on board since day one and offered some great advice. The knowledge and wisdom of these three is something I hope Nebraska members will aspire to someday. I'm sure it will take quite a bit of time for us to catch up.

Another group that has been instrumental in our planning thus far has been the United States Postal Service. Bonne Karim, manager, facilities & retail branch, NCED, met with me at SuperTech and took me under her wing. Karim also arranged for three of her co-workers to meet with some of the STSC members to get advice for the competition. Karim has also gone above-and-beyond in answering my numerous questions by phone and e-mail. She has the patience of a saint!

My point is that for those of you thinking your state may want to get involved but aren't sure where to begin, all it takes is one phone call or one e-mail to get the ball rolling. And from personal experience, I can guarantee you that once you get that ball rolling it's not going to stop!

January 7, 2009--

July is months away, and I'm certainly aware that the date is only getting closer. But, since we're enjoying a little break in the planning, I thought this would be a good opportunity to go "behind the scenes" to introduce you to the rest of our steering committee, and what they've been working on.

Jeff Hoefer from Nebraska Truck Center and Dave Jacobs from Wick's Sterling Trucks are heading up the judging rules and recruitment of volunteers. They are working hard to get knowledgeable people to work the stations.

Kevin Ingalls from Werner Enterprises is heading up publicity, promotions and sponsorships. He serves as president of Metropolitan Community College's Diesel Advisory Council, so he is good at getting people signed up for things! His years of training experience will help the STSC immensely.

Kelly Christensen from Central Community College and Jerry Wessel from Vantage Pointe Homes, who have both been previously mentioned in this blog, are in charge of logistics. These gentlemen have been poring over catering menus and figuring out the best way to stage all of the stations. Both bring a lot of good ideas to the committee.

So there you have it: the 2009 STSC. We also are working closely with the Nebraska Trucking Association, who sends a staff member to our meetings. Stay tuned for more fun from Nebraska!

January 14, 2009--

From an outsider's perspective, it may be easy to think SuperTech is just a frivolous, expensive idea. But as I've learned from many Technology and Maintenance Council members, this is absolutely incorrect.

In a conversation I recently had with Nebraska Trucking Association president Larry Johnson, he mentioned how excited he was to have the competition in the state. He said it's a great way to highlight the professional skills of our hardworking technicians in Nebraska, and definitely long overdue.

But what else can it add to your company? From a recruiting and retention standpoint, a lot.

Instead of focusing on mistakes our technicians make, we are now rewarding them for the hard work they do. Technicians are increasing their abilities by tackling new tasks at the competition. Some companies choose to have internal competitions to add even more incentive. This can even help with training, because you can focus on certain areas.

From a recruiting standpoint, think about those who are not currently in the industry and how they can be involved with the competition. In Nebraska, we are planning to invite students from the local community colleges to help serve as volunteers during SuperTech. Additionally, we have invited the people from the local community as well as local media.

There are many reasons why SuperTech is great, and we're looking forward to having it in Nebraska. It's about time we give our technicians the recognition they deserve!

January 21, 2009--

I've never sold anything in my life. Except a few boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the fourth grade. However, I have morphed into a salesperson role since September, after I witnessed the SuperTech competition for the first time.
What am I selling? Not a brand new truck or service to keep the truck on the road. I'm selling SuperTech.

Every industry meeting I attend, I make it a point to wear my 2008 SuperTech pin. I make it a point to bring up SuperTech in conversations. I hand out flyers. I tell people to tell their friends, or other service managers. People seek me out at meetings and ask questions about SuperTech.

Just this last week, I was able to present about the Nebraska SuperTech competition to the Metropolitan Community College Diesel Advisory Council, as well as to the managers of my own company, Omaha Truck Center, Inc. The reception I received from both groups was fantastic. Everyone wanted to know how they could be a part of it. I think the consensus throughout the state of Nebraska is that this is an industry-leading competition that makes sense for Nebraska businesses to compete in.

So although some people think it's silly that I wear my SuperTech pin everywhere, I'm happy to do it. It's easy to be a salesperson when it's something you're truly passionate about.

January 28, 2009--

Since all of the SuperTech Steering Committee members work full-time in our day jobs, SuperTech is really a labor of love. With the holidays and a busy year-end, our SuperTech planning has been on the back burner. But now that registration is only four months away, it's time to get serious.

This past week, we held a very important STSC meeting to finalize some of the major details. We were able to select our sponsorship levels. We started pulling together equipment lists and have already had a few companies step up to help with equipment, judging and sponsorships.

I would be neglectful if I didn't mention the support we have received from the Arkansas Trucking Association. Major thanks go out to Sarah Sheets, director of operations for the ATA, along with Carl Tapp of P.A.M. Transport. These two have been instrumental in helping us out with score sheets and ideas for registration. Both went above and beyond to help us, and we Nebraskans appreciate it.

This next month is going to be a huge month for us promotion-wise. Not only will the blogs be featured in Fleet Maintenance magazine, but we will also be doing an article in the Nebraska Trucker magazine. We plan to use that publicity to start approaching our state trucking association's members to help with sponsors and judging.

So, like anything that goes slightly off course, you make adjustments and pick up the pace. That's what we did this week, and I am quite pleased with our successes!