ASRW was well worth the time in today’s fast changing industry; AAPEX and SEMA will be, too

Today's challenging industry calls for a new mindset among shop owners.


As challenging as business has become in recent years, the aftermarket industry remains invigorating for those who take the time to stay on top of two things that go hand in hand: changing technology and new business practices. Technology is changing everything about how we do business. And if you’re in need of a “recharge” in these two exciting areas, there’s still time to make plans for AAPEX and SEMA in Las Vegas next week.

The recent Automotive Service & Repair Week (ASRW) in New Orleans served up a generous sampling of technology innovations, new business practices, product introductions and networking opportunities. The enthusiasm was electric each day at the Morial Convention Center, with shop owners and technicians scampering to classes and the trade show.

There were more than 85 education sessions covering everything from diagnostics, marketing, financial metrics, estimating, peer benchmarking, future automotive technologies, HR management; you name it. And the trade show schedule made it easy for attendees to make time to check out the exhibits in between education sessions.

Taimur Khan, a Miami, Fla. shop owner, attended a class on new diagnostic scanner capabilities. Following the class, he immediately headed to the trade show floor with questions for exhibitors that he would not have known to ask had it not been for the education session.

Richard Brigidi of CollisionMax in Trevose, Pa. took a class where he learned a better procedure for repairs. On the show floor, he found a new resistance welder that can recognize the metal.

Allan Boggs Algiers, La. plans to change his troubleshooting process after attending a class that demonstrated new ways of testing misfires.

Not one attendee I spoke to said the time and money spent at the show wasn’t worthwhile.

With the amount of information a shop owner and a service tech need to keep up with nowadays, conventions are no longer optional for those who want to stay up to date with technology and new business practices.

Invigorating for those who make the time, yes.

But challenge and change is never easy.

The sheer volume of material makes it harder for attendees to organize their time at conventions. Some of the education sessions are repeated throughout the convention to give attendees an opportunity to take in more of them. But shop owners still have to pick and choose from numerous sessions, all of which they may deem important. Astute show management has addressed this by requiring presenters to provide written summaries of their presentations.

One takeaway from ASRW is that the volume of information today’s aftermarket service providers need to keep up with requires a whole new mindset. This was stated in very clear terms in the keynote session by veteran automotive executive and business author Dick Cross, who stated that thinking is the most important thing one can do to improve their business.

Simple as this may sound, Cross hit a note for many listeners in pointing out that business owners tend to get tied up in the tasks they have to do and overlook the need to keep aware of the bigger picture around them. He told listeners that dedicating 20 minutes a day to thinking, three days a week, will change their lives and their businesses.

Thinking, in the way that Cross referenced it, includes planning and brainstorming. These things are needed to succeed in a changing marketplace. And they call on us to make time for conventions.

There’s still time to make plans for AAPEX and SEMA.