Imagine a time when the DOT official will hook into a connector on the truck and read all the fault codes to determine potential infractions, and your current customers can no longer buy from you because both you and they lack the necessary tools to complete the repair on the truck. Customers will be forced back to the dealer. Imagine a time when your company employees decide to belong to a union because the regulations dealing with the formation of unions prevent you from even offering a counter argument. If that is not scary enough, think of the financial impact on your business if the government reevaluates inventory in a way that results in a write-up of the value. Imagine coming to work one day and seeing an IRS notice that states you owe an additional amount of taxes in the hundreds of thousands.
This is not an unknown John Lennon song or some speaker preaching gloom and doom. Each of these scenarios is actually a bill or a regulation that is being proposed in Congress today. It was precisely the reason that CVSN held their annual Aftermarket Distribution Summit this past week in Washington D.C. CVSN is our main industry association that is primarily focused on the future of our industry and the success of its participants. The marketing groups are also very important, but they primarily are focused on the financial rewards that keep our companies running. To be successful in the future, we need both the Marketing Group and the CVSN Association to be strong and viable.
This year’s Summit was a big success. Our education programs were some of the best we have ever had. The meeting was opened with Richard Schien receiving the President’s award for his contributions in the area of technology. Karmak was the first computer system designed specifically for our industry. Former Governor Robert Ehrlich, Jr. gave us a detailed look at the current political environment and his expectations for the future.
Our first education session was sponsored by HDX/Datalliance. It was titled “helping Your Customers with Tools and Technology”. The premise for this session was that technology and information was not only an issue for the repair shops. Small fleets and parts only distributors will face increasing challenges to become knowledgeable and capable in diagnosing and repairing trucks. There is also a marketing opportunity to sell the equipment to our fleet customers. The three speakers, Tom Kotenko from NEXIQ, Dave Constantino from Michell 1, and Christopher Edd from Motor and Fleetcross gave both enlightening talks and demonstrations of their hardware and software.
There were several discussions about CSA2010. Bert Mayo from the Lockton Company serves as a consultant for many of the top fleets and gave us a better understanding on how fleet owners are changing their maintenance procedures to accommodate this new law. He also recommended some practices we can do at the distributor level to increase awareness at our customers and become more valuable to them. Anne Ferro, the Administrator for FMCSA explained the motivation and direction of the new law and agreed to consider aftermarket distributors in the discussion about future rulemaking.
Jim Camp, trains people how to become better negotiators and wrote “Start with No”. He gave out copies of his book which should be used to train our sales people to become better at negotiating sales with customers. Gene Marks gave a very good analysis explaining what is coming in the economy and what will likely affect our profits in months and years ahead. Our final education session was with Dr. Bob Nelson. Dr. Nelson has written several books on using recognition as a reward. This was for me, one of the best sessions because it is easy to implement and leads to a better and more productive working environment.
Besides education programs, we had private strategic planning sessions (PSP’s) with nine suppliers. These are like mini-DAC meetings and allow distributors to discuss issues as a group with a given supplier. We also had several networking opportunities giving attendees a chance to meet with suppliers and fellow distributors in a comfortable setting where ideas can be exchanged and strategic alliances can be reinforced.
All of the above was wonderful and well worth the time and expense. But the best part for me, was the legislative summit that was put on with the help of AAIA. This was a unique opportunity to visit with congressmen, senators and legislative staffers in their offices to present specific issues that affect our industry. Walking the halls of Congress and pitching our issues was both exciting and humbling. It was a long day and we were tired in the end, but we actually moved a few legislators to our causes. Some of what I wrote in this first paragraph may not happen, mainly because we were able to clarify the issues and their impact to our officials.
But work still needs to be done. Although we had a record attendance, we still only had a small percentage of the overall industry. Do you really think it is wise to sit back and allow your businesses to be hurt by bad legislation? Do you want to tell any of your employees that they are laid off because you could not spend a thousand dollars and give up three days of your time? How are you going to be able to compete if you do not have the latest information and ideas?
The problem we face as an industry is that we underestimate the efforts that are being expended to put us out of business. When OEM’s go to Washington to talk to Congress, nobody sits on the sideline. When the OEM’s want to educate their dealers, it is mandatory. Being independent, as we are, is a wonderful freedom we enjoy, but independence does not eliminate the need for responsibility. We need to present a strong united front to beat back the challenges in our industry.
If you are unsure of the value of becoming a member of CVSN, I suggest you come to our next Summit, which will be in Niagra Falls on September 16th through the 19th. We have a limited number of guest invitations which will give you the opportunity to attend the function before joining the association. If you want to come, please contact Angelo Volpe at www.cvsn.org.