Extracurricular activities

My high school guidance counselor was a big fan of extracurricular activities.

She would constantly push students to get out of the classroom

and try other things — sports, arts, student government, volunteer work. What we did was never as important as the fact that we actually did it, because to her, the value came from the experience. From trying something new and making an effort to better ourselves.

That sentiment found its way back into my consciousness this month.

While the aftermarket lacks the extracurricular activities of our youth — I think the closest we get to sports are golf outings — it does offer its members opportunities to be involved in non-work activities.

 And I believe wholeheartedly that taking advantage of these additional programs allow aftermarket business leaders to better themselves, their operations and the industry.

I think all aftermarket business leaders should attend one industry event or maintain membership in one industry organization every year.

Here are three reasons why.

Training

You can cross your fingers and hope your new tech knows how to repair the mangled leaf spring that just entered his bay, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

The aftermarket has organizations that provide training for all areas of your business — sales, succession planning, tech training, marketing — all you have to do is sign up.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to send my team to an out-of-town training course.”

That’s OK. No one said you had to send everyone. But you could send your best one.

Find that person on your team who wants to improve, who’s eager to learn and takes their job seriously. Send them to a class. A good employee will appreciate your trust and feel empowered by the opportunity to bring back valuable information.

Networking

Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone to talk to. Someone who’s going through the same battles you are.

You can look at a trade show reception and think “free drinks,” or you can go in willing to meet new people and socialize. Then you might leave with more than just a buzz. You might find a confidant, a mentor, or a peer with which you can commiserate.

“I think some of the best learning opportunities at [industry events] come from when distributors talk to other distributors about their businesses,” says Steve Crowley, president and CEO at VIPAR Heavy Duty.

“It’s one thing to hear an intellectual give you advice on a hypothetical situation, but when you talk to another distributor you get a real-world opinion. You can talk to someone who’s ‘been there, done that,’ and will be honest with you.”

Enjoyment

Being involved is fun. The events being held in the aftermarket today are designed to provide education and entertainment.

Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week is in Las Vegas, while CVSN’s Aftermarket Distribution Summit and the VIPAR Heavy Duty and HDA Truck Pride annual meetings are typically located at resorts in warm weather climates. While each event packs a ton of information into a small package, they also offer opportunities to get out and enjoy your time in a different city.

And with spousal programs, golf outings and those networking receptions, you don’t have to be all business all the time.

And that’s OK. “It’s kind of like convincing new parents that their child isn’t going to die if they leave them with a grandparent for the weekend,” says Tim Kraus, president and COO of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association. “Some- times you just need to get away.”

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