Industry unity was the theme of a special event attended by more than 230 garagists and their families in Barrie, Ont. last month.
The event, organized by the Barrie and Area Automotive Repair Association (BAARA), featured Bryan Dodge, a motivational speaker from Texas who used a unique blend of humor and audience participation to urge people in the automotive repair industry to stick together.
"Don’t speak bad of another person in this industry ever again," he urged his audience. "You’re a family. And you protect family. It’s called industry etiquette."
The message seemed to strike a chord with those who attended.
"I’ve always thought that we should never embarrass our own industry in front of a customer," said Roy Hinbest of Roy’s Service in Orangeville, Ont. "Medical and dental professionals donýt do that, and we shouldnýt either."
"Thatýs something this industry has to learn, big time," added Gary Hrynyk of Gary’s Auto Service in Bradford, Ont. "You see it too often where one shops speaks badly of another. They may be competitors, but weýre all in the same industry, and weýre hurting our own image."
The turn-out was a particular accomplishment for a small association operating in a snowy part of the province in February.
BAARA president Ed Jagt said members of regional associations in Peterborough, Kingston, Ottawa, Orangeville, London, and throughout southern Ontario made the trek to Barrie to hear Dodge.
That kind of interest and co-operation appears to be a welcome trend in the automotive aftermarket, says Marc Brazeau, vice president of the Automotive Industries Association (AIA) of Canada.
"We’re seeing a lot more activity in regional associations lately," he says.
He chalks that up to the buzz surrounding the establishment of a new national association for independent shops (the Canadian Independent Automotive Association) and the re-emergence of the National Automotive Trades Association after an extended dormancy.
"In some senses these national associations have created opportunities for regional groups to expand and become more active because there’s a heightened awareness of the need for service providers to come together," says Brazeau.
He also points out that regional groups are particularly effective because they have a good sense of the most urgent issues in their area ý whether it is right-to-repair, local legislation, or the image of the industry.
Bill Burkimsher, executive director of the Automotive Aftermarket Retailers of Ontario, says regional associations offer an excellent chance for shop owners to work co-operatively toward a mutually beneficial goal.
"We encourage it. The more independent shops communicate with one another the better," he says. "What could be wrong with that?"