The aftermarket recently descended on Barrie, Ont., for two pivotal events, both focused on building leadership for tomorrow.
The Automotive Industries Association’s Young Executive Society (YES) held a well-attended workshop focused on building leadership and management skills among the younger members of the aftermarket, and then hosted the Canadian Automotive Institute’s Aftermarket Day, which brought nearly 100 students to hear presentations and panels by industry executives, and to make a few of their own presentations too.
The YES event focused on building a greater understanding of leadership and management skills by bringing in Human Performance Consultants Inc. for an interactive workshop that engaged attendees in “Leadership–From Intentions To Results With And Through People.” Among the issues the workshop addressed were:
• Understanding the importance of leadership and how to exercise effective leadership, regardless of hierarchical authority;
• developing leadership skills and strategies to improve teamwork and to effectively lead a team;
• recognizing the four universal motivators;
• ensuring that the participant cultivates more of these motivators for him/herself and provides them to employers.
The program thoroughly engaged attendees, who then had the opportunity to listen to aftermarket veteran Robert Blair and his views on mentorship. Blair, who grew up in the aftermarket–his father, Al Blair, started as a wagon jobber and rose to be a senior executive with UAP–spent many years in the aftermarket, most recently as executive vice-president with General Parts Inc., until his retirement.
“Having a mentor is absolutely essential. It’s not that complicated to do, and you may find that you have one without even knowing it.” Blair says that having a teacher who can inspire you can be an important factor. “I certainly had several who ignited my imagination.
“You can all relate to people who have been influential. There is the servant leader, who leads by showing the way. Whether you recognize them as leaders or not, they are.”
And, of course, there is the classic “coach” who will show you the ropes.
“The most difficult thing in business is to determine those who have the potential and preparing them for more. It is as much good luck as good management, as much black art as science.”
He said that he has never had much luck hiring people for senior positions from outside the organizations he worked for. Too often, he said, they didn’t live up to their resume. And he offered this advice: “If someone you know has 50% of the qualities you need, give them the job. You already know more about them.”
He also told of his first big break.
“Luck plays a role, but you have to be prepared. My boss got into a fight with his boss and resigned. So they looked up and down the line and made me vice-president. It was luck, but I was prepared because I had already managed a distribution centre.”
In closing, Blair said that his father, his most important mentor, left him with many lessons, but one above all others: treat people with respect.
“Treat everybody who works with you with respect. I have tried to do that and it has paid off over time. [My father] would talk to the sales manager the same way as the janitor.”
Further to the youth theme, Aftermarket Day attracted nearly 100 students from Georgian College’s Canadian Automotive Institute.
In addition to student presentations, panels were convened on marketing and technology; a highlight of this third annual event is the networking luncheon where students rotate through tables to meet aftermarket executives.
The Environmental Sustainability panel was among the more interesting, and gave aftermarket executives the opportunity to discuss industry advancements that benefit the environment.
Tony Canade, chair of the Canadian Collision Industry Forum and vice-president of Assured Automotive, gave a brief outline on the transition to waterborne technology; Mark Reed, Shell Lubricants, spoke of fuel-saving developments and the move to ultra-low sulphur diesel.
Mark Degli Angeli of Mister Transmission told students that the organization recycles 80,000 litres of transmission fluid a year and 6,000 kg of oil-soaked filters, all kept out of landfills. And Bob Twidle, Exide Technologies, spoke of the recyclability of batteries and developments that will continue to improve lead acid battery technology, still the most viable energy storage technology. New carbon technology makes batteries faster to charge and more efficient, and longer lasting too, he said.
“From a technology standpoint, the times are very exciting; it has brought us ways to improve the products we use today.”