Auto Service World
Feature   May 1, 2008   by Auto Service World

AIA Deals Aces High

“I had to be here at 7:30 this morning, and that’s usually about the time I’m getting home,” stated the Honourable Ralph Klein, in his opening remarks to the aftermarket’s best and brightest as they gathered in Gatineau (formerly Hull), Quebec for the annual Aftermarket Conference for Executives.

Held at the Hilton Lac Leamy, April 22nd and 23rd, the event brought together a broad crosssection of industry movers and shakers. The theme of this year’s edition was leadership, and offered attendees the insights of a distinguished list of speakers that was highlighted by the popular and outspoken former Alberta premier.

The morning’s activities began with the presentation of the AIA’s highest honour, the Distinguished Service Award, presented this year

to Dan Bell, of CARS Council. Former chairman John Cochrane, who presented the award, noted Bell’s many accomplishments. He was chosen as the recipient of this year’s award, said Cochrane, “because of the significant contribution he has made to the automotive aftermarket industry from a training and human resources perspective. He has been an advocate and proponent of training for a number of years. He has ensured that our industry has access to training on a cost-effective basis, which is a very important aspect of the growth and prosperity of the automotive aftermarket in Canada.”

Following the presentation, it was Klein’s turn to captivate the crowd with his unique brand of everyday politics and advice from years on the front lines of Canada’s most exciting economy. After going through a list of successes and regrets, which included his inability to reform the health care system, Klein brought his point home to the crowd of aftermarket professionals. “Health care should be no different from the automotive business, where competition prevails,” he said. “In health care, you can’t be stagnant, and can’t use the same strategies that worked 25 years ago. You have to learn to adapt to ensure customers receive the goods or services they expect and deserve.

“The feds could learn a lot from you in the aftermarket. In your business, you ensure an enhanced ownership of a product. You need to listen and adapt in order to keep up with the needs and demands of your customers.”

The need to adapt and change with new conditions was echoed in the event’s second keynote address, delivered by Lieutenant-General Walter Natynczyk, vice-chief of the Canadian Defense Staff, and reportedly, heir apparent to the nation’s top soldiering job after the resignation of Major General Rick Hillier earlier in April. After a rousing demonstration of the various forms of leadership within the Canadian Armed Forces, Natynczyk returned to the theme of flexibility in leadership, even within the rigidity of the military. “We went though a period where people wanted to codify everything and every battlefield decision,” he said. “But in the field, things can change very quickly and decisions need to be made by judgment. So what you’re doing here is great. You have to refresh your thinking or you get stale. And as strategic leaders, you have to provide the guidance necessary to allow your people to make those discretionary judgments. You have to demonstrate the flexibility to adapt, because nothing is black and white,” he said.

Meanwhile, interspersed with the longer presentations, Dr. John Izzo presented his “five secrets you must discover before you die,” which encouraged all in attendance to look at the importance of lifelong goals from a new and enlightening perspective.

In all, the event provided a solid opportunity for the aftermarket to gather, discuss, and learn. Ultimately, perhaps Klein offered the best overall advice. “In 1993, Albertans wanted change, and so the key was to find out where the parade was headed,” he said. “Then, get in front of that parade.”

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