Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2007   by Auto Service World

Automotive Conference for Executives ACE Rocks Falls

Everyone sees the world through a lens, according to Doug Keeley. Some see it as a battle, while students see life as a party; he chooses to see it as a series of stories.

Speaking at the Automotive Conference for Executives in Niagara Falls, Ont., Keeley shared his view on what it takes to be a leader.

“Stories are an empowering point of view. If you accept that your life is a story, you make a choice; either you are a victim in the story, or you choose to write it. You have control over the central character: you.

“Accountability is at the root of that.” And, he added, that is the mark of a leader.

Accordingly, he shared several stories of inspiring leaders: some of the conventional definition, like U.S. president John F. Kennedy, who urged his country to land on the moon; and others, like almost-has-been rocker Bob Geldof, who took the inspiration fuelled by a single news story on starvation and drought in Africa and turned it into a fundraising campaign that raised hundreds of millions of dollars.

He told the attendees that it was important to understand that leadership requires teambuilding; and that it is best accomplished with a game plan and passion.

“As a leader, one of your most important responsibilities is to make the people in your workplace feel that they have control, and are not afraid to fail.”

Business has ups and downs, and it is how you handle them that determines your success as a leader. And there is no leadership gene.

“The world is changed by ordinary people. You don’t change the world, and you don’t build a great company, by accident. It is deliberate.”

Keeley’s presentations punctuated the events of the conference, squeezing short profiles and stories between the longer presentations of the day.

These speakers had attendees engage in activities as diverse as taking a group personality test–are you an extrovert or an introvert?–to asking themselves where their organization falls in the continuum to truly effective customer relationship management.

John Ibbitson, former political affairs columnist for the Globe and Mail (he has recently been asked to move to Washington, D.C. and “wander around to see what’s happening”), told attendees that the current Canadian government has probably lost its way fiscally–the last federal budget was soundly condemned for its free spending.

“The federal budget is a terrible budget. It’s also a dishonest budget. I wrote that the Liberals should sue for breach of copyright.”

He also told attendees not to be surprised if there wasn’t anything in there for business.

“The federal government is now the biggest-spending government in the history of Canada. And more to the point, it is not a very friendly budget for business.

“Why? You don’t have many votes. The middle class runs government. They vote governments in and vote governments out. The business elite is in the same boat as the very poor. There aren’t that many of you.

“You can’t swing a single seat in the whole country.” Harper may want to help business, he said, but it just doesn’t pay for him at the polls. “He is philosophically on your side, but [the business elite] can’t get him elected.”

Attack Problem Head On, Harris Tells Automotive Executives

Former Ontario premier Mike Harris said that restricting access to information represents a monopoly, and is a limiting factor on the economy.

Harris spoke of his vision for Canada in the future. His “A Canada Strong and Free” series, co-authored by Harris and political notable Preston Manning, is published through The Fraser Institute.

A staunch believer in the power of the private sector, Harris took aim at public-sector monopolies such as the healthcare system and the education system; he doesn’t understand how those who pay for the system have no choice. He says that the private sector is not immune to this behaviour.

“Do private-sector monopolies get in the way of choice? Unequivocally yes. Right to repair is a case of this. Automotive manufacturers are installing increasingly complex computer systems that require consumers to return to the dealer. This in effect creates a monopoly. When you eliminate choice for the consumer, you eliminate competition.

“Attack this problem from the consumer standpoint.”

He said that the right moves have been made so far, and the right contacts and alliances in government are being struck.

Building competition, and a competitive system in both public and private sectors, is important for the whole of Canada.

“If we are going to unlock our national potential, we have to attack these issues head on.”

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