Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2009   by Auto Service World

The Big Room

My job as editor and publisher of this magazine is unique within the Canadian automotive aftermarket, and while it has its challenges, I consider it among the best, most rewarding positions to hold in this industry.

One of the reasons I feel this way is that it allows me the opportunity to learn every day from the brightest, most progressive minds the industry has at its disposal. Not all are what would be publicly recognized as captains of industry; some of the greatest insights come from small business owners who have figured out a way to make a business work in a market space that many didn’t even know existed.

Of course, the danger of the individualist’s approach, as creative as it might be, is that often learning is gained purely by personal experience–by trial and error if you will. That’s great to a point, but it leaves too much to chance and, frankly, the learning curve can simply be too long.

This industry is full of innovative entrepreneurs and I have met most of them in a Big Room, at an industry event, learning alongside hundreds of colleagues.

Unfortunately, economic challenges being what they are, those opportunities have become fewer and farther between in the last couple of years.

While understandable, the long-term impact of having industry players become more insular is never positive. Yes, online learning is great, but it is best at providing data and specific process instruction. As an industry, we also need to spend time in a Big Room with our peers, to really open our minds to new ideas and remind us of some old ones that still work.

This year, many in the aftermarket will have an opportunity to do just that with the launch of the AIA’s Ontario Grand Forum on October 21 at the Doubletree Hotel in Toronto, which will focus on providing repair business owners and their suppliers at the jobber, WD, and manufacturing level with insights into the market forces affecting the industry. It is going to be a Very Big Room, and a heck of a line-up of presenters and trainers has been put together by a task force from all sectors of the industry.

Industry analysts will inform and the breakout sessions that follow will allow for open discussion. The big picture is important, but exchanging ideas is better managed in smaller groups and is infinitely better than just passively listening to presentations. Combining the two is a powerful formula.

Though I fully expect that there will be those who insist that this is not the time to take time away from work, this is precisely the time to get away from the business for a day and put some concerted effort into learning with a view to developing solutions for every business in this sector.

There is so much opportunity for the aftermarket right now that it is going to take the combined efforts of every sector to handle it properly, or else it might just be overwhelmed, fail to capitalize, and miss much of it altogether.

And that would be unforgiveable. If you agree, I’ll see you at the event in Toronto on October 21. I’ll be in the Big Room. — Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor

P. S. We’ll also be hosting the Jobber of the Year Award 25th Anniversary Dinner that night. E-mail me for details.

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