By Gregory Parker
Join YEN Chairman Greg Parker and YEN Chair-Elect Lee McGuire at the can’t-miss event of the 2010 SEMA Show with the Young Executives Network. The group will honor two decades of service and commitment to the leaders of tomorrow.
The year 1990 seems like a lifetime ago. That year brought our industry the Ford Explorer and the Acura NSX. Chevrolet started using the song “Like a Rock” in its advertising campaigns. Dale Earnhardt was crowned the Winston Cup champion for the fourth time. The highly anticipated racing movie Days of Thunder was released. E-mail wasn’t available to the masses in 1990, and there were only 12 million people worldwide who owned cell phones (compared to 4.6 billion today). Compact discs were all the rage and were overtaking cassette tapes in cars across the country. Web surfing? There was nowhere to go. There was no AOL, no Google, no YouTube, no Twitter and no FaceBook. How did we ever survive?
Aside from all the astonishing advancements that have happened over the last 20 years, what was also realized in our industry in 1990 was the promise of the future. SEMA’s leadership in the late ’80s and early ’90s saw a flood of young people joining its ranks. There were men and women looking to our industry as a place to build a rewarding career, and SEMA took the steps necessary to make sure they felt welcomed. While the creation of the group was first discussed and planned in the late ’80s, the Young Executive Council (YEC, as it was known) didn’t become recognized as a SEMA member group until 1990. We can credit the original YEC chairman, Tim Brackett, with leading the first group of members, which included Matt Bagne, Kathy Bergoff, Jeff Goldberg, Tony Rhodes, and Harry Schwartz.
“We saw a need for the young people in our industry to pull together and help each other out,” Brackett said.
In the early years, the charge of the YEC was to simply get young executives involved and educate them about SEMA and the industry; get input from young executives about the industry and SEMA’s direction; dissect SEMA’s long-term plan with the intention of giving YEC’s point of view; and become a young executives’ network for this industry.
“Ours is an industry that takes pride in looking to the future,” said Chuck Blum in a 1990 press release discussing the formation of the YEC. “It’s also an industry brimming with talented young men and women poised to shape the next generation of the automotive world. We’re anxious to tap that resource, to allow a more youthful perspective greater influence in the direction of the association and industry. I have no doubt the SEMA Board of Directors will listen closely to the views of the Young Executives Council.”
“To the young up-and-comers building their careers in the aftermarket,” Blum added, “I strongly recommend joining the Young Executives Council. I predict that from its ranks will come tomorrow’s leadership.”
The Young Executives Council eventually changed its name to the Young Executives Network (YEN, as it is known today). Just as Blum predicted, tomorrow’s leadership is exactly what has come out of YEN. The group’s members are more than ever an integral piece of the SEMA puzzle. You’ll find current and former YEN members on the SEMA Board of Directors, active on council Select Committees and leading the development of new programs for tomorrow’s young leaders. Current SEMA Board member Tim Watts started his SEMA involvement within YEN’s ranks and jumped straight from the YEN Select Committee to the Board.
“It is obvious that YEN is a networking group for today’s young executives,” said Watts, “but it is also far more than simply what the name implies. YEN is a springboard, a connection point and a doorway—a springboard that connects you to virtually every segment and/or niche of the industry; a connection point that allows you to find your place within the industry by learning how you may fit in and contribute within other councils, committees and task forces; and a doorway that will open up opportunities to serve and give back to the industry in a capacity much greater than you may ever imagine possible.”
“From its inception, the goal of SEMA’s Young Executives Network has been to gather and support the future leaders of our industry,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “The extensive networking and educational opportunities YEN provides its members have proven to be invaluable tools to people forging a career in our industry. A prime indicator of YEN’s success is the number of SEMA Board members and council leaders, past and present, who began their affiliation with SEMA as YEN members. YEN is a great launch for the people who will lead the industry to overcome challenges and capture opportunities in the future.”
So what has changed with Young Executives Network in the last 20 years? Besides many new faces, a new acronym and the increase of the age limit from 35 to 40, the group is finding that what was old is new again. The priorities are the same and the focus hasn’t wavered—the focus remains on networking, education and leadership, even today.
While networking is the single most important benefit of membership in YEN, we are striving to provide today’s young executives with access to new networking and educational tools, many of which couldn’t have been dreamed of back in 1990. The YEC had its mixers—and e-mail was on the horizon—but today we have a trade show attended by more than 100,000 people, the infinitely vast resources offered by the Internet and social media sites, such as Facebook and Linked-In, to help us connect.
What do we have in store for YEN in the next 20 years? You can help determine the group’s direction by joining YEN online or by visiting our groups on MySEMA, Facebook and Linked-In. Just search “SEMA Young Executives Network.”
The dedicated group of Select Committee members help to cultivate young talent in the automotive aftermarket through education and networking programs.
Ask, and You Shall Receive. In this industry, if you don’t ask, very few will offer. Speak up, and if you want to be part of something, ask to be a part of it. I called SEMA and asked to be part of the SEMA Rep of the Year Committee, and I eventually became chairman.
Volunteer. You will get back what you give.
Work for Good People. I have had the privilege of working for some great people and some great companies. Even though I have only worked for three major companies during my career, all of them taught me valuable lessons and helped me grow. Also, I had—and still have—the pleasure of working for some of the most brilliant minds in this industry, and for that I am thankful.
Integrity. This may be the most important point. Not only do you need to have integrity, but so does the company you work for. Your personal integrity will only go so far. We are surrounded by wonderful companies; make sure you work for one with integrity.
Be Patient. See the Chairman of the Board of SEMA? Okay, that’s not you…yet. You can get there, but it takes time. Don’t expect to be named SEMA Person of the Year next year. Although, you never know; I have been wrong before.
Get Involved. There are lots of committees; ask them if they need help. Don’t box yourself in. You don’t know where you might be in two years, so go outside your current portion in the industry.
Persistence. Nothing can replace hard work.
Fight the System. This industry was based on dreamers and believers.
Don’t let anyone tell you that something can’t happen.
Believe in Yourself. Follow your instincts and be true to yourself. If you’re good at what you do, you will succeed.
Look, it is all up to you. This industry is like no other. It is huge by sales and small by numbers. YEN can help you on your journey, but you must give to SEMA what it gives back to you. Otherwise, you’re just doing a job, not embarking on a career.
If you are a YEN member and want to get more involved with industry events, mixers and programs, sign up for the member resource pool (MRP)! The MRP is always working on initiatives that bring our industry forward and help us grow as individuals. The YEN MRP helps the Select Committee come up with direction for YEN and stay focused on what’s important to YEN members. Volunteers in the MRP are involved in important projects such as putting the YEN reception together in Las Vegas, working out new education programs for SEMA and writing content for SEMA eNews or our social networking pages. Get involved and help grow your career and your industry. To volunteer for the member resource pool or to find a specific place where you can plug in, simply e-mail email@example.com.
Elite Networking Opportunity at the 2010 SEMA Show
November 2, 2010; 5:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.Renaissance Hotel, Pool and Envy Cellars
This is the can’t-miss networking event of 2010! The SEMA Young Executives Network (YEN) is excited to celebrate its 20th year. As a celebration of our 20th year, we will be bringing out those who have contributed to YEN’s success over the years and honor those who have made significant contributions to the group over the past 365 days—an annual tradition with the group. So mark your calendar and plan to join us for a drink during the 2010 SEMA Show! We hope that you’ll be there to join in the activities.
While YEN may be best known for its networking opportunities at industry events such as the SEMA Show, the group has also embraced the growing popularity of social media by establishing a Facebook Fanpage. Visitors to the page will find it to be a great place for networking with like-minded automotive professionals as well as reviewing a host of career development and automotive industry resources. Content is updated daily by members of the YEN Select Committee, but all fans of the page are encouraged to participate in the conversations by contributing articles and website links that may be helpful to others.
Join YEN. Visit www.sema.org/YEN
“One of my early memories of YEN was a mixer we had at the second-ever Import Auto Salon. We had Chris Kersting give an update from the Washington, D.C., office. Chuck Blum was still the president of SEMA back then, and it was amazing how Chris came in and really talked to us and informed us about the issues facing our industry. Russ Deane was also there. They really wanted our help. I remember thinking that these people truly cared about our industry and wanted to make a difference. That really motivated me to do the same.”
“Being a part of the Young Executives Network has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. Not only has it given me the opportunity to learn more about the industry—from how it was created to where it is going tomorrow—but it has also allowed me the ability to network and grow both professionally and personally. I have developed lifelong relationships through mentoring, elevated my education through the various webinar tracks and attended a multitude of the YEN-sponsored networking events. As an active YEN member, I found that I could be involved as much or as little as I wanted. I chose to go all the way, and I have never looked back.
“My involvement with YEN was in its first or second year in existence. Before YEN, I was always looking at SEMA and the people who were involved and feeling like I didn’t fit in. Faith Barneese invited me to join YEN, and I realized from the beginning that my perception of the group was wrong. I fit right in. YEN wound up being one of the best things I did for my career, and it helped me to learn more about the industry and the people involved in it. I really enjoyed my time with YEN so long ago, and I would encourage any young person in the industry who has made a decision to learn and grow to definitely join its ranks.”
“I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of people in the performance aftermarket over my 10-plus years as a member of YEN. As I got more involved in YEN as a Select Committee member, I was able to meet many influencers within the industry, such as SEMA Board members, Hall of Fame members and industry peers. Many of these relationships have helped me navigate my career, and some of these relationships have turned into lifelong friendships. YEN was a great place to begin to really get involved with the industry.”
|“I am honored to have been the first former YEN member to become chairman of SEMA. I think this says a lot about our industry. The day that I joined YEN turned out to be one of the most important days of my career—maybe the most important one. Every step along the way, there were people willing to share their knowledge, experience and friendship with me, and that is why I feel so strongly about giving back to the industry today.”
Past SEMA Chairman of the Board
|“The Young Executives Network was an awesome learning experience for me both personally and professionally from a peer, mentor and industry-wide perspective. It was also a critical step for my participation on the SEMA Board of Directors and helped lead to our focus on exceptional governance. As one of the ‘old folks’ around YEN, I am so proud to see that our current leadership has taken its vision to the next level.”
Founding YEN Member and
1994 Young Executive of the Year