At the recently concluded SEMA National Education Conference, member attendees were treated to leadership and management insights as well as employee evaluation, retention and supervision techniques. Dedicated solely to education and learning, the annual event provides members with innovative ideas and super strategies direct from industry leaders.
The 2008 conference, held last week in Nashville, Tennessee, featured speakers that ranged from former Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson, winner of three Super Bowls, to author and advisor Ram Charan, who has coached some of the worlds’ most successful CEOs. Executives from every segment of the automotive specialty-equipment industry were unanimous in their praise for the event and the benefits they drew from it.
Here are a few excerpts from their comments:
"I was mainly looking for information about how to address personnel issues, keep people motivated and recruit candidates who can help us grow our business. Jimmy Johnson hooked me right from the start with his idea of 'treating everybody consistently by treating each person differently.' I’m also excited about what I learned about job evaluations and how to place people in the proper positions to do their best.
"I came to the NEC thinking that it was going to be one of those rah-rah deals where they tell you what you already know, but it really was an eye-opener for me. I learned a lot that I think will be valuable in my business and my personal life."—Donnie Eatherly, President, P&E Distributors
Jimmy Johnson delivered his brand of coaching, offering team-building tips
and insight about the importance of treating employees as individuals.
"Jimmy Johnson was obviously very inspirational, but [SEMA VP of Market Research] Jim Spoonhower’s session dove into market demographics and showed some of the trends not only for today but where we might be 10 and 20 years from now. I hope to get the PowerPoint of Spoonhower’s presentation and use it with my clients.
"The NEC is well worth the investment we made to be here. You get the opportunity to learn more about the industry and meet people. That may not be of value today, but it could be a huge value down road."—Gregory Parker, Marketing and Creative Consultant, Martin & Company Advertising
Garold Markle explained why performance reviews are an ineffective personnel practice
and provided an alternative that improves motivation, increases promotions and minimizes legal exposure.
"This was my first time at the NEC, so I wasn’t completely sure what I was getting into. I hoped to learn more about leadership and business organization, and I definitely think those goals have been reached. I’m going to use a lot of the organization skills that the speakers talked about—especially what Jimmy Johnson said about coaching. I’m also excited about a lot of the market research that Jim Spoonhower presented. The NEC is a great learning experience."—Kellie Colf, Market Development Manager, Eaton Detroit Spring
Mike Allosso laid out a plan for participants to elevate their communication skills
and covered the importance of effective communication at all professional levels.
"My son attended the educational conference last year and was very pleased. I believe that continuous improvement comes from education. I am also a professor, so I really believe in this type of event. I’m most involved in leadership, so I preferred the presenters who spoke about that. But from a business point of view, every subject was valuable.
"As we were told several times during the conference, we are in a time of change, so you have to go out, see and learn. If a company stays as it is right now, it will die. Go to the shows; visit other companies; go to seminars. If you don’t do that, you are very close to the end."—Eduardo Molina, General Manager, St. Mary’s Carbon de Mexico
SEMA President Chris Kersting (left) recognizes the efforts of SEMA Chairman-Elect Rick Rollins
and SEMA Board member Matt Agosta for their work on the National Education Conference Task Force.
"I wanted to learn how to make my business better. The most important thing that comes out of these meetings is the simple networking process. For instance, the NEC provided an opportunity for me to speak to Scooter Brothers from Comp Cams and Rick Rollins from MSD Performance Group, and to talk with both my peers and my competitors to see if they’re seeing the same market fluctuations we are. The meetings were awesome. Everyone was on task, and their presentations rang true to me. Some of the marketing information will pay for my attendance here by increasing my business.
"When I was 19, my father sent me to one of the original SEMA educational seminars. I haven’t missed one since. I think that it is pivotal that we be here. If you come and listen to what the speakers have to say and use even 20% of it, it pays more than double the cost of admission."—J.R. Granatelli, President, Granatelli Motorsports
Alan Beaulieu discussed how to navigate the current economic landscape
and the growth and profit potential of partnerships with China, India and Europe.
"I was particularly interested in the Internet session presented by Mike Mooney, and I intend to look further into many of the topics we discussed. The NEC is well worth the time and investment. In today’s marketplace, you always have to be looking for that extra edge. This is one of the programs that certainly can help."—Joel Molinoff, National Sales Manager, Truxedo Inc.
SEMA President Chris Kersting welcomes attendees and sets the stage for Dr. Chris Przirembel,
who provided analysis on technological issues related to alternative fuels, computational modeling and advanced manufacturing.
"I came to the first National Education Conference last year, and it was incredible. I always try to learn everything about business and what we do. I’ll come to anything that I think might make me smarter. I learned from each of the speakers.
"I think that SEMA members are absolutely crazy if they don’t attend these types of conferences. There is always something to learn, and the quality of the speakers has been unbelievable."—Keith Wilson, President, Wilson Manifolds
"Jimmy Johnson obviously had some very good insights about building a team. I was also interested in Ram Charan’s methods. I’ve read a couple of his books about how to make improvements. I learned new ways to communicate with our customers and how to get those skills across to our team."—Ed Burgy, Automotive Product Manager, Corsa Performance Exhaust
"We recently took over Bob Cook Sales and are hoping to adjust a company that’s been around for 30 years to prepare for the next 30 years. The key areas are management styles and how we can continue to motivate our staff. Garold Markle’s presentation on Catalytic Coaching was very effective, and I think we will implement some of his views about evaluation forms.
"In these times when the industry is changing so quickly, the networking that you get from the NEC and what you can pick up about the industry is invaluable."—Les Rudd, Partner, Bob Cook Sales
"I was interested in the networking and learning how to apply leadership techniques. I came to the NEC last year, and the experience was phenomenal. I knew that I didn’t want to miss it this year. The speakers hit on things that we needed to hear. You can’t afford to miss the NEC if you really care about your business. It’s an investment, and you can’t cut this corner in tough economic times."—Jeff Major, President, Bed Wood and Parts LLC