By Mike Imlay
What can recent events teach specialty-equipment companies about crisis and recovery? That was the topic of an informative panel discussion kicking off day three of SEMA360, Wednesday, November 4. Entitled “Top Aftermarket CEOs Talk Crisis & Recovery,” the discussion is part of the ongoing series of morning “Brew Talks” held each day of the trade-only SEMA360 online event. The unique series brings together industry leaders, innovators and personalities for interesting conversations touching on a variety of hot topics.
Led by SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting, the Wednesday panel featured CEO/presidents Julian Gil of Eibach Inc., Jim Liaw of Formula DRIFT, Shahriar “Nick” Niakan of aFe Power, Kim Pendergast of Magnuson Superchargers and Brian Reese of The Retrofit Source. Insights touched on everything from facing adversity, preparedness and retaining sale and productivity, to issues of flexibility, management style and the new SOPs many aftermarket businesses have now embraced amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, remote viewers joined the discussion through a real-time chat feature.
All the panelists agreed that the experiences of the last several months brought new lessons and best practices that are likely to remain with aftermarket businesses well into 2021 and beyond. One example are the adaptations companies have made for a remote workforce. Reese noted that The Retrofit Source is weighing permanently requisitioning all employees with laptops instead of desk computers to promote worker flexibility.
Meanwhile, Pendergast noted the challenging remote-work decisions facing companies as pandemic lockdowns ease. “We’re now facing people coming back to work and that may be the harder thing,” she said, explaining that some employees will have lingering health and safety concerns, while others will simply prefer to continue working from home. She noted studies that have shown decreased productivity over time among remote workers, especially as distractions increase. “What we’ve faced is people at home with nothing to do but work, and maybe spend time with their families, so they have been extremely productive,” she continued. “But I think what we will face as things open up is people will have distractions from home and that productivity will decrease.”
There was also broad agreement among panelists that recent aftermarket sales surges may level off after lockdowns end as well, since consumers will once again have more entertainment options competing for their discretionary dollars. All believed that digital marketing tactics, which many aftermarket businesses have honed during the pandemic, have raised new standards for communicating with employees, business partners and consumers alike.
For Gill, the need for flexibility and cross-training of management and staff were key pandemic takeaways. Liaw said recent events have reminded him how adversity has a way off making a team shine. Niakan meanwhile focused on “planning, planning, planning” for inevitable crises—not to foresee every conceivable challenge, but because the exercise itself builds a toolkit of choices for rough times.
Morning “Brew Talks” represent just a few of the many educational opportunities being served up at SEMA360, which continues through Friday, November 6. The SEMA Week event also offers exclusive manufacturer-buyer connections, industry networking, new-product and technology introductions, project vehicle builds and more.
Click here to watch the video, available on demand.
Additional details about the innovative e-marketplace can be found at www.sema360.com.