SEMA Member News - July/August 2009

An Interview With the Newest Member of the SEMA Board of Directors

By Brett Kinsfather


Tim Watts


“Where do I begin?” This is a question we inevitably ask ourselves at one time or another, usually when presented with far too many options or an abundance of information. It can also be felt by individuals new to a career or industry. Fortunately, SEMA offered an answer to this question with the Young Executives Network (YEN), a committee designed for individuals new to the aftermarket and/or early in their careers. YEN is where it began for Tim Watts, the newest member of the SEMA Board of Directors. SEMA Member News recently caught up with Watts and asked him a few questions about his career, his new position on the SEMA Board and the motivation behind his commitment to the industry.

SEMA Member News: When, where and how did you get your start in the specialty-equipment market?

Tim Watts: Growing up, my dad had a bodyshop and taught at a trade school, so I grew up around cars. Family vacations were about car shows, and weekends were spent around the shop working on whatever project we had going. So early on I sort of developed this unending love of anything automotive—anything from off-road to hot rods to racing. When I went away to college, I started working at Superlift on a part-time basis. After college, I had a brief job detour, eventually returning to Superlift and enjoying it ever since.

SMN: What was the first SEMA committee you got involved with?

TW: Before getting involved with any committees, I was first part of the Suspension Task Force. It was helpful in that it introduced me to some great people in my particular niche, and it was also a pretty low-key group. But the first committee that there was any real involvement in was YEN. A little while after becoming a member, I started to express some interest to friends about getting more involved and perhaps taking on some responsibilities, and it was Mandi Woodell who told me to “get off your ass and run for the Select Committee.” So I did and got elected. From that point, it just seems that it has been one open door after another. With SEMA, it seems that if you want be involved and you put forth the effort, doors will open—even to the point of running for the Board.

SMN: Has your time on the SEMA Board proven to be what you expected?

TW: And more—and way more! The Board and SEMA staff do so many things that general membership isn’t aware of. It is really cool to be around at a time when SEMA is investing in so many things, such as legislation, data and education. The other thing that has blown me away is the Board itself. Many of the members were mentors to me, and now I am being treated as one of their peers. That’s not to say I don’t take my fair share of abuse for being the new guy.

I used to have this misconception that the SEMA Board and staff were unapproachable—as if they were kind of focused on their own agenda—but they’re not. All the requests are taken very seriously, looked at and discussed. As I said earlier with data and education, all of that began with requests, which start at a committee level. Now we’re seeing a lot of those requests being fulfilled.

SMN: What are some of the projects you have gotten involved in since being nominated to the Board of Directors?

TW: One that I’m pretty excited about has to do with electronic stability controls (ESC), which is something that is going to be mandated for all vehicles by 2011. So for any suspension-lift company, we’ll have to work with the ESC by validating through a series of tests that everything is working properly in accordance with the ESC. Currently, this can be done, but it requires an extremely expensive test that only utilizes one unique wheel, tire and lift combination. Now multiply that out among all of the possible combinations that a manufacturer can recommend. So what we’re trying to achieve is a cost-effective way for aftermarket suspension, tire and wheel manufacturers to validate the effects of their products on ESC-equipped vehicles by utilizing simulation technology. This project has been really exciting to be a part of because it is vital to the future success of our market niche.

SMN: What advice can you give to people starting out in today’s specialty-equipment market?

TW: Ask questions. Don’t ever be afraid to ask a question. And listen. I was fortunate that I had some really good people around me at a time when I started to travel and really got to know the industry—guys who would take the time to answer my questions, regardless of how trivial or naive they may have been.

The automotive aftermarket is a community with a lot of really sharp and intelligent people in it. It’s not an accident that what started out as a backyard business has grown into the aftermarket we love and enjoy today. Ask, listen and learn.