SEMA Member News—July 2021

Spotlight on PRO Chair-Elect

Colby McLaughlin
Colby McLaughlin.

Colby McLaughlin’s first aftermarket experience occurred in high school when he enrolled in accelerated classes at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Though focused on business management, he registered for a Custom Cars & Concepts course, which taught fabrication, chassis design, painting and collision repair. It was a game changer.

“I started the program and fell in love,” he said, and his skills earned him a spot on a frame-up restoration. “GM Performance Parts partnered with the college to build a ‘Summer School Chevelle’ for episodes of ‘Rides’ on TLC. I was one of eight students chosen for the project.”

Soon thereafter, McLaughlin’s career took off.

“The SEMA Show has played a huge role in my career,” he said. “While displaying the Chevelle in the GM booth, I got my first career opportunity with Special Projects Inc.”

McLaughlin later joined Chrome Enhancements, managing a nationwide sales team. In 2018, he switched gears and is now COO and president of Trim Illusion, which manufactures restyling accessories. McLaughlin joined the Professional Restylers Organization (PRO) select committee in 2019. In July, he’ll assume the role of chair-elect.

SEMA Member News: What motivated you to get involved with the PRO council?

Colby McLaughlin: I heard about the initiatives being driven by the PRO council. I wanted to be more involved, learn from people who’ve been in the industry for decades and share whatever expertise I have to give back. It’s been an outstanding experience.

SMN: What are some key council initiatives?

CM: PRO has done a great job with the sales manual best practices and the sales certificate program. Our team took the exam. They aren’t in sales, but it helped them understand the challenges and opportunities our customers face every day.

PRO also did an outstanding job working with staff in drafting a letter from SEMA President Chris Kersting, which explains dealers’ rights to accessorize under the Magnuson-Moss Act. The PRO Cup Challenge showcases packages restylers can sell to their dealers.

SMN: What unique skills do you bring to your new role?

CM: I have unique experiences. I came into the industry as a technician and have worked up to an executive-level position. I also have an interesting perspective as a manufacturer and a restyler, so I understand the challenges from both sides. I’m excited to be the chair-elect, and I look forward to working on new initiatives that will benefit all members.

Member engagement and outreach are big for me. We’re only as strong as our membership is engaged. I encourage anybody who wants to know more about PRO to reach out and get involved.

To learn more, email Council Director Denise Waddingham at denisew@sema.org or call 909-978-6691.

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