A Message from the Association:
Changes and the Hidden Silver Lining
By SEMA News Editors
As most SEMA members have learned by now, SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting, who traditionally pens this column, announced his retirement on January 5. In his position over the last 20 years, Chris has helped guide the industry through numerous challenges, and his leadership will surely be missed. His retirement will bring changes, but at times like this, we are reminded that change is inevitable—it’s the only constant in life and business.
We mention this because almost all SEMA-member companies have been dealing with big changes lately. The ongoing pandemic has compelled companies to find new ways of working, communicating, and serving customers.
Given the disruption in the business environment, it’s hard to appreciate that unexpected circumstances have once again spawned innovation, as companies find ways to maintain and actually intensify their ability to reach customers and create value. Reduced costs in business travel, more flexible employment structures and opportunities to embrace markets on a broader basis are among the benefits that were previously untapped.
Here at SEMA, we too have seen how limitations imposed by the pandemic have actually led us to advantageous ways to deliver benefits and services.
A good example would be the SEMA Virtual Education website (www.sema.org/education)—a new online library created to provide the industry with year-round access to experts and leaders. When you visit, you’ll find that more than 50 on-demand sessions are already housed on the site. A good portion of the content regarding best practices and tips on common business skills was generated at the SEMA Show, which still provides a key means of attracting top experts. But since the website is ongoing and continuous, new content can be added weekly, resulting in a growing collection of educational materials available to automotive professionals.
It’s a benefit that did not exist before the pandemic forced us all to find new ways of getting things done.
Another example can be seen in the SEMA Washington Rally, an event that has given hundreds of industry members the opportunity to discuss issues with their elected representatives over the years. In 2021, compelled by restrictions on meetings in the U.S. Capitol complex, SEMA members met with their lawmakers and their staffs remotely rather than in person. The result was record participation. The switch to virtual meetings also made it easier for the SEMA office in Washington, D.C., to schedule quality time with legislators, since appointments could be made over a period of months instead of days.
Still another example would be the recent Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council Media Trade Conference. As a virtual event, it attracted global media participation and led to even more productive interactions between the industry and media influencers.
In short, when we’re forced to think outside the box, it becomes possible to adapt in ways that ultimately become major drivers of growth and development.
Change is usually uncomfortable, but the end result is that we become more resilient. In many ways, change equates to opportunity. We’ve seen it before. Time and time again, the specialty products industry has weathered unexpected changes in the business environment and come out ahead.
Sooner or later, most successful companies must come to address the challenge of succession in leadership. SEMA is no exception.
On February 1, Chris transitioned into an advisory role through July 2022. SEMA executives Bill Miller (previous senior vice president of operations) and Mike Spagnola (previous vice president of OEM and product development programs) serve as interim co-CEOs.
Throughout its history, the association has been fortunate to have strong leaders at the top, including many gifted, charismatic volunteers and dedicated staff members. We’ll always miss those who have moved on. But we’ve also seen that changes can have an unexpected silver lining, creating an exciting opportunity to succeed in new and totally unexpected ways.