Three Tips for Using SEMA’s Professional Development Tools

SEMA Member News—July/August 2014

Three Tips for Using SEMA’s Professional Development Tools


SEMA offers tools for professional development at the SEMA Show and throughout the year.
SEMA offers tools for professional development at the SEMA Show and throughout the year. 



A key to developing a motivated team is growing the talent that’s already in the pool. The goal of the SEMA Education Institute (SEI) is to lead the industry by offering a variety of tools to help members continue learning throughout every stage of their career paths.

SEI begins early by reaching out to educators and parents whose high school and college students could benefit from a scholarship or hands-on experience. Once these students graduate and enter the work force, there are even more professional development opportunities available to keep their skills sharp. But even if a toolbox is overflowing with gadgets, they aren’t helpful unless the mechanic knows how to use each one efficiently. Here are a few practical tips from members who have used SEMA’s educational resources in their own businesses.

Create the Margin for Growth

Managers often struggle with how to incorporate educational programming without sacrificing productivity. Jim Cozzie, managing partner at Brenton Productions and former SEMA Chairman of the Board, said this is a reality that can’t be ignored, but he believes that it’s an important balance to maintain.

“If employees are out learning something that will make them more productive for the company in the long run, it’s worthwhile,” he said. “The individuals who make the training decisions need to learn what comes of them and what the benefits are for the company itself. Managers should be looking out for the future of the company.”

This perspective is vital to maintaining a prosperous business, Cozzie believes. “Nothing stands still in today’s world, whether it’s the products that companies make or how we run a business now compared to a few years ago,” he continued. “If companies intend to grow, education is a big part of that. It’s crucial to make sure people in the company are prepared to run it.”

Make Learning a Team Effort

Employers can also encourage growth in their employees by giving them the platforms to share what they’ve learned. Joel Ayres of Bedslide/Tākit Inc. has been highly involved in SEMA for years, as a Board member and currently as chairman of the Scholarship Committee. Ayres said that the webinar collection is a tool he uses often in his company. “I actually assign different people to sit and watch the webinars and report what they learned back to me or the staff,” he said.

Allowing staff to report what they’ve learned to each other helps make the learning process a collaboration. Sharing gives team members a chance to be the teacher and start a conversation that can benefit everyone.

Webinars are free for employees of SEMA-member companies and provide information on topics ranging from economic outlooks to sales to aftermarket industry trends. Each webinar consists of a live broadcast with industry experts followed by an interactive Q&A session.

Ayres pointed out another feature that makes the webinars practical: They can be accessed at any time. Even if members of the team can’t be at their desks to catch a particular broadcast, they can download and reference it later.

Be a Student and a Teacher

Other professional development opportunities are available at the SEMA Show Education Days, which offer more than 50 free sessions and several pay-to-attend courses during Show week. These sessions allow members to take a break from the Show floor and swing into a seminar room, where they’ll hear from subject-matter experts and industry veterans on topics such as online marketing, sales and customer service, industry trends and business management tactics.

Cozzie has presented several sessions at the SEMA Show. According to him, being on that side of the podium is a learning experience of its own. Last year, he presented a session focused on leadership and using team members to their full potential—a topic he says was enlightening to prepare. “I presented and went to school at the same time!” he said.

The real value of these strategies is in the big picture, because education plays a part in developing the next crop of industry leaders.

“We have to have people with vision, who know how to develop products for the market,” Cozzie said. “That takes training and education. Companies that are going to be successful need to look for the best and brightest and learn new technologies.”

For more information about any of the programs mentioned, contact Education Director Zane Clark at