SEMA Member News - July/August 2009
An Interview With the Incoming TORA Chairman
|Kelly Kneifl, sales manager for TruXedo, assumes the chairmanship of the TORA on July 1, leading the group into a new era for the light-truck market.|
SEMA Member News: What is your history in the industry and in TORA?
Kelly Kneifl: We originally sold tarp systems for the heavy-duty truck and trailer market. In 2000, we launched the TruXedo Roll Up tonneau cover as our first product in the automotive aftermarket. The following year, the Truck Cap Accessory Alliance (TCAA, precursor to TORA) held its Long-Range Planning Meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, and that was my introduction to the industry association and the many great people I’ve met in this industry over the last nine years. I participated in many SEMA and TCAA events as a way to network and learn more about the industry that we knew very little about. In 2003, I was elected to the TCAA Select Committee and have been active ever since.
SMN: What do you see as priorities for TORA this year?
KK: We’ve seen unprecedented change in the light-truck market this last year. This economic struggle is forcing us all to reevaluate our business models not just for growth, but often for survival. We must remain open to the needs of our membership and continue to focus our efforts on the relevant issues they face. For example, there is a growing percentage of light trucks sold for utilitarian purposes today versus the family vehicle of the late ’90s and earlier years of this decade. Technology and regulatory issues continue to affect our members as well. As new accessories hit the market, there will be a need to improve the skill and efficiency with which our retail segment sells and installs these products. Continuing to be aware of our member’s needs and provide the tools that help them survive and prosper will be our priorities as an association.
SMN: What are your priorities as TORA chairman? What specific things do you want to accomplish?
KK: Learning has been critical to every company’s personnel. As owners and employees of companies in this industry, it’s critical that we learn how to do what we do better every day. The Technical Skills & Training Conference (TSTC) was a victim of the 2008 economic challenges. The TSTC was developed as an improved educational tool and replaced the SEMA Spring Expo. The struggle between the commitment of resources to participate in learning opportunities, such as the TSTC, and the lack of resources and time due to challenging business conditions is very real for our members. We must continue to find cost-effective, beneficial and meaningful ways to bring learning opportunities to our membership so that we grow as an association and have an opportunity to add value to our membership.
SMN: In the current economic crunch, why should companies join SEMA and the TORA?
KK: Networking is critical to the development of new business opportunities. Sales and marketing professionals network every day. As business managers and owners, it is critical that we reach out to our fellow business acquaintances, new and old, to learn what is working and not working for them and to discover the new business opportunities that come from these interactions. I believe that if you turn inward during difficult economic times and ignore the opportunities around you, your ability to grow is limited.
SMN: Is there anything else you would like to emphasize?
KK: Your Select Committee for the light-truck accessory industry stands ready to listen to the concerns and needs you have for the future. Our 2009 Long-Range Planning Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 30, in Pasadena, California. Even if you get this message on July 29 and are within driving distance of Pasadena, I strongly urge you to attend the meeting.
We’ve never had a Long-Range Planning Meeting on the West Coast, so it’s a great opportunity for TORA Select Committee members to interact with West Coast member companies face to face. If there are members from other regions of the country who are not able to attend this meeting, please forward any thoughts, ideas or concerns that you would like addressed at the meeting. The TORA has been successful because of the involvement of the membership.
TORA Long-Range Planning Meeting
When: July 30, 2009 from 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Where: Westin Pasadena,
For more information, contact Jim Skelly at 909/396-0289, ext. 103.