Reps Share Knowledge to Benefit Others
MRN Members Jump Aboard Mentoring Program
|Mike Rao of R&R Marketing Consultants, a long-time industry leader, takes part in the SEMA
Walk around the SEMA Show or attend an industry gathering, and it’s likely you’ll run into some old timers—folks who’ve spent the better part of their lives working in and devoted to the aftermarket industry. Apart from having decades’ worth of on-the-job experience, those industry veterans have a depth of knowledge, business acumen and insight second to none. And now, thanks to a new SEMA program, there’s a way for them to share that experience and help others gain some perspective from those who’ve been there and done that.
The new initiative, SEMA Senior Class: A Mentoring Program, is designed for any and all SEMA members who are seeking an industry mentor, are looking for advice to overcome a roadblock or, perhaps, need help developing leadership, sales or other skills. In short, mentors are a resource. They offer encouragement, help cultivate a mentee’s talents, and serve as role models.
Paving a Path to Success
|Bob Patteri of RJ Patteri & Associates joins other industry leaders to be a part of the SEMA Mentoring Program.|
A group of industry luminaries—each with unique areas of expertise—is already on board the mentoring program. Among them are some former and current manufacturers’ reps, including Bob Patteri of RJ Patteri & Associates and Mike Rao of R&R Marketing Consultants.
Patteri and Rao are long-time members of the Manufacturers Representative Network (MRN). Their affiliation dates back to the mid-’90s. Back then, Patteri was a member of the SEMA Board, and he joined with fellow reps Bob Bader, Harvey Goldberg and Bill Garner in leading the charge to create what was then known as the Manufacturers Representative Council.
“The rep is the glue who binds the relationship between the manufacturer and the customer,” said Patteri, a 40-plus-year industry veteran who served as the council’s first chair. “We tried to put together something meaningful for the reps as a way to convey to manufacturers and distributors the value of utilizing manufacturers’ reps. The program was well received, and we got a lot of cooperation from the SEMA Board. I am very proud of it. Everyone had great pride, and I’m happy to see that younger people are still passionate.”
“We have three different bodies in our government,” noted Rao, a lifelong enthusiast who got his start in the industry in 1970 and later cofounded his rep agency. “In SEMA, we have manufacturers, retail accounts and warehouse distributors, and manufacturers’ reps are a vital part. Reps are diligent, they have drive and motivation, and they should be a sounding board for what is going on in the real world.”
Serving as a sounding board and offering guidance and counsel are integral parts of SEMA’s mentoring program.
“I’ve been advocating for a mentor program for many years, and I’m proud of SEMA,” Patteri said. “You cannot put a price on the experience that all the mentors have. Some reps have been doing [this] for 30, 40, 50 years. You can’t put a value to it, because it’s too great. Times change and markets change, but knowledge and integrity and transition of benefits never change. I’m proud of what my agency has become. Jeff Boden and Mike Kunzman do an amazing job—it’s a family affair. I look at my contemporaries and friends, and I’m in awe of what they have contributed to this industry. For them to convey their knowledge is a blessing.”
From Rao’s perspective, mentoring provides a platform to share his passion for the industry and help others with less experience.
“It presents an excellent opportunity,” Rao said. “Our target audience is the newcomers to the industry. We didn’t have any mentorship in the performance industry. It was always on-the-go training. I am gratified that SEMA has tried to accelerate the process and create different programs. My family thought I was throwing away my education when I [pursued] my racing hobby as a career. I am very proud to have chosen to work in the performance aftermarket. I’m proud of the people who own and manage the company I founded. I am excited and honored to serve SEMA as a member of the Senior Class as a mentor and advisor.”
Connecting Manufacturers and Reps
Manufacturers’ agents play a key role in helping SEMA-member manufacturers bring their products to the marketplace. To that end, the network’s MRN RepLive took place during the 2018 SEMA Show to help facilitate relationship building between manufacturers and reps. Of the 62 manufacturers that opted into the program, 24 were selected for meetings. On the rep side, 73 agencies opted into the program, of which 11 agencies opted to meet with manufacturers, resulting in an overall goal achievement of 72%.
To learn more about the SEMA Senior Class Program, and how to connect with a mentor or become a mentor, contact Katie Carson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on MRN, visit the network’s web pages at www.sema.org/mrn.