In this issue of SEMA Member News for the Professional Restylers Organization (PRO), we welcome the new leadership of the council: Chairman Karl Stearns and Chair-Elect Eldon Bracken. We took the opportunity recently to sit down with both gentlemen to learn more about their new roles in the committee.
SEMA Member News: Karl Stearns, you are the incoming chairman of PRO and have started your own marketing and public relations company called KMS Marketing Solutions, which provides marketing and consulting services tailored specifically for small companies and targeting primarily the automotive industry. What is one of your main objectives in your new role as chairman of PRO?
Karl Stearns: The biggest thing I have to do is help PRO members gain a sense of confidence about where the industry is headed. There are a lot of opportunities and good news. It’s important to do what companies would do during a time like this: retrench, examine expenses, etc.
SMN: What advice can you offer manufacturers today?
KS: If I could offer advice to our members, it would be to not be afraid to introduce new products and services during slow economic times because they will help you thrive—and survive—by being aggressive in the industry. One of the single biggest focuses for everyone should be retaining customers. It’s good to have new customers, but you must retain the ones you have and keep them active.
SMN: Eldon Bracken is the chair-elect of the PRO Select Committee and president of Graphic Mart, a Canadian-based company that has been providing the automotive restyling and sign industry with quality products for more than 15 years. How did you get involved with PRO?
Eldon Bracken: When PRO first started in the early ’90s, our company, Graphic Mart, was a member. I attended a few of the first council meetings as a young kid, just 21 or 22 years old, but I wasn’t heavily involved. I saw a big change in the PRO council about six years ago, and I became actively involved in the group, serving on a number of committees and even being named SEMA Ambassador of the Year last year.
SMN: What do you like about PRO?
EB: I’m proud of the way PRO is helping restylers succeed in today’s market. I think the warranty booklet and the development guidebook are very important because many restylers are smaller and need that extra bit of help running the business side of their operations. SEMA’s new warranty programs also are very important, and we want to have more of our members qualify for and participate in these programs. As Chuck Blum always says, “If we can get our PRO members involved and active with the PRO Pledge Program, it’ll strengthen our industry.”
SMN: What are you goals with the committee moving forward?
EB: My goal is to strengthen the organization and group as it relates to what’s currently happening with downsizing in our industry. We have to help our members, and it comes down to training and education. Online training is very helpful. We need the new generation to get involved in our industry, and they are a lot more web savvy, so online training might help get younger people more involved. I also encourage members to attend our PRO council meeting at SEMA to see how it can benefit their businesses. We need fresh ideas and input, and I challenge all members—and potential members—to raise their hands and get involved.
Beginning with an overview of the importance of having a business plan—including tips on how to develop a business plan and the many purposes it can serve—the manual offers chapter-by-chapter strategies for making your business a success. From understanding the basics of business finance and the importance of quality and service and how to make them hallmarks of your business to building knowledge and skills among your employees to branding your restyling business as a market leader, the guidebook offers information critical to the day-to-day and long-term operation of your business.
Whether you’re starting your own restyling business or already own one—be it mobile or brick and mortar—you’ll find the answers you’ve been looking for in the guidebook. PRO council members contributed much of the information contained in the guidebook, drawing on their experience and knowledge to present a valuable business tool. To order your copy of The PRO Business Development Guidebook, contact the SEMA PRO liaison, Jim Skelly.