In 1991 Van Batenburg’s Garage (my former shop) joined the Automotive Service Association so we could get a discount on Indentifix (formerly called Autoline Telediagnosis) and started to receive their magazine. There was no chapter in New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut) so I did not go to meetings or interact much with the local shops in Worcester, my home town. I did notice a management seminar taught by Mitch Schneider and knew him by reputation only. Deb and I boarded a plane for Florida and I sat in a great class but it was more than that. Fifty plus shop owners and techs were there and they all got along well and we all had a great time. I learned something I knew little about, trade associations. I was hooked. Deb and I will the help of many shops formed a chapter in Massachusetts, I was elected President and Deb was VP. We look back at the early 90’s with a sense of belonging and contribution. It lead me to a multi-year writing gig with MotorAge and Auto, Inc. I still contribute to the magazine that brought me so much.
The last weekend in September (just days after my 3 weeks in Europe) I attended and taught in Cary, North Carolina for a trade association that brought me back 25 years ago. The IGO association did a wonderful job at taking care of their members, offering great training and acknowledging each other for what they do. Awards were handed out, a few too many beers were consumed and I can’t mention the “Moonshine” so don’t tell anyone! I attended a class taught by Bill Haas and came back with so much more than I gave.
With all this I heard “the younger generation do not join things like this”, but I met many talented 20 something attendees, mostly family member of shops owners. Intelligent and thoughtful. They don’t want to be a baby boomer. Material things are not that important. Long working hours are a turn off. Social constraints seem so old fashioned. They were respectful and kept their cell phones at off while we visited, but they have their own way of seeing things.
Trade associations will not fail if you are willing to give up the old ways. Change is fast paced today. There will be fewer shops and techs as future cars need less work. It has already happened as the newer cars are just better. Don’t fight it as all will be well. Go with the flow as it is the direction we are going.