If this is the first page you read in TechShop, then you still have a lot to see of the new products and news from Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW), held in November in Las Vegas. If this is the last page, then you’ve seen all the latest info on new and improved equipment, tools and supplies that we found at the shows, you’ve read the editorial and show news, and you’ve had a chance to check out our new Equipment, Tool & Supplies Buyers Guide.
AAIW is brought to us by several associations: AAIA, MEMA, SEMA, ASA, TIA and probably more, but I’ve run out of words to abbreviate. And while it’s all very nice to have an association that is looking out for us, I think we should all examine what makes an association important to its members, and what is important to you.
Associations are born to meet many purposes: some provide an opportunity to share information, best practices, camaraderie. Others provide a forum for thought exchange or education, or buying strength or legislative strength, or some combination of any or all of the above. Most associations start out with a group of professionals who have similar needs and desires. Many then grow to encompass larger, more diverse groups within an industry.
Personally, I’ve been a member of the AAIA Tools & Equipment Committee for more years than I can remember, first with a manufacturing company, and now with Babcox Publications. In previous years, I’ve worked for a company that was actively involved with AAIA, HTI, NTDRA, MEMA and TIA.
If you’re a member of an association, ask yourself “why?” What is the purpose of my membership in this or any other professional association? Am I giving and am I getting what I need?
When I joined my first association and started going to those first meetings, it was my boss’s intention that the meetings were a great way for me to learn about our industry. His idea was to just throw me into a room full of Tool and Equipment men, and if I survived, I would be able to learn about our business through osmosis or something like it. Not a bad idea, and I have to admit, that once I recovered from my shell shock, I did start to learn a lot from the other members. They all had varying levels of experience and time in the industry, they all had their various perspectives, and they all had their own tales to tell. I spent a lot of time listening those first few years, and as my own expertise grew, I found I was able to contribute by listening and by speaking out. Along the way, I was also able to make lifelong friends and truly forge some great business relationships that have helped me throughout my career. I have one or two mentors from all these groups, and I’m happy to report that I’ve become a mentor to a few automotive professionals along the way.
In my early years, I valued association membership for the pure learning experience it provided. But at this point in my career, the mentoring part of being in an association is what appeals to me the most. I can certainly learn more about our industry, there is no question about that. I like to think that I will always be open to new ideas and new ways of approaching business. But I get true satisfaction from helping a new person understand how our industry works, or by pointing them in the right direction so that their career can prosper. I also enjoy bringing people together for the greater good of the industry. Along the way I have found that I love this industry as a whole, and want it, as well as all of us, to prosper.
So, if you are considering joining an association, here are my top 10 rules to follow in order for you to reap the most benefit:
10. Find a mentor — Seek out someone with more experience than you and learn from them.
9. Be a mentor — Look for that person with the “deer in headlights” expression and take them under your wing.
8. Use your time at meetings to network with a wide variety of professionals — Sometimes people from outside your area of expertise can provide the most insight into a problem you may be facing.
7. Build your leadership skills — Watch and learn from the leaders of your association.
6. Develop business friendships — You never know where they may lead you.
5. Learn more about your industry overall, and your role within it.
4. Reach out to other experienced experts to improve your decision-making skills.
3. Set specific personal and professional goals — What do you want to achieve by being a member of this association?
2. Enjoy yourself — I find it hard to learn if I’m not enjoying what I do.
1. BE INVOLVED. If you are not involved, if you just pay your dues but don’t show up or interact at meetings — you’re wasting your money. BE INVOLVED.