Shop Life SEMA 2019

Choosing Industry Events to Attend

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My trips to industry events tend to feature one constant: layovers—lots of them.

I traveled to Las Vegas for an expo recently; I left my home in Alaska at noon and got there at 10 p.m. Typically, for me, I plan to spend an entire day, each way, traveling to collision repair conferences. It’s rough.

But you know what? Ultimately, all those travel headaches are worth it. Because the end result is those industry events help me improve as a business leader.

Collision repair gatherings offer valuable opportunities to hear insight from industry leaders and other shop owners. If all I did was stay here at home and just try to keep my thumb on my local market, I’d be pretty unaware, and jaded, as to what goes on nationally. And my goal is to know what’s going on, so my shops are at the forefront of what goes on nationally.

I’ve been to just about every industry event at least once—MSO Symposiums, NACE, SEMA, you name it. Here’s my main suggestions for deciding on which industry events to attend:

Look at the event’s agenda. I try to look and make sure it’s in line with what I’m focusing

on in my shops, or if the topics that are going to be touched on involve things I’ve already tried at my shops. But even if they are, the event still might be valuable to me, because maybe I need to tweak a thing or two on my end. So, I really dive into looking at the conference schedule, to make sure it’s in line with goals I have for my business.

Talk to peers who have attended certain events previously. Some industry events, of course, are extremely expensive to attend. When you factor in hotel costs, and the entrance fee, for example, it can add up quick.

Most of these events’ websites feature testimonials, and you could even reach out to the people that have provided those and get their insight on the event. I’d suggest talking to someone who has already been to those conferences or expos, and get their feedback.

But most industry events are worth your time. That’s mainly because these events indicate what’s coming down the pipeline in our industry in other parts of the U.S. and Canada. That’s one of the most important parts because, what happens in other parts of your country often set the stage for what’s coming your way. Think of it like this: If an insurance company tries something in Florida and it works, and they like the results, then it’s likely to end up going nationwide.

Similarly, when noteworthy things are happening with scanning or calibrations in New York or California, they’re bound to spread to shops everywhere.

Ultimately, before deciding which industry events to attend, you need to ask yourself what kind of time you have. And, how much time does your business require of you for day-to-day operations? Are you putting a hurt on your shop by not being there? Financially, if your business is struggling, my opinion is you probably need to focus on putting your nose to the grindstone, in your shop, before you can afford to travel to industry events. You could probably rationalize attending a conference or two if your business is struggling, but it needs to be pretty limited.

I hate to see this, but it happens: A shop owner’s business is struggling, yet they’re still off attending every industry event, and are part of every committee out there. Those shop owners are trying to solve the world’s problems, when they should mainly be focused on their own, at home.

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