ASA Changes In Store Under New Leadership
The Automotive Service Association (ASA) went through major leadership changes this past spring. Ron Pyle resigned as president and chief staff executive in April, Dan Risley took over as interim executive director, and a new board of directors was installed.
Risley says those leadership changes have allowed the ASA to refocus on providing improved value for its members. Risley discusses how he plans to position the ASA under his leadership, and how the new perspective he brings to the association will help steer it in a healthy, positive direction.
How do you expect the ASA’s recent leadership changes to impact the organization?
Whenever you have change like that, it gives an opportunity to look at things differently and do things differently. Bringing someone from the outside in, such as myself, allows for a different perspective to be shared and some different insight compared to someone who has been with the organization for 10–20 years. We have an opportunity to gather input and implement change without having to worry about the legacies of people who are still in play. There are some things with the organization that need to change, so this is an opportunity for us to rebuild.
What exactly needs to change?
There are a lot of relationships that need to be mended. We have not been as transparent as we should be with our affiliations and membership. We have kept a lot of stuff internal, and we have not been good about sharing things that we have been doing.
—Dan Risley, interim executive director, ASA
For example, some of the good things we are doing on behalf of our members are hidden on our website behind a password. Why wouldn’t we want to communicate those things to everybody? By virtue of the things that we’re not making readily accessible or sharing frequently, some people probably would start to question what they’re paying their dues for.
How do you plan to address that problem?
We want to have a level of transparency so that our members and affiliate associations know what we are doing and are a part of our decision-making process. The things that we do on behalf of our membership in the industry are going to be more readily accessible, and we’re going to share that news as frequently as possible. Making sure we’re better connected with all of our affiliates is really the start of all of that. They are extended family. The strength of a good, strong national association starts with its state affiliates.
The ASA has been touting a new vision and direction for the future since its last business meeting in Texas. What are the organization’s new goals?
We want to make sure we’re collaborating with and supporting our state affiliate associations the way they need to be. We need to support them from a national perspective specific to their governance with the association on a state level.
But more importantly, it’s about having feet on the street, being visible with them in their local areas, and promoting the good things they do. We just need to have more of a visible presence and interaction with members and affiliates on a state level.
For example, I was recently in Arizona and Washington where I spoke for groups of people and met with our state chapters. Those are things that have not typically taken place on a regular basis in the past. It’s going to be a groundswell of spending time with those folks so they get to know the association on a different level.
What other issues do you plan to address in the near future?
Our members need to truly understand what our stance is on certain industry issues. We have a very high-powered lobbyist in Washington, D.C., Bob Redding, who I plan to utilize differently. We have not leveraged Redding to the extent that we should. And when we have leveraged Redding’s work for positive gain, we haven’t done a good job of telling our membership the results that he’s producing on their behalf.
So we’re going to utilize Redding far more than we have in the past, and he is also going to have a presence in front of our constituents. For example, Redding and I spoke during an event in Michigan in June. I spoke on behalf of the association, and Redding talked about what’s happening in the industry on the federal and state levels. With that sort of presence, the ASA will have a much greater impact on our members’ day-to-day operations.
What value do people receive as members of the ASA?
Like most other associations, we provide group-buying power through various discounts and member benefits. But those things shouldn’t be the real value proposition. The real value of the ASA is in the representation that members receive. There is no other national association that represents and campaigns for service repairers in Washington, D.C., every day on their behalf. They have someone in the room dedicated to carry their message.
Tell us about your professional background in the automotive repair industry, and how that experience will add value to the ASA.
My family owned a collision repair shop in Chicago, so I basically grew up in a family-owned repair business. Then I worked for [paint company] BASF, [software provider] CCC Information Services Inc., and Allstate Insurance Co. I also served as executive director for the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) for eight years.
The biggest impact that experience will have on the ASA is from a relationship perspective. I bring a different dynamic because I’m coming in with new relationships that will allow for greater opportunity to collaborate on things. The door will be open to us on a lot of different fronts that maybe weren’t quite as open as they were before.
All of that experience is on the collision side of the auto repair industry. How will that background help you lead the mechanical and service segment?
I have been relying on ASA’s leadership to better understand the mechanical issues. We have some of the brightest industry leaders, and all of them have taken me under their wing to give me a full-blown education on that side of the business.
However, although the issues might be different, a lot of things are very much the same between collision and mechanical repair operations. There are a lot of commonalities that relate to both sides of that equation and areas where we can learn from what the other has experienced. The further we can get away from segmenting shops between mechanical and collision the stronger we’ll be as an association—and as an industry.