AAPEX Closing Keynote Discusses Industry's Changing Landscape

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LAS VEGAS, Nov. 2, 2017—AAPEX kicked off Thursday morning with a keynote discussion on how technology will shape the shop of the future.

The keynote, "Grease, Code and Customers: You’re Entirely Right About All The Wrong Stuff," featured a panel of experts that shared their insights on how to adapt to the ever-evolving technological advancements in order to best serve customers and attract talent to the automotive repair industry.

On the panel, which included Chris Cloutier, owner of Golden Rule Auto Care; Chris Blanchette, senior manager of retail operation at Bridgestone; and Tyler Reeves, corporate office at Interstate Batteries. 

“Vehicles used to be a luxury for the elite, but vehicles have been in a constant state of change,” Blanchette said. “Now, with new technology, we need to be lifelong learners.”

Not only is the landscape changing for shops, vendors are also having to adapt. Reeves said that Interstate has had to change its portfolio and look for ways to become a turnkey solutions for its customers.

Another topic that the keynote tackled was attracting new talent, specifically young people entering the workforce.

Cloutier, whose shop has 50 percent millennials working in it, said that by embracing a culture of technology, he’s been able to attract the sort of talent that he needs.

Bridgestone, with over 2500 stores, is always looking to the future of the workforce. Blanchette said that one way that Bridgestone has done this is to look to other industries that have been successful with embracing technology. STEM education feeds right into the automotive industry, and the panel agreed that it’s never to early to start emphasizing the role that technology will play in the future of automotive repair.  

As for why shops seem slow to adapt to the changing future, the panel said that it’s a combination of a fear of the unknown and a limited capacity to add more to an already packed list of demands. All three agreed that although it may be overwhelming, as a leader, it’s essential to embrace a culture of learning and to gather all of the information possible. The conclusion was that technology is the future of the industry and shops need to be prepared.

In closing, Shriber asked each of the panelists the one piece of advice that they would give someone that was planning on starting a business in the automotive aftermarket.

“Immerse yourself in a training culture,” Cloutier said.

Agreeing, and then adding to Cloutier’s point, Blanchette added the importance of being the best leader possible and that a huge component of that is leading by example. If your staff is expected to learn, the shop owner should also be attending classes.

“Also, find the right partners,” Reeves said. “We may not be the cheapest battery solution, but we hope to be the best value. Look for partners that challenge you and make you uncomfortable. That friction will make you successful in life.”

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