Get Educated Through Trade Associations
New York’s first trade association, New York City Auto Repair Association (NYCARA), was recently established by founders Paul Stern, owner of LIFTNOW, and his son, Paul Stern Jr., marketing and business development of LIFTNOW. As equipment distributors, they have worked closely with auto repair shops in the area and noticed a slew of associations, but a lack in auto repair associations.
“The customers are different [here], base constraints are different, credit constraints are different—there’s a lot of differences in the New York City area that the rest of the country doesn’t really understand,” Stern Jr. says. “A lot of people starting businesses here or running a business here need to sort of navigate some sort of unique challenges; we really are looking to help with those challenges through educational seminars, general meetings, and fundraisers.”
Ratchet+Wrench sat down with Stern Jr. to learn more about how trade associations work to benefit those in the industry and why they’re worth looking into.
Why is it important for an auto repair shop to join a trade association?
I think it’s huge. It’s been really tough on independent repairers to keep a lot of their customers loyal. The right equipment helps, the right marketing helps, there’s a lot of things that can help sort of shift that balance, but at the end of the day, they’re not given the same support as, let’s say, a big chain of tire stores, or a big chain of OEM saying, ‘OK, these are the marketing campaigns you run and these are the promotions you run.’ The independent repairer doesn’t get that, and instead, they’re sort of bombarded with a bunch of different people and there’s no unified voice except for a few really shrewd business people. How does the independent repairer survive, one, but how do they prosper? How do they understand their regions the same way that bigger businesses can understand a region?
Historically, this industry is plagued by a lack of education, and it’s not of a willingness to learn, but rather, there are a lot of materials that aren’t industry specific. One of our big missions is making some of this education just a little bit more tangible and accessible for a lot of these people.
How do you plan on making your trade association stand out among others?
Where we’re going to stand out is a few different ways: we’re going pretty heavily into the educational seminar angle here, so I think that’s going to be a big one. We want to develop best practices and other concepts that maybe auto repairers aren’t paying attention to, but the rest of the world is.
We’re in the midst of engaging high schools and colleges in the area, and I think that becomes a pretty important piece of this puzzle to engage students and young interest. What we’re going to end up doing further down the road is trying to match qualified candidates from those schools with our members, but more than that, actually have a student membership and provide career building, programs and events for students, networking events between students and repairers.
What do you believe trade associations are lacking in this industry?
I think there is a really big disconnect. I think the people in the industry, some of them want to learn, but some of them aren’t super well versed with things like running a business, per say, and then you combine that with an industry that’s changing super quickly. You have pressure from a lot of areas—especially in New York. New York is really the last area to be consolidated so you have consolidation creeping in, vehicle technologies are always rapidly changing faster than anybody can keep up. More than anything, we’re living in a world where the customer is either not driving at all, or expecting a level of service and delivery.
I think what other trade associations may be lacking is the additional education, framed in a way to where, the customer is changing, the rest of the world is changing, and, as a result, this is how you’re going to remain competitive, rather than something that’s a little bit more general. It’s noble [to want to help everybody,] but when you paint the picture that it’s only a matter of time before this industry changes and catches up like the rest of the world, I think some more aggressive measures need to be taken.
What are the business benefits of joining an auto trade association?
When you’re able to get together in a room with a bunch of people who are similar but different from you, that’s huge. I think another one of the big things to convince people of is that you’re not really competing with people in the room. This is a space where you can share ideas and bounce things off of each other and think about what we should be doing regulation wise. When you get in a room with a bunch of people with different perspectives, you’re always going to learn.