The trade group's main website contains a brief video about the community website.
"At our strategic planning session last fall, we recognized the challenges of the 'new normal' for automotive repair facilities and the importance of their time and ability to travel to meetings after a long stressful day," said Ray Fisher, president of ASA Michigan. "Members would also call us about missing one of our webinars, needing a business aid/form of sorts or some information from the State of Michigan, etc.
"We also discussed the value of members being able to share ideas, best practices and provide feedback on various topics similar to an electronic bulletin board type of format in the past. And lastly, we needed to make sure that access to everything was convenient and available 24/7/365."
Mr. Fisher said the community website has multiple folders that include a virtual library, people, groups, discussions, blogs and news.
"The website will be progressive, but for example, we started the library with four folders titled automotive repair industry, collision repair industry, mechanical repair industry and webinars. Documents or links that apply to both industries we place in the automotive repair industry folder and, of course, the others follow accordingly," he said.
"We also found that it was sometimes difficult for the members to attend the webinars regardless of what day or time we held them, so we added the webinar folder within the library."
As long as the material remains relevant, he said the webinar will remain accessible to members.
"The opportunity for the membership to interact is invaluable today," Mr. Fisher continued. "With vehicle technology, social media, higher customer expectations, leaner operations, etc., the members need a place to share best practices and ideas immediately so they are not alone. Media allows consumers to make decisions quickly and our members need to be able to respond with educated decisions and they need to know they can go to one source to get it."
Other features that will eventually be included on the community site include a new "Skype with Ray," which will be conducted on the third Thursday of the month beginning in May. "Again, using technology, we wanted a venue for the industry to have personable dialogue with ASA sharing their concerns, giving us ideas or even just to say, 'Hi,' without having the time and financial expense of meeting somewhere physically," Mr. Fisher said, " so we are testing this venue and will decide in September as to whether this is a valuable resource or put the focus elsewhere."
He added that the format will "be somewhat topical with an open floor toward the end, and we plan on having a guest speaker from time-to-time, which we believe will provide many opportunities for attendees to hear things 'right from the horse's mouth' sort of thing."
ASA-Michigan, a not-for-profit, membership-driven organization, decided to add the member site, Mr. Fisher said, "to be responsive" to its membership. "Our task must remain focused on what helps members and industry be successful regardless of how painful it might be, because if we want them to remain members, they have to stay in business; and if we want them to stay in business, we have to have walk through some of these difficult changes because making them just 'feel good for the moment' is short-term thinking.
"As a professional organization, we owe the industry here in Michigan that respect."
The Lansing-based trade group has represented the automotive repair industry in Michigan since 1934.