COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, Va.The Virginia Automotive Association's (VAA) recent annual Convention and Trade Expo in Colonial Williamsburg served as a backdrop to the trade group's 50th anniversary celebration, during which it highlighted the many changes its members have witnessed since its founding.
The event, which ran April 24-26, featured a variety of industry speakers, including Dave Crawford, CEO of The Hybrid Shop, and Chris Chubby' Frederick, CEO of Automotive Training Institute, as well as a trade expo.
The association started out as the Virginia Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association in 1965, with L.C. Miller Jr. helping get the group off the ground. As the industry began to evolve, the association's name changed in March 1991 to the Virginia Tire & Automotive Service Dealers Association to better reflect its members' core business, Steve Akridge, executive director of the VAA said. The association changed its name one last time in 2004 to its current moniker so as to include other automotive-related businesses.
I think our industry has changed significantly over the past 50 years, and the dealer's mix of business is very different today, Mr. Akridge said.
Years ago, shops stayed within their nichestire stores sold tires, garages did mechanical work.
Over the years, tire stores started getting into more mechanical service work, and with the advent of the tire wholesalers, garages began selling tires, he said.
As stainless steel exhaust systems became standard on new vehicles, exhaust shops saw the need to diversify into mechanical work and tire sales. As this scenario has evolved, VAA has evolved with it, through name changes and by-law changes to accept all automotive related businesses, as opposed to how we began 50 years ago with only tire dealers as members.
Although the association has remained successful through five decades, it doesn't mean it hasn't faced any challenges along the way. Mr. Akridge said the biggest challenge he faces is communication.
Dealers receive hundreds of emails, phone calls, sales calls at their shop all wanting a piece of their time; and that is in between customers and working with employees, he told Tire Business via email.
So it is easy to put something we mail or email to them aside with good intentions to read it.
This is a challenge many associations deal with, he continued, so it requires a great deal of effort and time to bring on new members. Consequently, Mr. Akridge said the association will reach out to its board and supplier partners for leads on potential members.
On April 25, the VAA hosted 370 people at a banquet and about 430 at the trade expo.
Besides the annual convention and trade expo, which the VAA hosts at destination-type resorts in Virginia because of its proven popularity, the association also represents its members and the industry at the Virginia General Assembly.
That is the most important (service) we offer, Mr. Akridge said, and the results each year could impact everyone in our industry.
Additionally, the VAA works with the various state agencies that develop regulations to which business owners must comply. Mr. Akridge said he and several of the VAA's board members have served on advisory committees at several agencies.
This is important to know what is being discussed from a regulation perspective or interpretation that could impact every business, he said.
This is more critical than most realize, and it is very time consuming.
The association also has an human resources (HR) consulting program through Sesco Management Consultants, where VAA members can call and receive advice at no cost, he said, and other HR-related services at discounted prices.
A shop owner cannot be an expert on every HR-related, wage and hour, etc. issue, and through our program, they have help and professional advice whenever they need it, Mr. Akridge added.
Through VAA programs members can get uniforms, insurance, credit card processing, pricing audits for various expenses, business forms, website development and direct customer marketing.
I know I speak for the leaders on our board when I say, we are very proud of our heritage and what we have accomplished as an organization over the past 50 years, Mr. Akridge said, and we look forward to the future.
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