For years I have been saving the name badges from all of the conferences, events, dealer meetings, seminars and ride-and-drives I have attended while reporting on tire dealers and the tire industry.
I picked up the idea from another Crain Communications Inc. publication, which used their reporters' name badges to decorate a Christmas tree they had in the newsroom.
My name badges, on the other hand, drape two hangers on a hook as you enter my office.
Other than it being a novelty, I gave little thought to this collection until one day it dawned on me: What those badges really represent is education.
Each badge is from a conference, meeting or event, which more often than not included seminars, presentations, speeches, interviews, hands-on experiences and networking.
Attending them was like going to school and learning about tires, service equipment, sales, marketing, communication, the Internet, personnel issues, making a profit and about what it takes to run a successful business.
There are at least 100 name badges in my collection, which means I have attended at least 100 educational programs over the years and the multiple learning sessions offered at each.
In a sense they have provided me with a Ph.D. in the tire industry and what it takes to run a successful tire dealership, service business and retread shop.
For 2017, I encourage you, our valued tire dealers readers, to consider making a New Year's Resolution to attend at least one of the many tire dealer conferences and trade shows in the industry and take advantage of the learning opportunities provided.
That might include the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show/Automotive Aftermarket Parts Expo held each November in Las Vegas, the North American Tire and Retread Show (NATRE) this April in New Orleans, or one of the many regional and/or state tire dealer meetings.
Over the years I have attended the annual conventions of the New England Tire & Service Association, the Ohio Tire and Automotive Association, the New Jersey State Tire Dealers Associaton, the North Carolina Tire Dealers Associaton and the Virginia Automotive Association, to name a few.
After each one, I've walked away amazed at how much fun I had, the new friends I'd made and how much I had learned. I have been lucky to attend them.
Full disclosure: Tire Business is a partner in the NATRE, April 19-21, in New Orleans, and is developing the educational program for that event.
Tire Business is involved because we believe a key to remaining successful in today's tire business—whether it's commercial, retail, wholesale or otherwise—requires staying current with changing industry trends and being innovative as a dealership.
No question, it's difficult to do this on a daily basis, what with all of the demands placed on dealers and employees in running a dealership.
That's why stepping away once or twice a year to attend an industry conference and trade show is so important.
There is no more effective way to do this than attending one of these conferences.
Of course, I hope you put the NATRE in New Orleans on your list. It's going to be an exciting conference and trade show with a strong educational program and tracks targeted at retail tire dealers as well as commercial dealers and retreaders.
But I will be just as pleased if you choose to attend any of the industry's national, regional or state dealer meetings.
All of these organizations have one thing in common: They are dedicated to helping tire dealers and retreaders remain successful and profitable in a fast-changing business world.
Mr. Zielasko is editor and VP/publisher of Tire Business