When Brian and I owned our shop, we got a piece of mail that had an image of two shop owners sitting on the beach. As most shop owners we had become firefighters with lots of bills to pay.
Do you know what I mean? Just constantly putting out fires and trying to make the money to pay the next bill.
Life was overwhelming. Business was driving us crazy. We were frustrated and left feeling like there had to be more.
That direct mail piece was an invitation to an automotive repair industry event. It hooked us and that was the beginning of our involvement in the industry.
Attending that event opened our eyes to the realization that there were more shop owners just like us. It’s where we met people who were going through what we were going through. It’s where we received hope of a future and connections to the bridge that would get us to the next level in our shop. It’s where we became aware that there were shop owners who not only had been through what we were going through but successfully came out on the other side.
And, they were free to go sit at the beach.
We wanted to go to the beach.
So today I’m sitting here in my office writing this blog to share my experience at this year’s ASTE training and expo. As shop owners in NC, we were members of IGO but ASTE had not begun - so while we had experienced AAPEX, CARS, and VISION - we had not experienced ASTE.
This year was my first year. I was not there as a shop owner though. I was there as a trainer and a vendor.
What would I say to someone who has never been?
Go! Connecting with other professionals in our industry changed our lives, our business, and our perspective. It gave us hope when we had none, encouragement when we needed it and gave us the opportunity to learn from others while also being able to offer that same encouragement and education to others. We didn’t have the money to go to the first event we went to but we just forced it into a priority position. It was something we knew we needed to do and we did it.
How would I explain ASTE to someone else?
It’s easy for me because I’m an outgoing, energetic and people-centered person. I thrive in events like that. These types of events bring out the best of me. I find that attending ASTE was like going home. I reconnected with folks from the past, made some great new friends, heard stories of those who have overcome extreme hardships, and I got educated on what’s going on in the industry, was inspired by what some shop owners are doing to advance themselves, their employees, their community and the industry. On the flip side, my husband is not the extroverted people person. Instead, he’s a deep thinker. He enjoys his space. But, he will tell you that he loves attending these events, too. He was jealous the entire time I was here and he wasn’t. He knew what he was missing and wanted to be there. So, ASTE is for you; it doesn’t matter if you’re introverted or extroverted!
What was it like at ASTE?
I arrived early as I usually like to do. I got in on Thursday around lunchtime. I started my time in NC by going to lunch with our Art Director, Tony, who lives in Raleigh but had not spent any time in Apex. Yay! I love Apex and used that as an excuse to visit. So we went for a great lunch on Salem Street then I took a trip down memory lane by stopping in for a visit where our old shop used to be. We closed Peak Automotive in 2009 and I had not stepped one foot in that door since then. It was incredibly bittersweet. So many memories came flooding in. Honestly, it was quite emotional but I kept that tucked away. :) When we closed Peak Automotive, it was followed by Peak Auto opening up in the exact same space. The new owner hired all of our employees which was an incredible blessing for us to know that none of them would be unemployed.
From there it was time to head to the Embassy Suites where ASTE was being held. The Pre-Party was that night and, man, what a way to kick off an event. Open networking, a really fun environment, and an incredible time to meet people. Unlike the days when we were shop owners, today we’ve got Facebook groups. So many people have “met” but online and never in person. So I witnessed several instances where people were meeting in person for the first time after having been communicating for a long time online in the same group. It’s a really cool time to be living in!
Then, on Friday ASTE kicked off. I was thrilled to be asked to come speak to shop owners about StoryBrand - a method for creating a very clear message that customers would connect to. I’ve come to the understanding that my purpose in life is to teach, connect and serve. So training at VISION gave me the opportunity to work within my gifts and enjoy what I do.
Teaching gives me the opportunity to meet new people, help them with their marketing and give back to this industry. It’s where I’m comfortable and confident.
I will say that I’m incredibly grateful to Chris Coutier for saving the day for me! Chris is the owner of Golden Rule Auto Care and President of autotext.me. I had somehow missed that I needed to bring my own projector so since Chris was teaching in the same room as me that afternoon I reached out to him.
One of the things I love about our industry is the openness, kindness, and friendships that are made here. I didn’t know Chris before this. I simply looked him up on Facebook and shot him a quick private message asking him if he had a projector I could use. He immediately replied with a big yes.
Day saved. Thanks, Chris!
Saturday was just as great as Thursday and Friday were. More networking, more stories, more memories made and more of everything. Long and tiring, yes. But, oh so worth it!
What tips might I have for someone attending an industry event like ASTE?
- Arrive early. Position yourself as though you’re the host. Get familiar with your surroundings so you can answer questions about where things are, etc. It also gives you a chance to have some one-on-one time with other attendees.
- Don’t skip out on the little things such as the “hotel happy hour”. Embassy Suites offered time in the afternoon from 5:30-7:00 where so much positive happened! So many connections, relationships being built and memories.
- Listen. Pay attention. I’m not saying be nosey and an eavesdropper :) I’m saying be observant and “in the moment”. Capture all you can so you can be a part of what’s happening.
- Set a goal. What are you there to do? If you’ve got a struggle in your shop that you need help with then your goal is to seek and find support in that area. Maybe you need more connections in the industry. You might set a goal to meet 5 new people over the course of the weekend. Be strategic with your time and who you spend it with.
- Be a giver. Find someone to encourage. Find someone to help. Find someone to tell your story to. When you put positive out in the world, it will come back to you. Give of your time, your energy, your resources, your experiences!
- Take pictures. You’ll want to capture moments and share them. When you share your photos it gets out to other shop owners who might not have thought to attend an event like this. Your photos may encourage them to attend a future event.
- Visit the vendors in the Expo. Yes, it’s nice to pick up a free pen, a piece of candy, or some widget. But, when you take the time to TALK to them you may get much more than just a pen, candy or widget. You may earn some valuable insight, feedback or inspiration. Each vendor is there to offer help. Yes, we have businesses we’re running and have services and/or products to offer. But, for me, I care much more about connecting with those who visit my booth and help in some way. So, stop in. Have a conversation. You may leave surprised at what happens when you invest your time in a conversation in a booth.
Wrapping up, I want to share a big shout-out to Mr. Bob, Tricia, and the IGONC (Independent Garage Owners of North Carolina) Board and members. You outdid yourselves. ASTE was obviously put on with a tremendous amount of heart, hard work and dedication. I hope that you’re enjoying some rest today! Thank you for inviting me to be a trainer for your event.
I do hope that a shop owner out there somewhere finds this blog and reads it, is inspired to take the step to attend an industry event and make the biggest difference in their shop that they can possibly imagine. Hey shop owner, you are NOT alone. That I know for sure.