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I serve on the board of directors of the Virginia Automotive Association (VAA). The primary purpose of this organization is to lobby the state legislature to try and keep them from passing laws and regulations that are harmful to our industry. Membership includes about 170 shop and industry sponsors. Every year VAA has a convention that includes speakers, training round table discussion and a trade show. This year's convention is being held at the Williamsburg Lodge in famous Colonial Williamsburg Virginia 24-26 April. We expect about 300 attendees. Keynote speakers include Chubby Fredericks from ATI, Dave Crawford of The Hybrid Shop and others. You don't have to be a member to attend. The agenda leaves time to enjoy the colonial area, so you can bring your family and turn it into a vacation.You can get more info about the convention at the VAA website.
The Best of the Best
Overland Park Convention Center, Kansas City, Missouri is the place for the Vision HiTech training convention. I try to attend every year, take some classes, browse the expo, and meet up with some old friends. Classes range from Hybrid service, scope and scanner reading, diesel and gas engine drive-ability, to shop management. Some of the top instructors gather at this convention and put together some of the best classes I’ve ever attended. Whether it’s your first year or your 40th year in the repair business you’ll learn something new from attending the Vision HiTech convention.
My first class was on hybrid battery servicing. Really great stuff, lots of insight on what is involved, the theory behind the technology, and how to properly recharge, discharge and tests each cell separately. Most of the classes were all day, the morning half was lecture and familiarization with the tools and specifications while the afternoon session is actual hands on. Exceptional information and instruction.
I also sat in on a scope reading class, diesel diagnostics, and spent some time in the hybrid diagnostic class. Every one of them was top notch. Then, with time to spare, I made the rounds through the expo and talked with several vendors and suppliers. Lots of things to see, from tires to tools to demonstrations, there was something there for every form of automotive repair.
Every aspect of the classes, seminars on future technology, luncheon speeches, live pod-casts, and “think tank” discussions panels was well received and attended. But, for me, not only was the expo, the seminars, the class instructors, and the various college level instructors from across the country that were impressive it was the guys and gals that swing the wrenches down in the service bays from across the country that were just as impressive.
These are the guys and gals that have taken on this thankless job as a career. Sure, we all have those customers that really appreciate what it takes to do this job, but it’s sometimes hard for some people to comprehend the amount of ever changing knowledge a person has to retain to be a professional mechanic. Most of the time, the general public doesn’t have a clue as to what it takes to be a professional mechanic. These guys and gals do.
This convention brings out the cream of the crop, and those individuals who are seeking to become a better technician as well. These are the individuals, shops, and service centers that want to do a better job for their customers. One thing is for sure, you don’t go to one of these conventions to learn to be a parts changer, this is the real deal, this is the type of convention you attend to become one of the best of the best.
An email I received said it best. “I learned a lot at the convention and now I’m back at my job and have to deal with all of these not so educated guys from other repair shops all over again.” What I believe he meant to say was there are so many variations of the word “mechanic” out there that a lot of people just lump them all into one term... “Mechanic”. (It almost sounds like a four letter word to me when somebody is at the service counter and says, “My friend already told me what’s wrong, cause he’s a mechanic just like you.”) In my opinion, what they are really telling me is there “mechanic” either doesn’t have the tools to perform the necessary repair, or they have never taken any training on how to perform the repair. (Or they ran out of parts to swap.)
These are the “mechanics” (there’s that four letter word again) that give the rest of the auto industry a bad name. Parts changers, guess-and-go repair shops, and the preverbal, “I had the codes checked at the parts store.” (Codes are NOT parts people!)
For the guys and gals attending these training conventions it’s all about learning or updating their skills, not about changing parts. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that if you didn’t attend you’re not one of the top notch mechanics out there, heck no... If you’re reading this then you obviously are thinking along the same lines as the guys and gals that had the opportunity to attend the convention, and I’ll bet you probably would have liked to have gone but for whatever reason you weren’t able to. I’m talking about those “mechanics” that don’t attend, don’t read the latest technical articles and procedures, don’t keep up with the technology and don’t want any part of learning up to date practices because they either think they already know everything or are to dang stubborn to think somebody might know more about it. (You’re never too old to learn something new.)
The other part about attending conferences and conventions like Vision is the “meet and greet” side of things. Think about it, you’re at a convention where likeminded individuals are in attendance, you’re on common ground. They understand the daily grind, the diagnostic and tool issues, the grease and grime, and what it’s like to deal with every aspect of trying to make a living from the underside of a hood. Each and every one of them has a story to tell, and it wasn’t uncommon to see techs from different parts of the country get together at the nearest watering hole and swap their latest stories. When the evening came to a close, every one left with a new found respect for their trade, themselves, and the other attendees.
So there’s a lot more going on at these conventions than classes and sales pitches at the expo. It’s a place for the best of the best to meet the rest of the best of the best. I’m never disappointed after spending a few hours with some of these guys and gals at these conventions, and I plan on continuing to do so.
Until we reach a point in the far reaching future where all this car knowledge can be surgically implanted or is taken over by some weird futuristic robot control, attending a few classes to increase your knowledge is one sure way to keep up with the best of the best.
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By Joe Marconi
I get a chance to speak to a lot of shop owners around the country. While there are many mixed reviews on the economy, for the most part independent repair shops are doing well. Many have been holding their own the past few years and a surprising amount of shops are actually recording increases in sales.
How is your shop shaping us for 2013? Let us know how the last few years have impacted your shop and your area.
By Joe Marconi
If your shop is in New York, you need to go to this site and read about the new laws concerning installing new and used catalytic converters. The new law goes into effect June 1, 2013. I am surprised there isn't more press on this subject. New York is adopting California regulations.
Our little town holds a Best of White House competition where people vote for a list of businesses that they consider best in our town. Would you guys please take a few seconds and vote for us This free publicity is awesome as we were the Best of White House 2012 and are very proud of that fact. Here is the link to vote. Voting ends tomorrow April 19th so don't delay
Our business name is CAR Maintenance and Performance
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