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A Different View of NACE

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A year ago as I prepared for my first NACE show as an overwhelmed publisher of a magazine that reaches just about every collision repair shop across America, I wrote a column about leadership (or lack thereof) in our industry. Now, as I prepare for my second NACE next month in Las Vegas and reflect upon my first year in this market, it occurs to me that those early comments were somewhat accurate and that this industry remains in need of a more unified, cohesive agenda.

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In that column, I pointed to the completely divergent agendas of this industry’s biggest and most influential entities. Namely the multitude of associations and industry organizations, the car manufacturers and their dealer networks, the collision repair franchises, consolidators and independent shops, and the ever-present insurance companies. Never have I seen so many self-interests remain so unfulfilled. This isn’t a criticism of any single entity, group or organization, but rather, an observation from a new and (somewhat) untainted perspective.

From what I’ve seen, most of the organizations and/or associations I’ve encountered definitely have the industry’s best interests at heart. And, to be sure, there are a multitude of bright minds and eager individuals making many sacrifices for the betterment of the industry in general. In other words, from my perspective, there’s no lack of desire, passion or motivation. However, there seems to be a severe lack of a cohesive direction or plan to move the industry and all of its entities progressively and profitably forward.

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With regard to the industry in general, most people subscribe to the theory that “a rising tide raises all ships” – the one assumption being that your individual vessel is, in fact, seaworthy! If so, you’ll benefit as the tide rolls in. But, the tide won’t happen until a more cohesive convergence of agendas and/or events takes place. What could spark such a convergence? Perhaps NACE.

I know. I’ve heard the moans, gripes and complaints, just like you. “Not enough buyers walking the floor,” “So much going on over at SEMA,” “Not enough new things to see,” and so on. Same old complaints, different industry. I’ve seen and heard it all before. But, if you look at NACE for what it truly is, you may see something entirely different than the same old “trade show.”

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NACE is the International Auto Body Congress & Exposition. As such, it’s organized to be an educational event and congress (i.e. a forum for all of the various entities and concerns to come together and participate in dialogue and an exchange of ideas and information, hopefully leading to effective consensus moving forward). NACE is the perfect “bellweather” event, whereby all of the industry’s entities and divergent agendas can be brought together to identify common themes and/or goals, build consensus and reduce or eliminate redundancy. Sound like “pie in the sky” thinking? Maybe. But NACE is an “event,” and “events” spark convergence.

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Hopefully, you’ll see NACE as more than just a trade show, and you’ll attend with the goal of learning and participating. By doing so, you’ll not only be advancing your own career and the fortunes of your business or company, but you’ll also be contributing to the advancement of the industry, which in turn will add to your own personal benefits. Your participation helps to make it an “event ” — perhaps an “event” that leads to a major rise in the tide!

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