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Squeeze NACE Dry

Trade shows are kind of a microcosm of life in general these days. Everybody’s busy, busy, busy. If you’re not talking to old friends, you’re viewing a product demonstration on the show floor or attending an educational seminar. Blink and you miss it. It’s just the way it goes.


Jason Stahl has 28 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 16 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

The International Autobody Congress & Exhibition (NACE) in Las Vegas will be just like that this year. Sin City moves fast as it is, so attending a trade show there, as past NACE attendees know, throws the RPMs into the stratosphere. It’s a sensory bombardment and, if you’re not careful, you can end up burned out and not sure of what you just saw or learned. And this year is more important than ever to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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This year’s NACE comes at a critical time when the collision repair industry is noticeably stressed and in need of, well, repair. Not that things weren’t bad last year as well, but here we are one year later and things have definitely not improved. Steering, suppression of labor rates, higher materials costs, fewer vehicle crashes, a shortage of qualified technicians, the list goes on and on. These are trying times for body shops, which is all the more reason why they should look at NACE as an orange this year and squeeze all the goodness they can from it.


Like a lot of things, NACE is big and intimidating when you look at it as a whole. You say to yourself, “There’s so much going on, what seminars should I attend?” But it’s like taking on a boulder. Instead of trying to blow it apart all in one day, you should just try to chip away a little part each day so the job is more manageable.

Take a look at the 57 conference sessions and decide which ones are the best for you to attend. Maybe it’s “Demystifying ‘Lean’ – Creating Process Centered Environments,” or maybe it’s an I-CAR course on Steel Unitized Structures Technologies and Repairs. You couldn’t attend them all if you tried, so maximize your time by hitting those that will give you the most return depending on your own business circumstances.


And I’m going to simplify things even more based on my own trade show experience. No matter how many conference sessions you attend, set a goal to take away only two pieces of information, whether it’s a new way to run your shop or a new employee retention strategy, and promise yourself that you’ll at least try to implement them at your shop when you get home.

Why only two? Because that’s plenty enough when you think about what usually happens when you get home from a trade show. We often learn a whole lot at the show and get pumped and excited to use that knowledge to our advantage but, because of human nature, we often return home and go back to our old ways because we’re comfortable with them. But I’m going to tell you now (as many others have said recently, too), going back to your old ways and doing things like you’ve always done could speed along the demise of your business. Something’s got to change.


Here’s another tip that I learned from a consultant who swore by it: Set a goal for yourself, write it down on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket. Keep the piece of paper in your pocket every day (switching it out of your clean, laundered pants, of course). What generally happens is that you’ll forget all about the goal and the piece of paper, and one day you’ll feel it in your pocket and say, “What’s this?” Then, you read the goal you wrote for yourself, for example, “I will implement a lean strategy in my shop within two weeks.” For some reason, those stark, black words on white paper really hit home and make you feel guilty if you haven’t accomplished your goal yet. Call it a motivational tactic.


Last but not least, make sure to spend time with your friends at the show and make some new ones. Business can often get you down, but strong friendships will always bring you back up. Here’s to a great NACE!

Jason Stahl, Editor
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