chairman's message

chairman's message


Exceeding the Curve through Hiring, Training, and Developing

Excerpts from the incoming chairman’s address presented by Cliff Hovis, Hovis Auto & Truck Supply, Inc., at AWDA’s Annual Business & Education Conference, Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 1, 2015.

It’s a great privilege to be here as your new AWDA Chairman. I remember coming to AAPEX as a young man and listening to the leaders of our industry focusing on the most important challenges and opportunities. I was in awe of the success I saw around me and excited to be a part of it. Last year Corey Bartlett, the AWDA chairman did a fantastic job focusing on bringing awareness to and funding our Auto Care Political Action Committee (ACPAC). My focus this year is Exceeding the Curve; Hiring, Training, and Developing our next generation of leaders. 

I have a story about my company’s journey, a journey much like many entrepreneurs in this room. In 1952, my father was in high school and looking for an opportunity as a young entrepreneur. He saw the automotive industry as a Great Place to Work. He purchased cars from the local community for scrap as he traveled his 30 minute high school commute.  

In my father’s day, dealerships were on every corner and more interested in selling new cars than dealing with used cars or junk. My dad saw an opportunity, he hired his friends who should have been in school, to go out into the community and purchase cars while he was in school, his sisters were teachers, and made sure he attended class. His friends would come to school, knock on the classroom door and begin impromptu sales meetings right in his class; this was more popular with his classmates than his teachers. They purchased junk cars, drove them home, with or without brakes; putting the car with the best brakes in the front to stop the cars behind it. Since the cars were junk and typically not inspected, the local law enforcement would sometimes chase them, a lot like the Dukes of Hazard. Once home dad would sell parts off the cars and scrap the rest. He was one of the first environmentally friendly businesses, even if he didn’t know it. My dad started towing on the newly constructed interstate system; opening an auto parts store in 1969. 

When I attended college in the late 1980’s I saw our industry as a Great Place to Work and decided to make a career out of it. I was in the right place at the right time to implement new inventory and pricing strategies with the age of the computer. Being young and open to new innovations gave me the advantage over my competitors. When my brother graduated law school he joined me because he saw our industry as a Great Place to Work. Together we learned to hire, train, and develop our employees and grow our business.  

Fast forward to today. Every business in our industry from manufacturers, distributors, to installers are having trouble finding that next generation of quality workers. Today’s employable youth do not see the opportunities we recognized in this industry. Think about it. We, as an industry, are the third largest employer in North America providing 4.3 million jobs, only the health care industry and federal government provide more jobs. We contribute more than 2.3% of the U.S. GDP, and young America doesn’t see the opportunities within our industry? Someone has to tell our story if we want to bring in the next generation!

So, how do we get our message out? How do we show young America what our industry has to offer them? We have to hire them, train them and develop them.

Bill Maggs, former chairman of AWDA, coined the phrase “A Great Place to Work”; that phrase is as true today as it was back in my dad’s early beginnings. The answer to how we will show young America what our industry has to offer them is through the Auto Care Association’s newly redesigned website http://www.autocarecareers.org/ to promote career opportunities in the auto care industry. 

Many of our Auto Care Career programs found on this site were ideas that have come out of AWDA under the leadership of Larry Northup, AWDA Executive Director. The Auto Care Education Committee, under the leadership of Sue Kalish and Chuck Osgood took these ideas and developed them into programs. These programs are now being coordinated by Courtney Hammer and Katy McQuiston, both of whom are YANGSTERS and Auto Care Association staff. The Education Committee is now in the process of re-focusing its efforts on employee retention through professional development and training. 

Hiring: The Auto Care Careers Job Board is a place to connect potential employees with employers in our industry. Young America has shifted from paper media to the internet. We must recognize the shift and use this great new tool. 

Two Auto Care Industry Fact Sheets have been developed for you as employers to use as “leave behind” materials. The factsheets are for all audiences and for those interested in an auto care technician career. The factsheets provide basic information about the auto care industry and the types of jobs available. They are great resources that I have used when talking to students about our industry.

Training and Internships: This was actually my idea; having two kids in college I had the opportunity to meet many of their friends who are smart capable kids looking for careers in other industries. I thought to myself why can’t they work in my industry? That thought spawned another idea to come out of AWDA. The AWDA Internship Program is intended for college students majoring in programs that have a direct application to the auto care industry, such as engineering, business, information technology and communication. A fund was created to help ease the financial burden of temporary relocation for students who pursue internships in locations more than 100 miles from their permanent address. Scholarships are provided in the amount of $2,500 to contribute to the costs of round-trip travel from their permanent address to the internship location, lodging, utilities and food.  Why not provide access to the best and brightest for our industry? To date, we have awarded seven $2,500 internship scholarships totaling $17,500. For 2016, we have an additional $25,000 to award ten scholarships.  We need to champion the program and draw more attention to it.

AWDA financially supports the Automotive Aftermarket Scholarship Central chaired by Pete Kornafel.  Pete has awarded 370 scholarships totaling $405,450 for 2015. One of the most important reasons we support this endeavor is that 80% of the recipients are training to become technicians. I hear from my customer’s daily that they cannot find good qualified help. We need to promote this scholarship. 

My company, Hovis Auto and Truck Supply, provides training to about 1,500 installers and countless employees annually in the automotive, heavy duty truck and paint, body and equipment categories. In addition to hands on technical training Hovis offers product, profitability, government compliance, which is a big one today, and best practices training. As a member of the Art Fisher Memorial Scholarship Award committee, I have looked at many of our AWDA member’s extensive training programs and was very impressed. We need to put together a best practice on training and duplicate it across our membership.  

Professional Development: The Young Auto Care Network Group (YANG) is comprised of members under the age of 40 who are involved in the Auto Care Industry. I have four YANGSTERS with me at the AWDA Conference that think our industry is a Great Place to Work. I encourage everyone to have the youth you employ join YANG; they are focused on networking with industry peers, enhance knowledge and improve leadership capabilities. Get them involved and excited about our industry. 

Finally, I would like to talk about mentoring. The education committee is working on a mentoring program. Everyone in this room can probably name at least one person who served as a mentor to them. I personally have been very fortunate to have been mentored by my father, Art Fisher, and Rusty Bishop. I feel blessed to have had their direction; their example has played a big part in my development. We need to do this for the next generation of leaders. Seek out young people in your employ and mentor them. Bring them along. As I mentioned, I have brought four YANGSTERS with me, I hope to do this for them. I also see other AWDA members mentoring and encouraging the next generation of leaders.  We can get them excited about our industry. We can show them the potential here.

I believe opportunities today are greater than ever. AWDA is a Great Place to Work and our goal is to be Exceeding the Curve through Hiring, Training, and Developing. I am proud to be a part of this organization!

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to lead and God Bless! 


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