Annual Meeting & Leadership Conference Recap: Alliance Moves Ahead at “Full Speed” with New Leadership and Goals

by Alana Quartuccio Bonillo

Learning one’s purpose. Practicing effective leadership. Creating worthwhile partnerships. Those are just a few of the valuable lessons that Alliance members took home from this year’s AASP-MN Annual Meeting & Leadership Conference, held April 7 at the Crowne Plaza Minneapolis West.

In line with this year’s “Full Speed Ahead” theme, the Alliance got right down to business with a hefty agenda of educational and motivational speakers who kept members entertained and engaged throughout the day. The conference also provided the opportunity for new Executive Director Linden Wicklund to meet and greet members of the Alliance she had yet to interact with prior to the event.

“I am delighted to meet all of you,” she took to the podium to welcome everyone and offered, “If I haven’t met you yet, please seek me out and say hello.  I would also love to visit your shops. Whether you are a supplier, mechanical shop or collision shop, I’d love to come see you in action, meet your staff and find out what makes your company unique.”

The day began with Chad Weinstein of Ethical Leaders in Action who had repairers thinking about how to best carry out their role as leaders and ways to build strong relationships that can help attract and retain employees to their facilities with his presentation, “Staying on the High Road – Service, Professionalism and Leadership.”

He encouraged all to think about their sense of purpose.

“This is a world of total distraction and idiocy on the roads. I have never seen so many distracted drivers. It’s an unbelievable time. The work you do quite literally has the ability to save lives, so if you have people in your organization who are cavalier about the small things, ask yourself if they are cavalier about the big things. Are you doing something to address that?”

Good leaders must also change their way of thinking.

“Check your motives. Do a gut check. Ask yourself, ‘Is my mind open, and am I willing to learn something too? Do I want them to be better at meeting their goals or just do what I want them to do?’”

Following Weinstein’s presentation, attendees took advantage of the opportunity for one-on-one interactions, sharing ideas and contemplating solutions to industry issues as they spent 30 minutes at a time rotating between three discussion groups on the following seven topics: shop culture; blueprinting; marketing; collision management software; 20 groups; tips and tricks for recruiting employees and scams, rip-offs and con artists.

As lunch got underway, the Alliance presented Gary Lofald, longtime AASP-MN member and former owner of Fourth Street Auto Body (Duluth), with the Honorary Member award. A member of AASP-MN since 1995, Lofald served as president from 2004-2005 and has chaired committees, led programs and contributed in many ways over the years.

“There is an amazing amount of knowledge in this room,” Lofald told his peers. “The networking that happens in this room is unbelievable. My little success story is all because of you folks.”

Next, attendees learned about a program designed to prevent the theft of catalytic converters by way of labeling the device with a unique number which will aid law enforcement in the search for these criminals. AASP-MN Lobbyist Sam Richie gave the audience an update on legislation AASP-MN is pushing for, including amendments to the salvage title statute and a bill that would require insurers to respond to a repair supplement within three business days.

Outgoing President Tom Archambault (BLVD Autoworks; St. Anthony) took to the microphone to reflect on the Alliance’s greatest accomplishment of the past year – finding its new executive director.

“We are so grateful Linden applied for this position. She really embodies the core values of the Alliance. During the interview process, she said ‘I like working with people who fix things,’ and that’s us, and we liked that. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find she is exactly who we were looking for.”

Each year, the Alliance recognizes those members who went above and beyond in recruiting new members. This year’s efforts resulted in a four-way tie between Archambault, Jesse Jacobson (Heppner’s Auto Body; Woodbury), Tony Newman (Dale Feste Automotive; Hopkins) and Dan Sjolseth (Superior Service Center; Eagan).

New Board members were welcomed: Dan Gleason (Pro-Tech Auto Repair; Corcoran) will serve as the Mechanical Seat, and Aaron Swanson (Lamettry’s Collision; Eden Prairie) came on to fill the Collision Seat. Tony Newman (Dale Feste Automotive; Hopkins), Loren Feldkamp (Lube-Tech & Partners; St. Paul) and Matt Feehan (Fix Auto Body; Osseo) were honored for their service to the Board.

Next, Archambault handed over the gavel to incoming President Jesse Jacobson who shared his excitement for a future under new leadership with fresh ideas and new strategies.

“I am honored to lead the most-committed auto association in the country,” he expressed.

The mic was turned over to keynote speaker Dr. Cindra Kamphoff (author of Beyond Grit and CEO of Mentally Strong Consulting) who taught attendees how to get out of their comfort zone and get comfortable with being uncomfortable during her presentation, “Beyond Grit – Embracing Passion and Perseverance for the Future.”

“This industry has a lot of turnover so being able to be relatable and to be your best takes the ability to be flexible to change,” she advised as she outlined steps towards a brighter future.

She had the whole audience literally stomping their feet and clapping their hands through an interactive session which paired up attendees in the practice of taking turns reciting the words “one, two, three” and later replacing the words with a foot stomp or clap. The exercise represented the hiccups and unpredictability they often encounter in their shops.

Kamphoff’s engaging discussion painted a clear picture of where one’s mind tends to go when negative things happen and how one’s own definition of failure is actually an opportunity to become successful.

She piloted participants to look at challenges differently in order to bring positive change.

“What if everything happened FOR you, not TO you?” she asked. “The next time you are struggling, think about how it is happening FOR you. You will start to see solutions.”

Understanding one’s own purpose is another step to becoming a good leader.

“When we know our purpose, it makes a big difference. We can see ourselves as leaders. When you know your why, your what has more impact. Don’t just KNOW your why; OWN it.”

The educational portion of the day wrapped up with three breakout sessions.

“When the shop gets busy, every technician stops being thorough, and the shop owner stops being thorough,” said Aaron Stokes (Shop Fix Academy) as he explained how to break the habits that cause panic on the shop floor in his “Tech Momentum” presentation. Scheduling work in advance and leaving room for walk-ins can really aid in getting a better handle on productivity, he suggested.

Louie Sharp (Sharp Auto Body and author of The Gifted Leader – How to Grow Your Business for More Profit & Freedom) got repairers thinking about the benefits of listening to their employees as a way to improve productivity with his talk “Productivity + Efficiency = Profit.”

“Let them be heard. The most powerful way to do that is to repeat back to them exactly what they said,” he pointed out. “People leave leaders, NOT jobs. They will leave you because they feel unappreciated because they aren’t being heard or understood.”

Repairers also had the chance to hear more from Kamphoff who led a “Beyond Grit” workshop, which exposed participants to more leadership development skill exercises.

The day concluded with a vendor showcase and reception where attendees socialized and were awarded multiple door prizes courtesy of event sponsors. Congratulations to all the winners and to Will Latuff (Latuff Brothers Auto Body; St. Paul) who took home the $1,000 grand prize.


Want more? Check out the May 2022 issue of AASP-MN News!