NJA December 2021 – Local News – Election, Awards and Education: AASP/NJ Reconnects at Annual Meeting

by Chasidy Rae Sisk

AASP/NJ’s 2021 October 20 Annual Meeting featured elections, an awards ceremony and education by CCC’s Neal Bobzin and Craig Stevens.

The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ) held its Annual Meeting on October 20 at Gran Centurions in Clark, NJ, featuring its Board of Directors election, a special awards ceremony where longtime members were honored and a vital education session delivered by Neal Bobzin and Craig Stevens of CCC.

Re-elected Executive Board members include Jerry McNee (Ultimate Collision; Edison) as president, Dennis Cataldo, Jr. (D&M Auto Body; Old Bridge) as collision chairman and Keith Krehel (Krehel Automotive Repair, Inc.; Clifton) as mechanical chairman, in addition to Treasurer Tom Elder (Compact Kars, Inc.; Clarksburg) and Secretary Tom Greco (Thomas Greco Publishing; Nutley). Board member Dave Laganella (Peters Body & Fender; Oakland) will return for another term, and the Board welcomed a new member: Ken Miller (821 Collision; North Haledon).

During the special awards ceremony, Tom Elder and Luci Robson presented the Russ Robson Scholarship Award to Gavin Danitz (Compact Kars; Clarksburg).

“I’ve been around cars basically my entire life, and I’ve always had a passion for it,” Danitz said. “I love the working environment, I love working on cars, and I love solving problems. I want to continue to better myself, and I’m very honored to have the opportunity to win this award.”

The Stan Wilson/New Jersey Automotive Body Shop of the Year Award went to Dennis Cataldo, Jr. of D&M Auto Body in Old Bridge.

“The only way we’re going to move forward [as an industry] is if we start working together,” Cataldo encouraged as he accepted his award. “A lot of people throw the word ‘competitor’ around, but I don’t think that we’re really competitors; we have no reason to be in competition with one another. When we’re all working toward moving in the same direction, I think we can really go somewhere.”

Alicia Figurelli, senior vice president of Thomas Greco Publishing, became the second woman to be inducted into the AASP/NJ Hall of Fame.

“There is no person that I’ve interacted with in this association who has dedicated their life any more intently than Alicia,” AASP/NJ Immediate Past President Jeff McDowell (Leslie’s Auto Body; Fords) stated as he presented the award. “When I was president, she was my go-to person – she made all the wheels turn. And she still does. Alicia is the energy behind the association.”

“I’m humbled to be included in the company of such an elite group of professionals, many of whom I’m also proud to call my friends,” Figurelli said. “It’s an amazing honor.”

AASP/NJ Past President Eddie Day (Collision Restoration; Fairfield) presented the Lee Vetland Lifetime Achievement Award to Tom Elder.

“This man has worked tirelessly for the association and has never missed a single meeting,” Day said about Elder. “He puts it all in every day. He’s led numerous committees, and he’s lifted the automotive industry up the best he could for the condition we’re in. He was a groundbreaking shop owner.”

“I’m happy to be here serving the industry, and I would like to stay as long as I can do it,” Elder stated. “I’m thrilled and totally surprised to receive this award.”

After the awards ceremony, Nicole Lewicki of the Amato Insurance Agency (a division of World Insurance) shared a brief update on the AASP/NJ Health Insurance plan.

Keynote speakers Bobzin and Stevens then took the floor to discuss how ELEVATE by CCC helps shops set goals, monitor trends and make decisions to improve their businesses.

“When I ask a new client, ‘What’s your goal?’, they don’t tell me ‘to survive,’” Bobzin said. “The goal isn’t to remain flat – they’re looking to grow, or they’re looking to become more attractive for sale. Those higher level goals need to be broken down into the details, and then your employees need to understand the relationship between these particular goals and their responsibilities within the department.”

In terms of industry trends, Bobzin honed in on decreasing sales opportunities, vendor delays, staff shortages, CSI decreases and ramping up for a return to normalcy. Exploring the most beneficial ways to market to modern customers, Stevens astutely asked, “You guys deserve the same attention that any other industry gets, so why shouldn’t you have the same tools that any other industry gets?”

When discussing vendor delays, Stevens suggested, “The more robust your network of suppliers, the better, and the more you can expand it, the more visibility you’ll have into your market.”

Bobzin broached the importance of supporting local vo-tech schools as he discussed the ongoing staff shortage, but he also pointed out the importance of developing internal talent: “Invest in your people!”

The most important factors in improving CSI include understanding your customer base and keeping them informed, according to Bobzin.

“Simple changes can positively influence CSI,” he said encouragingly.

“It’s important to find out what’s important to your customer,” Stevens added. “Ask your customer what they like best about their car, and then spend an extra minute making sure that works properly for them when they pick their car up.”

The topic of returning to normalcy included the need to dig deeper into cycle time analysis and finding the balance in triage.

“It’s amazing what you all do every day,” Stevens said as the presentation came to an end. “I respect that, and I think that, as an industry, you deserve that respect. You’re putting people back in their cars and putting them on the road – that’s a pretty big deal. And we’d love to help you leverage the use of the tools in the products you’re already using.”

As the meeting concluded, McNee encouraged attendees to take a more active role in the association and in the industry: “The only way to effect change is to get involved. If we don’t put any effort in, if we don’t at least try, what do we expect? Our industry needs to participate – something has to change!”

For more information on AASP/NJ, visit aaspnj.org.


Want more? Check out the December 2021 issue of New Jersey Automotive HERE!