Expanded Enlightenment: An Abundance of Education, Celebrities, the Industry’s Best Exhibitors & More!

by Chasidy Rae Sisk

Friday night, Saturday and Sunday…Automotive and collision repair professionals have been marking their calendar for a full weekend of the best this industry has to offer at the NORTHEAST® Automotive Services Show for nearly half a century.

From world-class trainers sharing insights on the most relevant topics to over 100 exhibitors showcasing the latest tools, products, equipment and services on the 65,000 square foot show floor at the Meadowlands Exposition Center (MEC) in Secaucus, NJ, the largest regional automotive show has a lot to offer in a relatively short amount of time. 

Recent years have seen the addition of the introduction of the Bodywork Bowl Competition and a chance to celebrate tomorrow’s talent with the association’s Young Technician of the Year Awards. But NORTHEAST 2024 promises even more than ever before! 

Although the show is scheduled for March 15-17, attendees will also want to mark their calendars for the 14th since AASP/NJ is enhancing its educational offerings by adding a full-day workshop on Thursday with David Luehr (Elite Body Shop Solutions), plus the classrooms will open early Friday morning for the first ever Collision Advice NORTHEAST Workshops featuring industry icon Mike Anderson and his team.

But that’s not all…NORTHEAST wouldn’t be NORTHEAST without a little extra fun and a chance for a celebrity sighting or two. Fans of MotorTrend TV’s Bitchin’ Rides won’t want to miss the chance to meet Dave Kindig at Gold Sponsor AkzoNobel’s booth on Friday and Saturday! 

“This is my first time attending NORTHEAST, so I am excited to see what the show has to offer,” Kindig says. “I am also excited to be joining AkzoNobel this year, celebrating our continued partnership together, as I am now the brand ambassador for their flagship premium brand Sikkens.”

“AkzoNobel is excited to be bringing Dave Kindig to the NORTHEAST show, star of MotorTrend TV show Bitchin’ Rides and brand ambassador for our Sikkens and Modern Classikk brands, who will be doing autograph signings in our booth Friday and Saturday,” shares Jen Poliski (AkzoNobel). She also looks forward to “seeing our partners and customers at the show and getting the opportunity to meet others through networking at NORTHEAST as a Gold Sponsor. We’ll also be performing Carbeat demonstrations to show customers how to reduce cycle time, improve processes and open communication lines in shop operations.”

It may be Kindig’s first time at NORTHEAST, but past experience shows that one visit to Secaucus is never enough, as demonstrated by Luehr’s return. “I had a blast last year!” he shares. “I attend industry events around the world, and it is hard to attend them all, so I really try to attend ones that are fun and where the shop owners are willing to take action to improve their businesses instead of sitting around complaining. I really love the people up there: the shops, vendors and the incredible team who puts this event on every year. I am so honored to be asked back to NORTHEAST, and I am really excited to bring our Elite brand of education to shops that can really benefit from it.”

During Luehr’s workshop on Thursday, “Know Your Numbers,” shop owners, managers and department leaders will learn which metrics matter most and how to take daily action toward achieving higher profits. Training covers budgeting, forecasting, understanding a financial statement and so much more, all included in a workbook to help build an actionable plan to implement upon your return to the shop.

“As a former collision business owner, I found myself unclear on how to make money while providing the best possible repairs and without working super long hours,” Luehr explains his motives for developing the course. “Later on, I discovered a handful of metrics and habits that – when focused on – could massively drive profitability. Shop owners typically work way too hard for the financial returns they get. In ‘Know Your Numbers,’ attendees will learn how to systematically create a business model and a simple set of daily practices that practically ensure much higher profitability.

“My promise is simple,” he adds. “I will show attendees how to devise a written strategy to reach a 20 percent net profit, and if anyone who attends doesn’t believe it will work or doesn’t find value in our training, I will give them their money back on the spot!”

Hours before the trade show floor opens on Friday evening, Anderson and Sheryl Driggers will be bringing Collision Advice’s renowned brand of enlightenment. Looking to deliver an extraordinary customer experience? Driggers’ “Game Changer CSR” program focuses on how to best communicate with customers based on their personality, allowing customer service representatives to positively transform their relationships with everyone who enters the shop. 

“In today’s market, we need to be educating our guests when they walk through the door,” according to Driggers. “They’re coming to us during a traumatic time; they just had an accident, so their car – typically their second largest investment – is damaged, and they typically have a lot of negative emotions associated with what’s happening. As collision repair professionals, it’s important to meet them where they are, so we can effectively help them navigate the claims process and supportively guide them through the repair process.”

Driggers is very excited about her first time attending NORTHEAST. “I’ve heard a lot of great things over the years; I’ve been told this is one of the conferences to be at, so I’m excited that I was invited to attend with Collision Advice as an educator, and I’m also looking forward to meeting new repairers during the show.”

Whether you’ve attended Anderson’s “100 Percent Disassembly” in the past or not, this workshop is sure to offer a refresher on creating the right shop culture to support 100 percent disassembly. “One of the most common things I see while traveling over 300 days a year and visiting so many shops is that most people believe they’re doing 100 percent disassembly, but they’re actually doing more like 80 or 90 percent disassembly,” Anderson points out. “Repairers need to realize 100 percent disassembly is the foundation for so much. It’s necessary and required to write an accurate repair plan; it’s critical for capturing all the items that can be removed and installed, improving the quality of your repair plan and minimizing supplements. It’s also critical to the parts mirror-matching process. If we don’t remove everything, it’s much more difficult for the parts person to mirror-match the parts.”

Disassembly is actually vital for all stakeholders, according to Anderson. “The customer service person can set more accurate delivery expectations for the customer, and it’s critical when we order parts from our vendor. Really, it’s critical to everything we do and to all stakeholders. One of the most important things I want to impart to everyone who attends this class: When I had my shops, a big mistake I made would be to tell people what to remove instead of telling them WHY it needs to be removed. If we can help our team understand WHY something needs to be removed during 100 percent disassembly, it’s more sustainable, so I’m very excited to share some insights on this subject with NORTHEAST attendees.”

Everyone who attends Anderson’s class will also receive a copy of the Collision Advice 100 percent disassembly wall chart/poster to hang in their shops. 

NORTHEAST 2024 will not be Anderson’s first, second or even tenth time attending the show. In fact, he’s been a pretty consistent presence for quite some time, which begs the question…What keeps him coming back year after year?

“It’s an opportunity to connect and network with the people I’ve seen over the years,” he shares. “I get to rekindle old relationships and friendships as well as build new ones. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of my friends who are still in the industry and also to networking to meet new people. A lot of great speakers present each year, so I enjoy sitting in on some of the other classes as well to help sharpen my saw and stay relevant. In addition to raising awareness about safe repairs, I hope to support and encourage everybody.”

Anderson often encourages collision repair professionals to take the time away from their shops to invest in themselves by attending in-person events like NORTHEAST. “I hear people say they get a lot of industry education online, on social media and through trade publications, and while those things have their place, nothing beats the personal connection and camaraderie that you experience at live events. I like to compare it to watching church on TV; I might learn something, but that TV cannot hug you and lift your spirits like the sweet lady in the next pew. NORTHEAST also offers a great chance to disconnect from the day to day operations of the business and allows us all to see what’s coming down the pipe in terms of tools and equipment.”

It’s likely that Anderson’s and Luehr’s names will also appear on the NORTHEAST 2024 educational agenda during the hours the trade show is open, but attendees may be surprised to see quite a few other names affiliated with Collision Advice. 

“There are 16 other people on the Collision Advice team now, and we’ve got experts who teach estimatics, CSR training and even accounting with our three financial coaches,” Anderson reveals. “We’ve really tried to diversify to become an all-encompassing consulting company which allows us the opportunity to reach more people, impact more lives and make a bigger difference than ever before. I’m excited to introduce some of my team members to the NORTHEAST experience and am hopeful that they will have the opportunity to make new friends, enjoy learning more about the products available and attend other guest speakers’ sessions so they can grow as well.”

Luehr agrees that the quality of presenters at NORTHEAST is something marvelous to behold. “NORTHEAST does an amazing job at attracting the best experts in the industry to provide world-class education,” he says, recalling,”I remember sitting on a huge panel last year with guys like Mike Anderson, and as I looked around at all of them, I thought, ‘Wow, the amount of expertise in this room is astounding!’ The attendees were treated to the best of the best! Shop leaders really shouldn’t miss education like this!”

The Collision Advice NORTHEAST Workshops will conclude as the trade show floor opens at 5pm on Friday…just as things REALLY get started. 

What else should you expect? AASP/NJ’s flagship event typically draws over 6,000 industry professionals every March with shop owners, technicians, painters, estimators, suppliers and others enjoying a plethora of educational opportunities, one-on-one time with vendors and a chance to hobnob with industry peers and friends, so you never know what you might learn or who you might see. Sure, Kindig will be there, but past years have seen celebrities from a multitude of television shows, athletic teams and more, and as the show keeps getting bigger and better, it’s safe to assume it’s going to continue attracting big names you’ll certainly want to meet!

Don’t miss your chance to hobnob with the best! Pre-registration for NORTHEAST 2024 is now open. To pre-register and to stay up to date on all the latest information and announcements, visit aaspnjnortheast.com, and stay tuned to New Jersey Automotive for even more details about the educational agenda, exhibitors you’ll want to visit and possibly a few extras you’ll want to know about!

Want more? Check out the January 2024 issue of New Jersey Automotive!