by Chasidy Rae Sisk
At AASP/NJ’s 2023 Annual Meeting, the association elected a new president for the first time since 2017. Last month, Past President Jerry McNee (Ultimate Collision Repair; Edison) reflected on his six years of service, but what about the future of the organization? That lies in the capable hands of current President Ken Miller (821 Collision; North Haledon) who sat down with New Jersey Automotive to share his thoughts on what association members can expect moving forward under his leadership.
New Jersey Automotive: What industry experience do you bring to your new role as AASP/NJ President?
Ken Miller: I started my career in this industry 35 years ago as a small engine technician. Six years later, I went into the paintless dent repair business, which I’ve been doing for 29 years now. Along the way, I stopped into a new car dealership group where I worked as the general manager for a reconditioning center for a while. Then, six years ago, I started 821 Collision. So, I’ve acquired my experience by spending a little time in different segments of the industry.
NJA: When and how did you get involved with AASP/NJ?
KM: While we were working to open 821 Collision, AASP/NJ Executive Director Charlie Bryant provided advice to help me get set up and establish my license, so that’s how I got involved with the association. Charlie encouraged me to get more involved, so I started sitting in on some Board meetings and was officially elected to the Board in 2021.
NJA: When you first joined the association, did you have any ambitions of serving on the Board or becoming president?
KM: None whatsoever. At the time that I joined AASP/NJ, I had no desire to serve on the Board. To be honest, I really didn’t know much about what it even entailed when Charlie first asked me to participate in a Board meeting. I was really green and had no idea what to expect, no clue what they were working on or what they were doing.
NJA: So, what convinced you to join the Board and eventually agree to your new role as president?
KM: I noticed that my experience in this industry so far has been different from what I’ve seen from others on the Board and throughout the auto body world. After being in business for a year and a half, 821 Collision hired a business coach, which has made a huge impact and given us a different experience and perspective than many other shop owners have. Serving on the Board allowed me an opportunity to share that with others to help them grow and strengthen their businesses, and now, as president, I’ll have a chance to expand that reach. I also serve on the AASP National Board, which has allowed me to learn more on a national scale and bring that back locally.
NJA: Speaking of national organizations, we’ve heard that you’re hoping to join the Board of Directors for the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS); can you tell our readers anything about that?
KM: It’s true that I’ve put my name in for consideration. I’ve been planning to get more involved with SCRS, and I’ve had some discussions with the organization’s leadership, but I do not believe I’m a shoe-in by any means. There are plenty of people hoping to join the SCRS Board, and we cannot all get there. In my opinion, SCRS is a collection of the best of the best operators in the industry, so when you’re among them, you’re learning from the most elite shops in our country. Because it’s a national organization, they share thoughts, ideas and experiences on a scale beyond what we can cover as New Jersey repairers whose knowledge is limited to our own markets, and being part of those discussions would allow me to expand my horizons and bring that knowledge back to share locally, so i definitely think it would benefit AASP/NJ as well.
NJA: As AASP/NJ President, what are your top three priorities for the association moving forward?
KM: One thing I think all associations are really struggling with is membership, so there needs to be a concerted effort to increase membership to maintain the solvency of our association. Without members, we will not have the strength in numbers to support our industry in the ways that we hope to support it.
Secondly, we need to continue focusing on education like we’ve been doing. It’s not just about teaching somebody what to do in a specific situation; we need to teach them how to seek more. You can give someone a meal and feed them now, but if you teach them how to hunt, they can feed themselves forever. That’s what we want to do as an organization. We want to educate our members in a way that they learn to expand on the things we train on and build upon those concepts so they can become better operators. There’s always more to learn and grow, and our job as educators is to equip them to go out and get that information beyond what we share in a single two-hour session.
Thirdly…Well, I don’t know that there’s one more thing in particular. Really, my goal is to leave this industry and our association in a better place than where I found it.
NJA: What do you think are some of the industry’s biggest challenges, and how do you hope to help address them in your new role?
KM: That’s obviously a really deep question with a lot of layers. Our industry struggles in so many ways, but I believe a lot of it comes back to repairer education. We need to be focused on ensuring that shops understand how to perform complete and proper vehicle repairs. They also need to better understand the claims handling process to face less of a battle when dealing with insurers.
NJA: What advice or encouragement would you offer a fellow shop owner who may be struggling?
KM: First and foremost, they need to join AASP/NJ. If they used to be a member and left, I’d urge them to join back up. Over the past couple years, we’ve been doing different things to help shops, so it’s almost like a brand-new association. And as a member, you have access to the training we’re offering and the experience of all the Board members and association leaders like Charlie, Jerry and me. We’re here to help New Jersey shops, but they’ve got to meet us halfway by coming out to the meetings and getting involved.
Want more? Check out the December 2023 issue of New Jersey Automotive!