As you read this the 2004 AOCA and ICA conventions are a memory. Or are they? If you werenʼt there then you probably donʼt remember a thing about them! So if you didnʼt go, the question I have for you is “why”, “why didnʼt you go to the conventions?” Where else are you going to find such a concentration of fast lube and car wash minds? The educational opportunities are one thing – but the networking possibilities are limitless! Even if the educational sessions donʼt peak your interest, the number of tried and true ideas for your lube or wash that are available by the dozen from the people attending the shows, just for asking and are easily worth the price of admission.

I have had several people tell me they get to attend only one show but would love to attend both, but they are usually so close together that people have to choose one or the other. I typically go to both shows, but it really makes it hard when they are so close together and there are years that I just cannot make both shows and I am forced to choose.

Then there are others who tell me they simply donʼt learn anything at conventions. My favorite is the guy who told me he went to “one of those conventions” ten years ago and didnʼt learn a single thing. I have trouble believing that, I really do. For the simple reason that I know veteran operators who are truly leaders of the industry that tell me they learn something every show. And I have to agree with them, I learn something at every single show.

But to learn at these conventions you need to work just as hard as you would at a regular day at your business. This includes the employees you take with you. This is not an all expenses paid party for your people. Plan you and your employeeʼs days out. What booths do you want to go to and what questions do you want answered at each booth? What educational seminars do you want to go to? There are usually multiple sessions I want to see that overlap. So send an employee to get the information and report back with the details of the session. By sending your employees and getting a debriefing from them afterwards gives you the opportunity to work with your best and brightest on a one on one basis. This is invaluable. By covering the sessions together you get a better idea how your employee views things and they come to understand better what you want and expect from them. So, in a way even if you donʼt personally learn anything from the session (which is hard to believe) you are giving yourself a perfect opportunity to train your manager or top employee in the ways you want your facility run. This is a golden opportunity and I encourage you to take full advantage. With all the “companion” air fares and frequent flier mile programs the trip should not cost you that much. The opportunity for education and networking for your manger or employee is excellent. I know of many managers that keep the networking up with their acquaintances from shows, via e-mail or phone throughout the year. You are gaining the experience of another manager at a different lube and it only cost you a trip to the convention. You can use the trip as a benefit to the manager or lube tech of the year award.

The last excuse I usually hear for not attending conventions is a usually a lack of time and or money. What I recommend is to stop working IN your business and work ON your business. If you are literally doing hoods or in lower bay at your lube then you are the most expensive tech possible. If you help clean up the shop you are the worldʼs most expensive janitor. Put your efforts and talents where they belong and work ON your business not IN your business. Conventions are a great way to work ON your business. Take the opportunities offered to network and speak to as many other operators as possible, take notes (lots of them) and then decide which of their ideas can work for you. I guarantee the ideas you get will far outweigh the cost of the trip, but you have to work at it. Think of it as an investment. Spend the money but be darned sure that the investment pays off!