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Executive Interview: University of the Aftermarket, AAIA Leaders Provide Details on New Executive Education Series

University of the Aftermarket Director Brian Cruickshank, MAAP, and AAIA President and CEO Kathleen Schmatz, MAAP, shared with aftermarketNews more details on this first Executive Education Series session.


The University of the Aftermarket recently announced a new series of in-depth courses designed to help industry executives master a variety of important business management skills. The new Executive Education Series began Aug. 28 and runs through Sept. 1, with a session titled “Better Aftermarket Decision Making Through Economic and Financial Analysis.” The inaugural course is sponsored by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA). Each Executive Education Series course will take place in the Sloan Family Building for Aftermarket Studies at Northwood University, Midland, Mich., with tuition covering all instruction, meals and lodging.

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Brian CruickshankUniversity of the Aftermarket Director Brian Cruickshank, MAAP, and AAIA President and CEO Kathleen Schmatz, MAAP, shared with aftermarketNews more details on this first Executive Education Series session.

Why is the time right for another major education series from the University of the Aftermarket?

Cruickshank: There are several reasons, but the primary one is that there’s significant demand for this type of intensive business education. We’ve seen this in the record participation in our Leadership 2.0 program, in the success of the several custom programs we have designed and delivered for aftermarket companies and in the continued growth of our “Executive Briefing” sessions during the AWDA Business and Education Conference in Las Vegas.

Mid- and senior-level executives within aftermarket manufacturing, distribution, service chain and other organizations now look to the University of the Aftermarket to develop hard-hitting, results-oriented business management and leadership training that is both highly relevant and accessible. Our new Executive Education Series addresses each of these objectives and will tackle specific skill sets that are becoming increasingly important in today’s business environment. And finally, this series offers another convenient way for aftermarket professionals to enhance their skills while earning their AAP and MAAP professional designations.

Kathleen SchmatzSchmatz: I agree that the time is right for an intensive look at industry best practices, and aftermarket-specific economic trends and business finance are great places to start. The financial side of this business has always been complex, but never more so than today. Few other industries face the challenges of managing millions of SKUs for thousands of vehicle makes and models. At the same time, our products and services are becoming increasingly sophisticated and our customers’ expectations are rising. The margin for error is very slim, yet the rewards are significant. It’s obviously important therefore, that every key business decision be based on extensive, accurate financial analysis. And this holds true for businesses in every segment of the industry.

How does this new series complement the University’s signature program, Leadership 2.0?

Cruickshank: The new Executive Education Series is the logical next step beyond Leadership 2.0. I can’t tell you how many times participants have approached me during Leadership 2.0 to tell me how much they’d like to take a much more intensive look at one of the many topics we cover during each of our week-long sessions. The Executive Education Series addresses those leading topics in extensive detail, in the form of true post-graduate style courses featuring top Northwood University faculty and industry leaders. Our three-and-a-half-day format provides just the right blend of intensive study and interaction among aftermarket professionals representing virtually every level of the supply chain. Participants will come away from these sessions with the latest knowledge and significantly increased confidence in each covered subject area.


Kathleen, does AAIA’s sponsorship of the August course represent a new emphasis on helping constituents better position their businesses for long-term growth?

Schmatz: That’s always been a central part of our mission. AAIA has a long history of providing programs and resources that help aftermarket businesses position themselves for the future. Partnering with the University of the Aftermarket on the August Executive Education Series workshop is another important way we are supporting our members. We saw this session as an excellent way to help highlight leading macro- and micro-economic trends, financial practices and competitive strategies that can help drive industry businesses forward.

What new skills should participants expect to develop through this first session?

Cruickshank: As Kathleen mentioned, the financial side of running an aftermarket business has never been more important or challenging. Credit markets are extremely tight. SKU counts continue to rise, placing increased demands on businesses’ capital resources. It’s not enough just to “know” the parts and service business – you also need to be an expert in analyzing reports and developing and selling the benefits of sound financial strategies. These issues touch every aftermarket business – from a large manufacturer to a WD to the owner of a small service chain. Along the same vein, the need to make sound financial decisions touches multiple people within an organization. When you’re asked by your boss or perhaps a banker to justify a given business strategy, it’s important to be able to show that it makes sense from a financial standpoint.


Our August session began with a look at key trends impacting the industry and then drilled down to specific business indicators, reports and other considerations that contribute to smart decision-making. We also looked at the process of valuing an aftermarket business, which is certainly a critical skill for business owners who are considering retirement.

Kathleen, what other topics would you like to see the University of the Aftermarket tackle in this series and other programming?

Schmatz: We’re in touch with Brian and his staff on a regular basis, and we exchange information and insight gained from our daily interaction with business owners and managers. The first Executive Education Series session is a direct result of feedback from AAIA members. Other areas of interest are the impending changes in health care administration, product demand forecasting and analysis, the effective use of electronic media, branding strategies, human resource management — there’s a long list of great topics that should help make this series very successful for years to come.

For more information on the Series and to enroll in the first session, visit or call (800) 551-2882.

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