MIDLAND, Mich. — Twenty-five people, representing a diverse cross-section of the automotive aftermarket, gathered in mid-September at Northwood University to do something many haven’t had the time or opportunity to do lately — unplug from the daily grind and think about the future of the industry.
The 25 attendees of the University of the Aftermarket’s Leadership 2.0 program put aside the usual interruptions of a daily work schedule — except for some occasional BlackBerry intrusions — to ponder how to best position and develop their leadership skills to help the industry grow.
Leadership 2.0 is aimed at developing the leadership skills of mid-level aftermarket professionals in an industry that’s experiencing consolidations, price pressures and the impact of fuel prices. The size of the aftermarket is large by any measure: At $300 billion in annual revenues, if it were a country, its gross domestic product would be larger than countries such as Iran, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Hong Kong.
Northwood President Keith Pretty, in delivering the convocation at the University’s new Sloan Building, said, “You’re the ones who will motivate personnel, drive projects forward, deal with crises, manage change, develop a vision and execute a plan … That’s the tough work that leadership is all about.”
Other featured speakers during the program included Dr. Tim Nash, dean of the Northwood University Devos Graduate School of Management; Mike DeSorbo, director of traditional markets, CARQUEST; and industry veteran John Washbish. Each day’s session began with a discussion of key trends and other “hot topics” impacting the aftermarket.
“Our curriculum is both intensely challenging and rewarding,” said University of the Aftermarket Director Brian Cruickshank. “There has never been a greater need for executive-level education in this industry, and I am very pleased that leading organizations at every level of the aftermarket have sent their next-generation leaders to this year’s program.”
Starbucks was the focus of much of day one of Leadership 2.0. Attendees learned how, through strategic thinking and planning, Starbucks achieved phenomenal growth and brand recognition.
A popular video on YouTube by comedian Lewis Black punctuated the point about the company’s now ubiquitous stores: “There is a Starbucks across the street from a Starbucks! And ladies and gentlemen, THAT is the end of the universe.”
Since the recent announcement of store closings, Starbucks has chosen to reach out to a market segment the company previously ignored — low-priced coffee. In fact, the company is testing $1 coffee, a universe ruled by fast-food chains such as McDonald’s.
At least one recent taste-test study showed that coffee drinkers preferred McDonald’s new coffee lines to Starbucks, a real shocker to those who consider Starbucks to be premium coffee.
The point to the aftermarket? Even though Starbucks is finding itself in unknown territory — competing head-to-head with a company like McDonald’s — the company still took something that was rather boring, but “necessary” to some — a hot cup of coffee — and transformed it into something desired by the masses. No longer is coffee just hot liquid, but an iced beverage with whipped cream and cinnamon or a Frappuccino.
Upon graduating from the Leadership 2.0 program, attendees will receive 6.0 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) toward completion of their Automotive Aftermarket Professional (AAP) or Master Automotive Aftermarket Professional (MAAP) certifications.
The 2008/09 class of Leadership 2.0 officially sold out in mid-August and took place at the recently opened Sloan Family Building for Aftermarket Studies at Northwood’s campus in Midland, Mich. The two-week executive development program continues April 13-18, 2009, at the university’s West Palm Beach, Fla., campus.
Key presentations scheduled for the first week of Leadership 2.0 included:
• “Intrapreneurship/Entrepreneurship & Global Competition”
• “The Leadership Challenge”
• “Competitive Strategy: Analysis and Case Studies”
• “Developing Your Organization’s Unique Strategy”
• “Communication Skills for Leaders”
• “Presentation Skills for Leaders”
• “Aftermarket Marketing/Branding Strategy”
• “Decision Making and Leadership”
• “Survival in the Aftermarket”
• “Gaining Commitment from Employees”
• “The Purpose & Passion for Leadership”