Shop-Ware’s auto repair software founder leads as ASCCA President this year using skills she learned by creating auto repair shop management software.

Shop-Ware Auto Shop Software Founder Leads ASCCA in 2022

How does an auto shop software pioneer end up leading a state-wide network of auto shop owners? It’s quite a story.

Why am I ASCCA President this year?

A. Rory Balmer asked me, although it was originally David Kusa’s fault
B. If you want something done, ask a busy person
C. I honestly believe in the benefit of industry associations
D. All of the above

A. Rory Balmer asked me, though it was originally David Kusa’s fault

In the beginning,Tracy Renee called me on Monday Jan. 25, 2017. I was already a member of Association of Service Councils of Southern California (ASCCA)’s local chapter in San Francisco (Chapter 21). Shop-Ware, my auto shop software company, was a corporate sponsor a year prior.

She was reaching out on behalf of Dave Kusa, the newly inducted ASCCA President, who wanted to create a new committee focused on Telematics. He needed a chair and someone thought I would be a good fit. Also, there was an open board seat at the state level and Dave thought I might be interested to fill that too, while we were at it. Tracy is amazing and I was flattered to get the call.

This is a lesson in how to recruit fresh blood:

Send an ambassador (ideally someone the target already knows and respects), make them feel smart and appreciated, then ask them for help.

The following week, I met with Dave in Campbell, around the corner from his shop. Over lunch, we chatted about his vision for the committee and the opportunity to fill a board seat. I had not met him before, had no idea what was going on at the state level and hadn’t really heard much about anything. However, Dave was intent, well-spoken and passionate about the pace of innovation affecting our industry. He was preaching to the choir so I was immediately impressed and inspired to join the cause.

The Connected Cars Committee (which is what we ended up calling it) is still active and awesome – and another story entirely. But, the opportunity to engage at the state level of ASCCA was the big eye-opener for me at the time. I have since participated on the state board of directors through the ASCCA presidential terms of:

  • Dave Kusa
  • Rocky Khamenian
  • John Eppstein
  • Rory Balmer

I’ll give a special callout to John Eppstein who agreed to serve two years, so Rory and I could have some extra time to prepare, not knowing that the second year of his term would coincide with the onslaught of COVID.

ADAS Training event put on by OPUS at Gustafson Brothers Automotive on the ASCCA Team Weekend Sept. 7, 2019

So it’s Dave Kusa’s fault I got on the board, but it’s Rory Balmer’s fault I’m the current ASCCA president. He was the one who asked me to be his vice president back in 2019 after an unforgettable ADAS training at Team Weekend, hosted at Gustafson Brothers in Huntington Beach.

Rory asked if we could talk and we ended up sitting in my rental car with the AC running for probably 45 minutes. We chatted about Rory’s excitement for his leadership post and ideas for building the association. I planned to have an assistant at the auto shop software firm by 2021 and could make the time.

“Let’s do it,” I said.

B. If you want something done, ask a busy person

In January 2022, I still don’t have an assistant at the auto shop software company. I should probably get one, sure, and I probably will at some point. What happens when you’re “busy” (more accurately “overwhelmed”) is that you learn to prioritize. That’s why I’m a disciple of Cal Newport in terms of time blocking and deep work.

Leadership at ASCCA is one of my four priorities this year:

  • Shop-Ware auto shop software
  • Luscious Garage
  • Industry service
  • Personal happiness

And it helps in all four regards.

C. I honestly believe in the benefit of industry associations

At first glance, the Automotive Aftermarket looks like the opening act from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, where frustrated primates pound on an automotive monolith with chrome-plated clubs.

Upon inspection, you discover a teeming ecosystem of innumerable social and logistical networks best managed by a shop management system. These consist of vendors, distributors, suppliers, manufacturers, and service providers. They are intermixed with vehicle complexity spanning millions of part SKUs for as many VINs, YMMEs, and production caveats. Watch your head: that alternator flying into a technician’s hands will definitely leave a mark.

This magical duality of apparent dysfunction and impenetrable complexity keeps the automotive aftermarket intact. Despite all the innovation surrounding it, it supports the general consumer, the automobile, and even mobility overall.

I love this aspect of our business. What more could exemplify our special talents than the fact that we are simultaneously unappreciated and irreplaceable?

This dynamic is even more stark when we talk about industry associations. Not surprisingly, I gravitate towards them for the same reasons. Making order out of chaos drove me to create auto shop software for the same reason.

ASCCA presentation

Presenting to the Auto Care Association Market Intelligence Committee Spring Leadership Days 2017

Similarly, industry associations are the companion to our independence. They provide collective strength and advocacy on our behalf – to governments and the driving public. Local, state and national associations have defended our Right to Repair and general business activities for decades. Without this representation, our individual voices are hard to hear and our best interests are easy to ignore.

Want to learn more?

Check out these podcasts:

D. All of the above

If you’ve met me, you’ve felt my passion for this industry. It started when I worked in, then owned a shop, and burns even brighter as our team builds better auto shop software. This was the same feeling I got from Dave Kusa over wonton soup back in 2017.

Ultimately, ASCCA has a lot of work to do. Our membership levels have suffered, like all associations (automotive or otherwise) have in the internet age. We must now compete for attention and campaign on behalf of non-synthetic human connections. Meanwhile, we ask people to step up after a hard day’s work.

The good news is that ASCCA has a lot to offer. There is no lack of value, only time barriers to understand that value. As members have already heard from me – several times even in my first month in office – our focus this year is two-fold:

  • Chapter health

  • Membership health

Each deserves our foremost attention as an association: from state board, chapters, partners, educators, committees and every individual member. I will encourage everyone’s participation, listen closely and harness the change we seek to bolster our strength on both of these critical fronts.

So far this year, we’ve already hosted our January Team Weekend, including a deep dive on individual chapter analysis and board commitments for next steps.

Shortly, we will introduce a new “introductory member” concept to provide a dues-free, one-click signup to join ASCCA. This will launch in time for the March trade show season. When that time comes, expect to hear more from me, including the link to sign up!

Throwback machine: Nerding out with other International Automotive Technicians Network regulars at the last iATN conference in Anaheim, CA 2004

There is much more in store and I am particularly grateful for all the other amazing folks previously and currently involved in the association and their vast contributions. ASCCA was founded in 1940, making this it’s 82nd year! We’ve seen a lot already, overcome many formidable challenges and we’re still here.

I look forward to adding to that rich history as ASCCA president.

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