You don’t need me to tell you about the struggles and challenges we’ve faced with the COVID-19 pandemic; its front and center and apparent to everyone. But there is something else that’s apparent – the transmission repair industry isn’t comprised of a bunch of quitters. We take adversity and challenges head-on. I’ve seen this over and over in my 40-plus years as an active participant.
The pandemic the country is facing has turned this industry, and others, upside-down. But look around at the ingenuity of Americans through this. Here in Ventura, for example, the downtown streets are closed to auto traffic and are filled with dining tables so the restaurants can continue to do business. We see this type of adaptation all across the country.
Shop owners have discovered new ways to serve their customers while making them feel safe doing business with them. People have differing views about the virus, the news related to state shutdowns, and how the government and politicians are dealing with it. This naturally fosters differing points of view among your customers. Nevertheless, the successful shops recognize that no matter what their personal opinions are, they must work within the boundaries of what their customers think. That is, the reality is more a function of what people think it is, rather than what it may be. Of course, ATRA must operate within these same constraints.
The sad truth is that ATRA is unable to hold its annual trade show, the Powertrain Expo. It wasn’t as much of a problem with The Opryland Hotel venue as it was a problem for the attendees returning to their home states, afterward. Many states require a 14-day quarantine for people returning from out of state. The uncertainty regarding the future of this policy makes it prudent to sit this year out.
So, like many of you who had to adjust to new business practices, so has ATRA. This year, we’re holding our first-ever virtual trade show. I wasn’t initially thrilled with the idea, but I soon learned about the extraordinary potential for this virtual platform. Some of the obvious benefits are that people who may not be able to travel for a show (including exhibitors) can still attend. This not only includes our neighboring countries, Canada and Mexico, but it also includes people from around the world. All of a sudden, the potential is enormous.
If you’ve never been to a virtual Expo, you’re not alone. It’s new for us too. But we’ve quickly learned that virtual conventions aren’t new, and they’re growing in popularity. They offer a great deal of flexibility in terms of seminar schedules and for visiting with exhibitors. For example, depending on the platform, groups like the Transmission Brotherhood might have a virtual room where members can visit with other members. By having pre-recorded sessions, you can view the programs based on your schedule and have the option to attend live sessions that allow for interaction with the presenter. The good gets even better, our costs for producing a virtual show are less. So, attendees and exhibitors can share in the savings. If you’d like more details, you can go to the ATRA Powertrain Expo website (www.powertrainexpo.com) or look further into this issue of Gears.
So, where does this leave us for future shows? I think we’ll have a mix of opinions about this new platform. Some will prefer the live tradeshow and others the virtual one. Well, that’s great too. The added attendance from the virtual show makes us less dependent on choosing venues like Las Vegas primarily for the sake of attracting higher attendance. We can consider many different places and make it a destination-style event.
There’s nothing good about the suffering we’ve seen throughout our nation. But it has forced all of us to think of new ways to serve our customers. If you’re like us, you’ve discovered ways of doing business that you’ll retain once the pandemic is over. We are excited about this year’s show and seeing you there – virtually.