Every year, as we approach Expo, the enthusiasm at the ATRA home office rises to a fever pitch. Folks are busy putting the finishing touches on their presentations, or making the final arrangements so that the coffee breaks are scheduled on time and the seminar rooms are organized so the program goes off without a hitch. You’d be surprised at just how much planning goes into making things look effortless!
But this year we were all more than a little apprehensive about what would be waiting for us when we arrived in Las Vegas. Over the last few months, the southern states were hammered with unprecedented storms, blowing down homes and flooding major cities to never-before recorded levels. As I write this, a large part of Puerto Rico is still without electricity.
In California, fire raged up and down the state, decimating hundreds of thousands of acres, destroying homes and businesses in its path. Many people were left with only the clothes on their backs, having to begin their lives again from scratch.
And then, just two weeks before Expo, the unthinkable: A crazed gunman fires into a crowd of concert goers from the windows of the Mandalay Bay, just a couple blocks from the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, the host for this year’s Expo.
Which led us all to wonder: Just how many people would actually make their way to Vegas and join us at Expo? Or would we find ourselves speaking to empty chairs in nearly vacant rooms?
But all our fears were quickly laid to rest as we began to pick out familiar faces, as attendees lined up to collect their name tags and support material. Hundreds of people — many longtimers, some first-time attendees — making their way to Expo from all around the world. They were here to learn… to share… and to connect with professionals from every corner of the globe.
Oh, sure, our numbers were down a little from the previous year. That wasn’t too surprising under the circumstances. If your house washed away or burned to the ground, or you were still pumping the water out of your shop, you’d probably have thought, “eh, maybe next year.”
But for those who could make it, the 2017 Expo was an event to remember, where we could all press the flesh, share stories, hoist a cold one, and learn from some of the most informative experts in their fields.
And no one was prouder than I was. Proud of our staff, who went the extra mile to make sure this year’s Expo would be one for the books.
But even more, proud of you, the folks who make up the automatic transmission repair industry. Over the last 40 years, I’ve had the unique privilege of working closely with so many of you. And you’ve made me proud of the work we’ve done and the advances we’ve made for our industry.
Too many people spend their days just earning a paycheck; for me, ATRA has always been a labor of love. Sure, there have been tough times over the years, but every day I’m reminded of just how lucky I am to be a part of this business… of this world.
It’s easy to think that we here at ATRA are the ones making the difference. But that would overlook all the valuable ideas you’ve shared with us over the years. Our signature program is called What’s Working. We know these programs are working because you’ve been on the front lines… the trying ground where we get to prove what works and what doesn’t.
And don’t get any silly thoughts: We’re not done… not by a long shot. We have dozens of new programs in the pipeline, with more on the way. Each of us is in this for the long haul. Our job — our greatest joy — is to help keep this industry strong and profitable. It’s something we’re planning to continue for many years to come.
This is our last issue of GEARS for 2017. It’s been a trying year for some; a terrific and profitable year for others. But through it all, you’ve stood tall and continued to enhance your reputations throughout the automotive world. That’s probably what gives me the greatest pride of all in our industry.
As we come to the end of the year, I’d like to wish each of you a joyous holiday season and a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.