Improved communication, member representation and engagement and enhanced industry professionalism top the list of priorities for Ray Fisher — the newly appointed executive director of the Automotive Service Association.
Less than two weeks after officially beginning his duties, Fisher sat down with members of the industry press to discuss what we can expect to see from ASA in 2019 and beyond.
Fisher, AMAM, replaced Dan Risley, who left to pursue an opportunity in his home state of Illinois in July. Executive director of ASA’s Michigan affiliate, Fisher will wear both hats until a replacement can be found at the state level.
“I’m really excited to be a part of ASA and bring some expertise from my past background and involvements to the national level. I’m honored to represent our membership,” Fisher said. “I’ve been in the industry for quite a while, starting in the dealership environment managing a body shop and also a parts department. I am very grateful for this opportunity.”
What are your goals for 2019?
FISHER: Not just for 2019, but for the road ahead, we want to engage membership more and listen to our membership. All facets of industry across the globe are caught in different demographics, different age groups, different mediums to reach their constituents. We are constantly improving that and one of the biggest things that you will see in 2019 and beyond is the different mediums that we are going to use to reach out to our membership. The bottom line is we are really focused on our mission statement and what we can do for the industry and that is to enhance the professionalism of the repair industry. I’m all about that. I really believe our industry is made up of a bunch of professionals. We represent that professional group and are ecstatic to have that opportunity going forward. Our foundation was in 1951 and continues to be that today. We are going to listen to our membership and interact and communicate even stronger than we have before.
What have you learned through your prior experience that will best benefit you in this new role?
FISHER: After the dealership environment and management that I was in for over 20 years, I had the opportunity to go to go to ASA Michigan and represent the collision side. I became executive director of ASA Michigan in 2010. I did some legislative work very successfully over a six-year period where we updated the Motor Vehicle Service Repair Act, which is all about our licensing. We also got rid of sales tax on court charges, which had been going back to 1932. We also did a layer of protection for repair facilities who follow OEM procedures on autonomous vehicles. I plan to carry that passion forward working with Bob Redding (ASA Washington D.C. representative) our mechanical ops and collision ops committees.
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What is your main message for the association?
FISHER: My main message is we are only going to be as successful as the engagement of our membership. Joining a tennis club doesn’t make you a better player; you still have to be involved. But it provides the opportunity, and that is what ASA does. My passion is the automotive repair industry; it allowed me to raise a family, to where I’m blessed now with grandchildren, and I look forward to giving back to the industry. That is my focus. As we go forward, I don’t have all the answers for where we are going over the long term, but everything will be based on our membership and their needs. I am a very proactive person. I use the windshield, not the rearview mirror. I like to be on the forefront of things.
What can attendees expect of the ASA annual meeting?
FISHER: When you look at our annual meeting coming up here, April 30, May 1 and May 2, we will have ADAS and calibration training and a live demonstration. We are very serious about preparing the industry going forward. Education training is what makes us all better and that is going to be our theme going forward. We need to keep delivering that in the various mediums we have available to us to make sure we reach all age groups. And if you are thinking it is time to pass on or sell your business, we will help you with succession planning. That is something that we need to prepare for whether we are 22 years old, 55 years old or 70 years old.
How did you get involved with ASA national?
Fisher: As affiliates, we represent our constituents and work hard to bring local programs to the areas we are in, whether it is a state or region or chapter. None of them are not important; they are all important. The quicker we can get the message out, the better we all are. Going forward that is what we are looking at with strategic planning: what can we do better to help the affiliates succeed? Our success has been based on affiliates representing their memberships as well.
What are ASA’s current legislative focuses?
FISHER: That is where Bob Redding comes in. He is invaluable in Washington, D.C. It is not just about creating legislation but monitoring it to make sure it is in the best interest of industry, whether it is Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA or the IRS. It is important that we have that representation looking out for the industry because sometimes when you don’t have that voice at the table, the best intent for the goal is a common ground, but the path to that is not necessarily user friendly. Bob does a great job of staying on top of things. Currently Bob is working on telematics and who owns the information, which is a very large concern for everyone right now. Bob is there representing our industry and making sure we are at the table.
We are working to get OEM procedures ratified as the proper source for information. We are also looking at all the aspects that go along with that. The new Congress is in place, and Bob is getting acquainted with them and talking through our issues. We have a wish list, goals and right now Bob is taking that wish list and having those conversations to ensure that we have access to information for different technologies in telematics and OEM procedures and getting that information provided to you. Bob is making sure that going forward we are there at the table and having those conversations with the vehicle manufactures, with the aftermarket industry and with Congress as far as initiatives for 2019 and 2020.
What changes can members expect under your new leadership?
FISHER: We are working diligently to be more interactive and time friendly. Facebook Live is one new medium. But not everyone likes or uses Facebook; so we are also going to make those live feeds available as well. We want to make sure that is available to members and the industry.
I’m excited about the things we have coming. I like to use my passion and background to ask the challenging question and prepare for the future. I’m really excited about that.
What are the plans for ASA Michigan’s leadership?
FISHER: Right now we are in a transitional period. We want to make sure continuity is there going forward. For next 90 days, I may be back and forth between Texas and Michigan. But I will ultimately be in Texas working on strategic planning. I will continue to represent both. I appreciate their support and look forward to the support nationally as well. It will also be part of the restructuring that we are looking at to help the affiliates.
How will your leadership be different from those in the past?
FISHER: I have one goal and that is to represent my customer. I come from the dealership environment, and one of the things we learn in the repair industry is about the customer. And in this situation, members are our customer. We are going to have times where we will agree to disagree, but the board of directors really feels our membership is important and we want to represent them well, and in the selection process they looked at that. My passion is about my industry. It provided for my family, and I want to give back. I want to represent our membership. Its not to say the others didn’t; but perhaps their focuses were on other things. When we went through the most severe recession we ever had in the United States, there were a lot of things that hit everybody. And if you look at associations across the spectrum, they all had challenges. It is important as a trade that we have an organization that is structured in the proper way to deliver the messages and represent the industry like we do here at ASA. Sometimes you get in that mode where you are just trying to maintain, and those were some of the aftershocks we had going on after the recession. But again, I like to look out the windshield, not the rearview mirror.
What are the main training focuses for the next year?
FISHER: We will be delivering more content this year going forward. If you look at our Wednesday webinar line up that we have been offering and are continuing to offer this year, we are trying to hit every part of business, whether it is collision, mechanical, software or technical. You are going to see more of that going coming about and into the future. We are responding as quickly as we can to the various needs of the industry.
I am about training. When I was in the collision repair industry as a manager, I was one of the first to have an I-CAR Gold facility in my area; I was one of the first to having Welding Certified technicians in my area. I was the first to have a 5-Star Compliance with Chrysler Corporation. I don’t like to be a follower; I like to be a leader. So that is going to carry forth going forward.
What other issues should be top of mind for members?
FISHER: Change is the biggest thing. The biggest challenge as an industry is making sure we don’t bury our heads in the sand and instead that we look for that opportunity of what is next. And that is where we are going to be coming into play, and we are there already. We’ve got our Mechanical and Collision Ops committees that do a fantastic job and they are bringing those issues to us. We want to do some polls and surveys to get some things from the industry, and it is all about engaging the industry.
The biggest thing right now is preparing the industry for the changes coming at it. And I think we are going to have a tremendous opportunity to do that. We have the personnel in place and the right people focused on the right things to do it. You’ll see much more after our annual meeting about that. If you look at the meeting (April 30-May 2) it is not a destination meeting; it is a business meeting here in Texas. I want to have a lot of continuity. I am all about goals and making sure our priorities are the right thing for the industry. You’ll be seeing that in the coming months. For specifics, stay tuned. I don’t mean to be vague, but we are dialing in. We are here for our industry.