IAAF Conference 2023: The Brilliance of Resilience

The 2023 IAAF Conference was an opportunity for the industry body to showcase its growth throughout the year, and its bright future ahead, with a new look, and plans to support members more than ever before in the coming year. 

Held once again at MK Stadium in Milton Keynes, the IAAF Conference was an opportunity for those working in the independent aftermarket to come together and discuss the challenges and opportunities the industry faces, and how it may overcome them. The event, centring around the theme ‘The Brilliance of Resilience” was the biggest yet, highlighting the demand of the industry to understand what it faces. 

Following introductions from Chief Executive Mark Field, the IAAF Conference got underway with the session, ‘IAAF Lobbying: Finding a Voice in the Corridors of Power,’ whereby Neil Pattemore, IAAF & UK AFCAR technical director, highlighted the importance of the MV-BEO focus and IAAF’s ongoing lobbying efforts. He encouraged continued engagement with the insightful words: “Influence is not just about speaking up; it is about being heard.”

Neil Patemore

During the next session, titled, ‘The IAAF Market Trends Index – A Resilient Aftermarket,’ presented by Quentin Le Hetet from GIPA, the theme of resilience continued, with the discussion turning to the importance of adapting to industry changes, with a clear message: “Resilience isn’t just surviving; it’s thriving in the face of adversity.”

Next to the stage at the IAAF Conference was the highly anticipated keynote speaker, Claire Lomas, with her highly emotive, and hugely popular, talk, ‘Triumph Over Adversity’, where she shared her personal and emotional journey of overcoming challenges after being paralysed in a horse-riding accident when she was 27, leaving the audience with a lasting message: “Every setback is a setup for a comeback. Never underestimate the power of perseverance.”

Business first at IAAF Conference

Tina Drayson, operations director at CCM was up next . As the head of the IAAF Garage section, she spoke about the transformative power of data in modern garages in her talk, ‘Business First: Data-Driven Independent Garages’. She emphasised: “Numbers tell a story; understand it, and you control your business’ narrative.”

Drayson asked the IAAF Conference audience whether they worked in their business or on their business. She emphasised that most independent garages are started by skilled technicians who believe in what they do but are not business trained. This means they can find themselves in situations they are not used to and get into trouble as a result.

Tina Drayson

Giving examples of how garages could improve, Drayson highlighted the issue of labour rates. Rather than going with the average rate in the area, she discussed how garages should look at their business in terms of costs and efficiency to find out the best rate to increase profits. Should this be too high, business owners may need to reduce costs, or increase technician efficiency. 

Using her experience at CCM as an example, Drayson told the IAAF Conference that in order to get an overview and become profitable, the workshop hired a business coach who, amongst other things, suggested she give up working all the administration herself. Drayson acknowledged that it can be difficult for business owners to give over control of specific areas, but doing so will often give them a whole new perspective on how to run their garage.

Jack Wilson from eBay then addressed the conference in ‘eBay – E-commerce and the Aftermarket,’ focusing on eBay’s role in inventory management and fostering business growth through trust and transparency. The company is not a natural bedfellow with the independent aftermarket, but is promoting the use of second-hand parts, giving garages another route to find those tricky items needed to fix certain cars. 

Wilson discussed how drivers could search for parts themselves, and discussed eBay’s new fitment data that can tell buyers whether the part will fit their model or not by simply entering the registration number. 

The following Q&A session saw Wilson face some tough questions from the IAAF Conference audience, including one concerning return rates for parts bought that could not be fitted as garages would not complete the work with customer supplied parts. The question of how eBay verifies quality was also raised. Both times, Wilson offered to find out more information, and did not have answers to hand. 

Gender balance and cybersecurity

Following lunch, the importance of cybersecurity was underscored in the first of two IAAF Conference panel discussions ‘Staying Cybersafe in the Automotive Aftermarket,’ focusing on strategies for managing online risks and the necessity of cyber awareness.

This session became interactive, with audience members asked to vote via an app as to their beliefs on various cybersecurity issues. Many were unaware of the challenges of cybersecurity, and how easy it is for data to be stolen, unless simple authentication factors are put in place. 

The final panel of the day was ‘Benefits of Gender Balance in the Aftermarket,’ hosted by Julia Muir, founder of the growing Automotive 30% Club, once again pushing the message of resilience, highlighting that “Diversity is not just fair; it is smart business.”

L-R: Juila Muir, Annick Jourdenais, Laura Hall and Neil Grant

Neil Grant from Hella highlighted that gender balance plays a huge role in business success, after all, in the aftermarket the customer is the vehicle owner, and therefore the work force should be a true representation of the customer base. “If we can resonate with the customer, and their needs, our teams need to be like them,” he stated.

Grant also pointed out that the aftermarket landscape is changing, with many more technological challenges, such as a move to vehicle electrification and greater reliance on diagnostics. With this changing skillset, the industry needs to be as attractive to as many people as possible, in order to widen the net of recruitment. 

Laura Hall from Maverick Diagnostics added that overcoming this myth that women are not interested in technical jobs is a big task. “We need to challenge this challenge,” she stated to the IAAF Conference audience. “One way is to look at recruitment process and job descriptions to see how you may be putting them off. Then use your social media and PR to highlight women in the business and the talent you already have.” 

With 2024 likely to bring new challenges alongside existing ones, the 2023 IAAF Conference was a good starting point for the aftermarket to see what may be coming down the road, but also, how it already has the knowledge to face any obstacles. 

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