Anyone who knows me is very aware that I struggle to pass up an industry event. When the dates for the Saskatchewan Association of Automotive Repairers (SAAR) Spring Forum were announced, I couldn’t resist the chance to visit Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, for the first time, even if it meant facing early-February prairie temperatures.
I have long been a fan of SAAR’s work and the efforts moved by Tom Bissonnette and the whole team, and this event did not disappoint. The environment was rich with camaraderie; representatives from different verticals lent ears to issues across the board, whether they had a stake in them or not.
The cohesive goal of all attendees, no matter their specific role in the industry, was immediately clear. The meeting kicked off with a Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) session discussing the impending PDR matrix tool process. The room was full of all kinds of industry representatives: bodyshop owners and staff, primarily, but also banner and franchise reps, suppliers and tooling experts, and SGI representatives. Not once did anyone talk over another person, nor did any opinions get squashed. Ideas were shared—and heard. Progress was made, all was well. Everyone even ate lunch together without the fists coming out!
I kid, of course—but the conversations fostered at SAAR’s Spring Forum made it clear that the organization truly cares about its members and the overall health of its automotive market. The association has established a platform where ideas are shared and positive action is made as a result. It was also clear that SAAR continues to work for progress and cohesivity in the industry—despite the work completed, they know there’s always more to be done. The challenges discussed at the SAAR meeting echoed issues that are brought up nationwide— even beyond. Struggles like attracting new talent to the trade, navigating ongoing parts delays, shortages and offering expensive- to-tool operations. The same conversations, with minor differences depending on market attributes, are had in bodyshops across the country. So, what makes the difference between effective conversations and screaming matches?
It’s one simple thing—well, two actually. Your ears.
It can be hard to rid your mind of preconceived notions, whether good or bad. I like to say that the hardest mind to change is your own. Human beings are naturally proud, after all. Few of us find joy in dissecting our own opinions and finding where we might be wrong. It can be even harder to perform critique when you’re sat at a conference room table with five other industry members just like you. Complaints love company.
Some matriarch in your life has likely bestowed on you the adage, “you have two ears and one mouth—use them proportionately.” Somewhere between the foundational learnings of childhood and the humdrum days of adulthood, we forget to abide by the cliche. Speaking from personal experience: I was raised by an elementary school teacher, and her favourite word was “listeningggg!” She’d draw out the g in a nasally singsong tone that’s burned its way into the crooks of my skull; yet still, I forget to listen. I just love to talk. Don’t we all, around here?
Of course, SAAR has put years of hard work and relationship-building efforts into its endeavours. Nothing good simply happens overnight; we know this. But, if anything, SAAR provides proof that, when all parties lend a respectful, listening ear, progress is possible. You can be powerful all alone. But together we can create a mighty energy with a positive charge.