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Business and Management

Building Relationships Key to Building Business


How much time do you pay attention to what you’re building? Oh, I know you are attentive to the most incremental of details about your engines. You measure things to four or more decimal points. You polish metal to a degree that glass is embarrassed to be seen next to it. You understand that what you can see with the naked eye isn’t at all what’s really important.

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But once you step back from your gauges and tools are you paying much attention to yourself?

While many of you are in the thick of racing season – with customers calling you at every hour of the day or night either to praise you for the win they just had or, more likely, blame you for the suspension problem that put them in the corner on Lap 1 – many of us in the automotive industry are gearing up for what is affectionately known as “Trade Show Season.”

Trade Show Season includes all the acronyms you would expect – SEMA, AAPEX and PRI are the biggest ones in our industry, but they’re not the only ones. Our associations provide opportunities to leave the cozy confines of your shop and interact with like-minded business professionals from across town or across the country.


AERA, the Engine Builders Association, will be hosting its next one-day Tech & Skills Conference at Jasper Engine & Transmission’s Willow Springs, MO location on September 14. Technical presentations will cover valve seat machining, powder metal technology, direct injection engines and low speed pre-ignition, and the lubricating needs of the LS engine. The conference is open to all shops, whether you’re an AERA member or not. Get more information at

A little later next month, the Production Engine Remanufacturers Association (PERA) will convene in Reno, NV for its 73rd annual Conference and Technical Program. In addition to the golf tournament and the spouses program you can read about on page 48 of this issue (“Small But Mighty”) there is a full technical program planned here, too. Experts will talk about cleaning, stop/start engine technology, turbochargers, motor oil, and metallugy, in addition to business management seminars. Visit to learn more.


But perhaps the most valuable conversations will be the ones attendees have with their peers. The networking opportunities at the PERA Conference, the AERA Tech & Skills Conference, leading national tradeshows and even your local Cars and Coffee meet-ups can help you rediscover your passion for your craft and remember that you’re not alone out there.

Answer honestly – do you REALLY spend enough time making sure that you’re getting something out of your business other than a paycheck? Not in a new-age, warm-and-fuzzy “love your job and you’ll never work a day in your lfe” way, but in a way that satisfies your inner definition of success.


You might have gotten into this business because you just love engines and you have an aptitude for mechanical things. Many shop owners I’ve spoken with over the years believe there is no one more talented than they are. Their confidence in their own abilities is unmatched and the passion for machining and assembly still burns bright.

When I’ve asked them about managing their businesses, however, the response is often more subdued. In many cases, they admit that they prefer to work on getting more out of the engine than getting more out of their operation. The variables of dealing with customers, vendors and employees are far less predictable than knowing how much to surface a block to achieve the optimal sealing surface.


That’s where Trade Show Season can help. Get out of your comfort zone and attend a conference or convention – have a conversation during a coffee break with an engine  builder who may have already found the solution to the problem you’re not yet sure you even have.

Building relationships with your peers just might be the ideal way to build a more successful business. ν

Engine Builder Magazine