AIA YES Conference: Growth and Innovation

New YES Chairman Brad Cochrane (right) with outgoing Chairman Derek Chinn. (Photo: Huw Evans)

On March 27, aftermarket professionals and industry leaders gathered for AIA Canada’s 2018 Young Executive Society (YES) Conference.

Taking place at the Bellagio Boutique Event Venue, in Vaughan, Ont., just North of Toronto, the event featured a luncheon, ample networking opportunities as well as two key speaking sessions.

A big announcement was the passing of the YES Chair torch from Derek Chinn of Mevotech, to Brad Cochrane, NAPA Auto Parts. Cochrane, who has been a part of the YES Committee for a number of years said he looks forward to continuing the work that Derek Chinn has performed in the role and continuing to provide resources and information for the next generation of aftermarket leaders.

Leadership roles

Mentorship is a huge part of achieving success both personally and professionally and Susan Hitchon, Head of Global New Business Development, Special Markets; Schrader International shared her own experiences and talked about having mentors and how it’s important to find mentorship in all aspects of your life, whether it’s personal or professional.

“It’s important to have multiple mentors,” she said. Hitchon noted it was important not to limit mentors to gender or even industry and look at things from a different perspective, such as having peer mentors. “Somebody from outside your industry has different experiences and they can provide you with a different way of looking at things,” she said. Even peers within the same industry or division can provide an alternate view of a problem or situation.

“Seek and accept help,” she said. “Navigating your career (and life) doesn’t have to be done alone.”  Hitchon also talked about being a mentor and getting involved in extra programs and activities or learning new roles or responsibilities. “Accept new tasks willingly,” she said, “meet your customers and gain exposure to management.” She noted that personal branding was important and that when people ask you to be a mentor, “you have a strong brand.”

Beyond the obvious

Keynote speaker Ted Graham, Head of Open Innovation, General Motors, discussed innovation and how today, many regulated industries, such as the taxi and hotel sectors are being disrupted by startups. Graham talked about his time working as an Uber X driver and the importance of feedback not only from customers but also from staff.

He noted that in Uber’s case, not only does the service provide passengers with the ability to rate their driver, but also for the driver to rate the customer and deduct whether their next fare will be a well-behaved customer.

Graham said that in many organizations, feedback from employees is not often encouraged, especially from younger staff members. And when it is and ideas are able to be heard and generated, that’s when the magic happens in terms of innovation.

He also noted that many startups have found a successful niche simply because they identified a sector of the market that was being underutilized, such as Uber and Air BnB.

Graham asked whether it was better to innovate in a small company or a large one. “It is a false dichotomy,” he said. “We all have to innovate together and collaborate in order to have a greater impact.”

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