Into the Boardroom

Thanks to your support, July 20, 2018 marked my first participation in the SEMA Board of Directors boardroom. It seems like a long, long time, but only two months separated the voting period and this first meeting. I am cautious in sharing this report with you – SEMA Board of Directors sign a strict confidentiality agreement to ensure that critical data, agenda items, and the conversation does not get shared publicly. This ensures the sanctity of the boardroom. However, I do want to share as much information as I can, so here we go.

My SEMA journey began on Thursday with a new member orientation by Tim Martin (SEMA Board Chair Elect), Chris Kersting (SEMA President and CEO), and Bill Miller (SEMA VP of Operations). Joining me at SEMA headquarters (Diamond Bar, CA) were Brian Lounsberry, Steve Whipple, and Donnie Eatherly. It was a good review of SEMA history, key SEMA initiatives, some tips on conduct in the boardroom, and a chance to ask some early questions. The highlight of the visit for me was a stop in the SEMA Garage where Mike Spagnola and Peter Treydte gave us an informative introduction to the work they do to help SEMA member companies meet emission requirements for their speed parts and vehicles.  

Friday morning started early, and after a team breakfast and encouraging words from Chairman Wade Kawasaki, Board members were invited to participate in a rapid round table session with multiple SEMA Councils (made up of SEMA member companies) and SEMA Networks (made up of SEMA-minded individuals). I met with representative of the MPMC, PRO, ETTN, YEN, and ARMO. We discussed the key initiatives of each council/network, any hurdles that they saw in the market, as well as budgetary needs. It was a great way to get to know key people in this industry.  

I headed into the boardroom reminded of the three key initiatives that I carried through the election:  fortify our performance rights, engage out youth, and prepare a bright future for the automotive aftermarket.  

In the room are experts from all corners of the SEMA universe:  business, finance, events, marketing, distribution, etc. All of us bound by a deep passion for the automotive industry.

Active members include James Lawrence, Kyle Fickler, Greg Adler, Chris Douglas, Dan Kahn, and Les Rudd. Past Chairman Doug Evans, and treasurer, Peter Lehman lent a steady hand throughout the proceedings. Again, cautious of what I share, I want you to be confident that Chairman Kawasaki runs a productive and fast-paced boardroom. The main presentation was reviewed, questions were asked, suggestions were offered, and the SEMA staff was receptive and gracious throughout the seven-hour meeting.  

Prior to the Board meeting, I had been invited to join the PRI Task Force (James Lawrence, chair) and the SEMA Board Nomination Committee (Jim Cozzie, chair). I have accepted positions on each team, and I will be reporting more details in future emails.  

Friday Night Installation Gala

I had never been to the SEMA Installation Gala before, so this was a real treat for me. Hosted by Jesse Combs and Kevin Oeste, the night has a festive feel to it with 600-700 industry supporters in attendance. Many long-time friends were in attendance. Some of them include: TV producer Bud Brutsman, publisher Ed Zinke, from Magnuson, Kim Pendergast, the new publisher of Hot Rod, Jonathan Mill, the new executive editor of Hot Rod, John McGann, Matthew Hawkins, Corky Coker, Jim Cozzie, and John Waraniak (SEMA staff).  

At my table was my lovely wife, Tina, joined by Dan Kahn, Kyle Fickler, Greg Adler, and Bill Miller. On stage, the outgoing Board members are recognized, and the new Board members were brought on stage and acknowledge by Wade Kawasaki and Chris Kersting.  

One highlight of the evening was the induction of three people into the SEMA Hall of Fame: Ed Pink, Donnie Eatherly, and Chris Thompson. All of these men have given decades of service to the aftermarket industry. I will remember Ed Pink’s speech. After watching the aged engine building master struggle to get on stage, he surprised us all with his take on how important winning is. “Winning is everything,” he exclaimed! It’s a mantra that drives many of us.

I will also remember Russ Deane on stage, being honored for an amazing 45 years of service to SEMA as their lead counsel. I have worked with Russ on the E-ROD emission-compliant crate engine initiative, so I am personally aware of his tireless commitment and dedication to this great industry. To Russ, I wish you the very best in the coming years, and I know you aren’t going very far.

As the SEMA Gala came to a close, it served as a reminder to many of us to continue to fight for this industry. As such, every time I send out one of these updates, I want to share with you one key initiative of the SEMA organization. Today, I want to make sure that you are all aware of the push to support the RPM Act.

RPM Act:  The “Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2017” (HR 350/S203) clarifies that the Clean Air Act allows motor vehicles to be converted into dedicated race cars and that it is legal to produce, sell and install race parts for these vehicles.  Supported by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the RPM Act serves to clarify and protect the ability of an individual to modify a street car for racing use – something the EPA has challenged.

My take on the RPM Act:  SEMA is fighting for your freedom to take a street car and modify it into a race car. Sounds like the very basis of this entire industry, doesn’t it? Without SEMA’s lobbying efforts, the EPA may take away our ability to convert street cars into race cars. Pay attention to this one, and support SEMA.

For more information on how you can join SEMA and support the RPM Act, go to SEMA.org.

If you read this entire blog, thanks. If you only looked at the section on the RPM Act, then that’s fine too. SEMA needs your help in this fight for our rights to modify cars. I plan on sending out an update after the Board meeting and PRI Tradeshow in December. Please, say hello to me at the SEMA Show, and I wish you the best for the second half of 2018.