A Mandate To Update

AMI President Jeff Peevy talks about why the organization needs to change and how it will happen.

Jeff Peevy

Jeff Peevy

AutoInc.: Last issue, we talked about some areas of AMI’s operation that need improvement, including course content and development, the potential benefits of course mapping and the methods for choosing instructors and accepting students. What do you see as AMI’s major, ongoing challenges?
Jeff Peevy: Like many businesses, AMI’s major challenges include aging infrastructure, a need for process refinements and a sustainable business model that keeps it at the forefront. As GE’s former CEO, Jack Welch, wrote: “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” AMI has remained unchanged for too many years. Now, I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom because I think AMI has a lot of strengths.

AI: Tell us what you see as some of AMI’s major strengths.
JP: AMI has an impressive list of courses and active instructors, and it’s this group that continues to provide tremendous value to the industry. We have the support of ASA and other organizations, and we have name recognition and a legacy of some of the most impressive and well-known industry leaders holding the AAM designation. Our graduates are an elite group, and I’m finding out – because they consistently tell me – that they believe the education and growth opportunities offered through AMI contributed to their wisdom and success.

AI: What is AMI’s current financial status?
JP: For the past 15 years or so, AMI has generated enough revenue each year to pay its bills and staff. It’s also maintained, for the most part, its original partners to continue building reserves. However, the income has not been sufficient to ensure sustainability. This means that AMI hasn’t had the funds to improve its infrastructure. That’s why we’ll likely need to make strategic use of part of our reserves to build a modern infrastructure and a sustainable business model. We’re blessed to have financial resources, but we’ll need to be smart in how we use them. Still, I think they’ll take AMI to a whole new level.

AI: What role do partners play in AMI?
JP: It seems that, in the early days, Excel partners played an important role in providing financial resources that were invested to create reserves. Companies committed to paying so much a year for 25 years, and, with that, their students could earn AMI credits at no charge. But for many, the 25 years is up and others, unfortunately, never lived up to their commitments. With support from the board of trustees, we’ll need to redefine our partnership programs to ensure they honor their commitments.

AI: Are AMI’s partners actively involved in aiding and promoting the organization?
JP: For me, the focus is on rebuilding. Promotion will come when we have the new AMI in place. That doesn’t mean we’re not active or that students shouldn’t continue to train and pursue AMI credits. Quite the contrary. Getting AMI credit today will just become part of a new, vibrant industry-recognized program. And soon.

AI: What’s your strategy for growing AMI?
JP: My plan has been to listen and gain insights from many people – both those involved in AMI-approved courses and those who aren’t. We’ll take this information and develop a plan to fulfill the needs of the industry, not just what we think fills the need. We want to eliminate the students’ confusion and frustration and streamline the process of obtaining an AMI designation. To do this, we’ve got to develop a process that retires older courses and approves new ones.
What we know is that we need a capable learning management system that can support AMI and its instructors. Armed with such a system, a revitalized website and a suite of new, relevant courses mapped to our specifications, AMI can provide tremendous value to the industry’s managers across a wide range of service businesses.

AI: Does AMI have competition in the industry?
JP: Part of what AMI makes unique is that we are more of an organizer of an alliance and for that reason we do not have direct competition. We openly want to recognize any training and education opportunities out there to fit into our programs. As a 501C(3) nonprofit, no one has to second-guess our motives. We exist to serve the industry. Of course, we have to have just enough revenue to pay our bills and keep our reserves healthy enough to maintain our infrastructure, but beyond that we are a vision- and mission-driven organization.

AI: Are there statistics that show AMI graduates get promoted more often, make more money, own their own shops, etc.?
JP: Today, we don’t have those types of statistics, but those who know me know I will not be satisfied until we understand if they do or not. If they don’t, we will adjust. However, everything we see points to a solid “yes.” Historically, if you look at well-known and successful industry leaders, many carry the AAM designation – in fact, likely the majority. It’s literally a “who’s who” list of industry movers and shakers.

AI: Can you give us numbers? Comparisons, say from the past to now? Can we use any figures to create charts or graphs
illustrating your points?
JP: In 2014, we awarded AMI Credits to 8,406 students [Figure below]. If you look at AMI’s history, you’ll see it grew fairly consistently for the first 14 years, with a peak in 2002, awarding credits to 15,286 students. From there, it began to trend downward when the economy struggled in 2007/2008 and people began to look for answers to keep their businesses going. In 2008, we awarded 12,892 students AMI credits and then it began to trend downward again.
We fully expect to see growth again as we update our infrastructure, making AMI easier to navigate. And, we’ll work to increase our relevance and value to the industry and develop a solid value proposition that will resonate with owners and managers across the industry.

AI: Earlier, you mentioned the coming changes as an “overhaul.” Why, what, how, when and at what cost?
JP: AMI needs to update its business and revenue models. The 25-year plan has now run out, and it’s time to establish AMI for the next 25 years and beyond. We’re blessed with reserves to update our infrastructure, including website, database systems and overall course and certificate offerings. But we have to be careful and make sure that each move we make is a solid one that provides value to the industry.
We cannot change just for the sake of change; it has to be meaningful. Today, we are still gathering facts and exploring exactly how AMI can best serve the industry and the tools and infrastructure needed to do so. Then, the actual cost can be determined. Bottom line: We cannot afford not to update ourselves. This is the same challenge shop owners face. I invite everyone to come along with us on this journey to increased relevance and service to the industry.