A Shift in Course

Thirty-four-year industry veteran Jeff Peevy took over as president of the Automotive Management Institute (AMI) in May. Peevy, considered a visionary in the collision repair industry, had previously served at the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR), where he was a leading advocate of knowledge management and an organizational culture of learning. In this first of a two-part series, Peevy talks about his vision for the future of AMI.


AutoInc.: Why do you think you were hired?
Jeff Peevy: My background and experience, I suppose. Though I was a business major in college, I’ve spent the past 20-plus years focused on the training and education side of the automotive industry. I’ve also been fortunate to have great leaders and staff members who taught me to think more strategically.

AI: Strategically in what way?
JP: For example, the past four years I led a study to understand the connection between education and shop operational performance. We found solid evidence that technicians educated in role-specific knowledge areas not only consistently out-performed their less-knowledgeable peers but also that an organizational culture of learning was the only source of a sustainable competitive advantage. I began to understand that if we could educate leaders, they in turn would educate their employees and lasting success would follow.

AI: What has been your priority?
JP: I was hired to look at every aspect of what AMI does, how it does it and what it should be doing differently to grow its service to the industry.

AI: For those who might not know, what is AMI’s mission?
JP: The current published mission states that AMI identifies, provides and promotes qualified business education for the success of automotive service and repair professionals.

AI: As of now, do you think that will change?
JP: It might be subject to a bit of wordsmithing, but the overall goals are as much needed today as ever. What I’m really looking for are more successful methods of executing the program to fulfill the mission. The bottom line is that AMI has a responsibility to ensure that owners and managers, and those with ambitions to become owners and managers, have clear and easy access to the management and leadership training they need to survive and thrive in today’s fast-paced and challenging industry.

AI: Tell us briefly what AMI does?
JP: AMI reviews, approves and provides credit for management and leadership courses. It doesn’t develop any course content. AMI offers credit hours toward the only industry accredited professional designation for service management: the Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM). Courses are available in a variety of delivery platforms, including live, instructor-led classes, virtual webinar (live and prerecorded) and online. It takes 120 credit hours to achieve this designation, with focus on five key areas of business management.

AI: And those areas are …?
JP: Marketing and sales, operations and service, management and administration, financial management, and personnel and human resource development. In addition, the program offers a number of specialized designations for various leadership and management roles specific to mechanical service and collision operations. Over the past 25 years, AMI has approved some 800 courses taught by 200-plus instructors.

AI: Is the content of those areas subject to change?
JP: Absolutely. But not just for the sake of change. I want to ensure relevance and provide the very latest educational solutions for the industry we serve.

AI: How do you think that can be accomplished?
JP: We – meaning me and various AMI board members, instructors and students – have started to break down every aspect of what AMI does to determine if it still offers what the service repair and auto body industries need. We’ll be leveraging the latest in course content delivery methods and technology to ensure we’re continuing to serve in an efficient and effective way.

AI: What have you identified so far that needs improvement?
JP: AMI needs to focus on a new generation. It needs a concise and easy-to-navigate website, a modern, multifunctional learning management system and extensive course mapping to build a larger suite of live, instructor-led courses and the latest generation of virtual classroom courses.

AI: When you say “learning management system,” what do you mean?
JP: The system would house our student records and provide real-time student access to these records. It would provide a platform for our online and virtual course offerings, including efficient access to videos, tests and quizzes and the successful completion of these to records. The “learning content management” portion of our system would give structure to course content and allow for efficient updating and revisions.

AI: What can you expect a learning management system to accomplish?
JP: I envision AMI becoming a delivery platform for instructors and approved training companies that need this capability. This delivery platform would be part of our new system and provide tremendous support to our approved instructors and their courses, regardless of the delivery method.

AI: When you say “delivery method,” you mean classroom and online courses, right?
JP: Yes, but there’s also self-study and now webinars. There’s no doubt that AMI’s main strength is its live, instructor-led courses delivered in a classroom setting. We have some knowledgeable and strong people in this category, and the same is true with our webinar-based programs. But one of the tasks before us is to recognize learning opportunities and implement them with the best delivery methods available. We intend to start an industry-wide campaign that will seek the very best in management training. We’ll also review, approve and map courses for our recognized programs, including the AAM or specialty degrees.

AI: Why the emphasis on expanding delivery methods?
JP: As virtual and online capabilities grow, the ability to learn and retain information through these methods will grow with it. Online and virtual delivery methods have to be engaging and interactive, and this is what I envision for AMI – providing a learning management system that offers a higher level of instruction than they might have access to elsewhere.

AI: You suggested earlier that you would be looking at curriculum, as well. Give us some specifics.
JP: What I see coming will involve more detailed course mapping, which would expand the scope and relevance of the courses we offer. I see us expanding into areas like the use of technology to run a business. These days, an owner/manager needs to understand enough about Cloud-based programs, social media and electronic methods of keeping customers informed to make good decisions. Ultimately, AMI should be the go-to organization to get the latest of everything that’s management related.

NEXT ISSUE: Don’t miss the second part of our conversation with Jeff Peevy about his strategy for growing AMI, the organization’s current
financial status and the role partners need to play in supporting it.

Bonus Content: More Q&A with Jeff Peevy

AI: What are the reasons to attend AMI, from the student’s career-progression perspective?
JP: Shop owners and managers are faced with incredible challenges as vehicle technology increases at faster and faster rates. The ability to stay competitive requires keeping your management and leadership skills sharp. AMI can help with that and provide professional recognition for it.
I will say this over and over, but learning is the only source of a sustainable competitive advantage. AMI facilitates learning.

AI: Who designs the curriculum now?
JP: The instructors. They build courses and submit them to us for approval. We then identify where these courses fit into our curriculum. But in the future, I’d like to see AMI identifying course topics —ones that fill gaps in the curriculum and expand knowledge offerings — and putting out a call for them using specific guidelines. It’s also possible that, someday, we might have someone on staff to support instructors who’re developing courses. This staff member would assist instructors with the course according to standards that AMI will establish.

AI: How does AMI choose its instructors?
JP: By the relevance of the course content they submit for approval.

AI: Do you think that is the most effective way to handle the course-selection process?
JP: I have a strong belief that instructors can have a significant impact on students – both good and bad. So at some point, we’ll require that instructor candidates and the courses they teach meet standards that involve a robust approval process. AMI students need to know they’re learning from the very best people in the industry. And we might also offer training to help instructors stay sharp.

AI: What’s the current process for accepting students?
JP: A typical AMI student who’s taking management training will find out that they can get AMI credits. They’ll say, “Why not?” and fill out the paperwork. The instructor signs off on the application, and its submitted. That’s OK, but it’s not how it should work. We need to flip it so that students are working to achieve AMI recognition and take specific courses along the way to enhance their professional development.

AI: What does it cost for students to take these courses?
JP: Right now, the cost structure is all over the place. It’s based on whether they took a class from an Excel partner or just AMI recognized training. Also, AMI has various prices for self-study courses and webinars. One of the tasks ahead of us is to develop, as part of our new business model, a structure that stabilizes our finances and provides a system for revenue forecasting.