Larson: Networking a key to success

Importance of taking a break, opening your mind, having some fun – and, of course, learning

At one of the darkest times of my life, after just losing my business partner, who was also my beloved husband and best friend, I chose to take my first solo trip to an industry convention.

Diane Larson

Not knowing where my life or my business would be headed, since the most important half of our “mom & pop” shop was now gone, I honestly didn’t know if I would continue in the industry or running our business.

That trip turned out to be a major pivot point in transforming the business from “our business” and was instrumental in the continued business success. Attending the convention opened me up to learning and inspiration from so many awesome people.

Networking at a conference or convention is by far the best way of learning and staying energized in our industry. Getting away from the business, and life, gives us time to focus on the event, people and learning, while letting us recharge. Although I can take some credit for the success of my business, all the contributors that I’ve met along the way, and hope to meet in the future, are all accountable as a result of attending events and the networking that we’ve done.

Keeping ahead of new technology had always been a goal of John & I, traveling from the East Coast each year to attend Las Vegas AAPEX/SEMA and CARS, midwest to Linders, south to FMC Training, and attending all local training we could, was a huge benefit in staying ahead of the curve. When John died in 2008, and the business became mine to run by myself, learning to hire a team and marketing were needs that were met.

Some of my shops’ best procedures have been taught during these conventions, and some of our best equipment was spotted and researched at one of these shows. The opportunity to meet with suppliers and support people, to have your questions answered, and to see a new product or idea is such an advantage.

Attending an event, you’ll find some of the best learning is done chatting with others in the industry over a cup of coffee, dinner, or maybe even a beer. Learning and meeting others in the industry turned my passion into volunteering, and if you want a yikes experience this is it! It was so awesome working with suppliers, manufacturers, other shop owners, technicians, and those who support our industry. Incredible opportunities were presented, and adventures were had – traveling, sights and experiences that I would not have had if not attending conferences, volunteering and getting smarter!

In 2015 life delivered another life-changing event, two baby boys to raise for an unknown time. Fortunately, all the learning done, had given me a business I could step away from for a while and let it run itself while still supporting myself and the team. There is no way that could have been accomplished without the help and teachings of my industry friends.

Without a doubt, the best benefit achieved from attending conventions is all the awesome friends you’ll meet and memories made along the way.

The lesson learned? Even when life and/or your business looks glum … close your shop doors, take a break, open your mind, go have some fun, and learn, learn, learn!