This year’s trip to SEMA was really a testament to our business’s growth in the last couple of years. There was no push back. There was not question if we could justify going. There was no doubt that if management staff was missing for a week that our ongoing projects would be delayed. David and his wife Audra, Corey, and I packed our bags and headed to Las Vegas.
The purpose for a shop to go to an event like SEMA is to meet with existing vendors and discuss possibilities to make offerings to our customers more appealing, meet new vendors that can supply our customer base with new and valuable products, get a grasp of new tools and software that can make our business flow more efficient, and maybe, if there is enough time, try to enjoy ourselves and appreciate what we have become.
After landing in Vegas on Day 1, we got right to business. With the SEMA handbook, booth directory and map, we drafted up a pretty good summary of all of the booths we would like to visit and meet with. This step is super important because the Las Vegas Convention Center is on a whole other level. Imagine the entire Houston Galleria filled with car parts. Well, this place is even bigger. After creating our plan, we decided to “dust” the entire show, writing down or circling other booths we may have missed. At this point, we walked 20,000 steps!
It was time to go back to the hotel, freshen up, and get ready for a party with Ecutek and all of the attending registered tuners. The party was hosted at the Wynn in a private suite. Here at the Ecutek party, we got all access to meet with all of our fellow leaders in the performance automotive space. Ecutek went over their latest tuning software to launch for BMW and released RaceROM Phase 7 for Nissan GTR. What I loved about the presentation from Ecutek was their confidence and commitment to service. The presentation didn’t just focus on what they had for sale but it really focussed on how their support team was here to help give care to our customers and also how their marketing team would help provide artwork and digital deliverables to make sure consistency in quality marketing is achieved. We finished up the Ecutek event with a lengthy, quality meeting with Tobin Sinclair, head of Ecutek marketing, and his development team. We shared private information about a rather large GTR build we are now working on and really got them excited about what it consists of and some firsts we were going to be doing with the car that they would be able to be a part of. We are so proud that Ecutek is going to be writing new software specifically for this car and our R&D will make it to a future phase of RaceROM. How cool is that?!
We hit the town with our great friends from AWDTuning, Keith and Mary Fields. We had an amazing dinner at a sushi restaurant. What’s great about these two is not only do we work so well together but they understand the challenges we go through on a day to day basis. Their business, now matured, certainly once walked in our very own footsteps. We have the privilege of bouncing ideas off of each other and certainly sharing information each of our shops have gathered to be the best we can be.
Day 2 was our time to shine. Oh boy. We got a good breakfast and prepared ourselves for another 20,000 steps of automotive heaven. From 10am to 4pm, we walked the Las Vegas Convention Center and met with more than 60 great vendors. These vendors offered things like process management software, wheels, suspension, transmission components, parts distribution, dynos, carbon fiber, lifts, welders, CNC machines, lights, tools, couplers, fittings, and so much more. We budgeted a respectable amount of money to spend on new offerings and tools to make us a better operation and I could not be happier with what we are bringing home.
I think what I could take away most from meeting with all of these vendors was how committed to quality they were and how competitive they were. Two vendors that offered the same product or service were so close in their offerings and pricing; it truly makes it difficult on who to choose.
It’s dinner time and it’s time to relax… wrong! Off to the Cobb Tuning party we went. Same concept as the Ecutek party but this time, we gathered at the Planet Hollywood Restaurant. Oh, and it was an 80s themed Halloween Party so David and Audra decided to do it up with bright colored exercise outfits straight out of a Richard Simmons workout tape finished off with a mullet. Hosted by the greats at Cobb and led by Tim Bailey, it was a great gathering. We spent the majority of our time chatting it up with management from AMS Performance, Martin Musial and Dan Macro, owner of ShepTrans, John Shepherd and his other half, Tonya, our friends from AWDTuning, and Tim Bailey.
As tired as we were, we couldn’t retire just yet. It was time to celebrate a successful day of productivity and Halloween on Freemont Street. In case you haven’t been yet, Freemont Street is the best possible place in town for a night full of people watching, live music, zip-lining above all of the night life, gambling, and let me just mention people watching one more time. We experienced the night with Team ShepTrans and couldn’t have had better companions! The night wouldn’t have been the same without John and Tonya and we are so thrilled to have had the privilege of spending quality time with a vendor that we have mutually invested so much in each other.
Not going to lie… day 3 wasn’t so productive. We met with a few remaining vendors at SEMA and got out for lunch. Day 3 was extremely special though. It was quite special to just sit down and talk to each other about the great experiences we just had.
It’s really funny. I can’t really describe my proudest moments to talk about without quoting the old TV show, Cheers. We went to a place and everybody knew my name. Everybody knew our name. It is so cool to look back at all of the great times we had and think how awesome it is that we grew our business so quickly and full of quality to the point where we didn’t have to introduce ourselves after these guys saw our faces or the logos on our shirts. It’s quite emotional for me to speak on because this was the biggest goal I ever set for us when I took on marketing for The Shop Houston. I set goals for our little operation that were, at the time, a bit irrational but I can’t thank my entire team, old, present, and new, enough for playing a role in getting us here. What we managed to do was short of magic.
I’m currently writing this blog on the plane back to Houston. The excitement couldn’t possibly stay inside me. I just wanted to once again thank the entire The Shop Houston team for being responsible for allowing to excel at such a major event, our customer base, our family, for not just seeing us as a car shop but an experience, and David, Audra, and Corey for making this trip a blast of joy. Until next time…