In today’s exclusive AMN Executive Interview, we hear from JC Washbish, vice chairman of the Young Auto Care Network (YANG), a community of the Auto Care Association dedicated to the professional development of aftermarket executives age 40 and younger.
Washbish serves as director of marketing for the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance. He joined the organization in 2016, first serving as sales, marketing and brand manager before being promoted to director of marketing, where he is responsible for the strategy and activation surrounding the Auto Value- and Bumper To Bumper-branded programs, their exclusive Certified Service Center program, Confidence Plus National Warranty and SafeRoute Roadside Assistance.
Washbish holds a Juris Doctor degree from Ava Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, and a bachelor’s degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. Prior to joining the Alliance, he was employed by NGK Spark Plugs (U.S.A.) Inc. as an account executive, where he was responsible for several major retail accounts as well as servicing all accounts in the Caribbean market.
Washbish recently sat down with aftermarketNews to talk about the exciting new initiatives YANG leadership is executing for 2018, including the upcoming YANG Leadership Conference, which will be held in conjunction with the Auto Care Association Leadership Days in May in Atlanta.
Amy Antenora: Does YANG have any new, special initiatives planned for 2018? Bring us up to speed on what’s new.
JC Washbish: The big one is the YANG Leadership Conference. This takes place at the tail end of the Auto Care Association Leadership Days, during the spring. This year that will be in Atlanta. The dates of that are May 9th through the 11th, but the YANG conference is the 11th through the 12th of May.
The leadership conference is an immersive two-day event that begins on Friday afternoon and concludes with a morning session on Saturday. We also host a fun event Friday night. The conference includes different speakers, with different topics, from industry-specific items like trends to telematics to leadership qualities and professional development.
The YANG leadership conference is an opportunity for young people to get together and improve their leadership skills as well as network. We hope the attendees come to the leadership days beforehand to see the committee structures, and how committees at the Auto Care level operate to help form and drive the direction of the industry as a whole. That’s why it’s not a standalone event, and why it’s tied to the leadership days.
Amy Antenora: What is the transition plan for YANG members once they “age out” of YANG? Do you then try and steer them toward a particular committee so that they continue to volunteer for the association?
JC Washbish: I always chuckle when people complain and say, “Well what happens when I age out of YANG, what is left for me?” My response is always, “The rest of the industry is for you!”
But YANG is the time to position yourself to be a player in the industry when you age out. So you ask what events we have going on. We have the leadership conference that we run and drive from a council point of view. Any of our members are eligible and encouraged to host a regional meet-up. A regional meet-up could be something as simple as getting together for coffee in the morning, to hosting a dinner or an event, to bringing in outside speakers. We have these things popping off all the time. We get manufacturers as well as WDs to participate in both hosting and sponsoring the event.
So when you’re looking to serve on an Auto Care council or committee, in your career, people will look and they ask, “Well, what has this person done? What do they do professionally? How do they fit in their professional environment, or their place of business?” But then also, “What have they done for the industry outside of that?” That’s where you can stand up and say, “Hey, man, I hosted regional meet-ups. I attended YANG leadership conferences, the legislative summit.” YANG will be part of the legislative summit next year when Auto Care does that again. We had a standalone summit last year and now we’re looking to be part of the legislative summit going forward.
We want people to be fired up to serve on these committees, serve on these councils, show up and make a difference. That’s really the answer I have for anybody involved in YANG. Don’t wait for YANG to host a regional meet-up near you. You host it. If you’re sitting there asking the question to yourself, “Man, I would really like to attend a meet-up. There hasn’t been a meet-up in my area,” well, it’s because you haven’t hosted one yet.
I think the problem that some YANG folks have is they get tagged as “millennials” and the generation of “everybody gets a medal.” One thing that the YANG group is trying to change is, yeah, okay maybe that’s some millennials, but not us. We’re the doers. We’re the ones who get out there and make it happen. We’re excited for the leadership conference, and that’s the other thing, too … Not everybody comes to the leadership conference, not everybody gets a medal. It’s the people who make it happen and want to get there and their employer wants them to get there. And then as far as hosting the regional meet-ups, if they’re in your area you should attend them, and if they’re not in your area and it makes sense, you should host one.
There’s really no excuse to not be a member because it’s free. You’re only limited by your own initiative.
Amy Antenora: What else is on the agenda this year for YANG?
JC Washbish: The other big thing we have coming up, as we always do, is we have a lot of events going on at AAPEX. I know it’s early, being February, to already talk AAPEX but we’ll have a town hall type event at AAPEX again on Wednesday afternoon, followed by our exclusive YANG reception, where we encourage all of our attendees to take part in that.
Amy Antenora: In terms of the advantages and benefits of joining YANG, you’ve got professional development, you’ve got networking, you’ve got political involvement. What other advantages are there for a young professional to join YANG?
JC Washbish: We have a bi-monthly communications piece called the YANGster Wrap. Within that are more professional development pieces as well as industry information, industry trends. And we’re looking to bring back more webinars this year on more industry and professional development topics.
Education – both industry education and professional development education – and most importantly, the ability to connect. We’re looking to bring back another exclusive favorite. A couple of years ago we had a platform called YANG Connect. It was a social media platform like LinkedIn and Facebook but exclusive to YANG members only. We got rid of it due to budgetary concerns and usage but people have been begging to bring it back. So we’re hoping to roll that out in the near future.
Amy Antenora: For those of us who are no longer YANG-eligible, how can older aftermarket professionals help support YANGsters?
JC Washbish: The exciting thing that we rolled out at AAPEX this past year and will have again in 2018 is the YANG Mentor Pin. The YANG Mentor Pin is a pin program where anybody in the industry over the age of 40, can purchase the pin for a $100 dollar donation to the YANG group, and by wearing that pin you do several things. First, obviously, you literally wear your personal support of the organization. You also open yourself up to be reached out to and contacted by YANG members. So if you’re at any leadership days, AAPEX, any regional meetings, group meetings, anything like that and you’ve got a YANG pin on, you’re showing yourself to any
YANG members that happen to be there, “Hey, you can reach out to me and you can talk. You can know that I’m putting myself out there to organically have a mentor/mentee relationship come to fruition if it’s meant to be.”
We talked a lot about whether we should have a mentor program. The problem with a formalized mentor program is the facilitation of that, especially when you have different dynamics of manufacturers that may have conflicts of interest, different group members that may have conflicts of interest. So to avoid the conflict of interest and to really take advantage of the best type of mentor/mentee relationships out there, which are the organic ones, we launched the pin program.
We just want to put both the YANG mentors and the mentees in a position to recognize one another and then pursue a relationship beyond that on their own because those will be the most beneficial.
That pin also gets you into some exclusive YANG events, like the YANG cocktail reception in Las Vegas, and the YANG Town Hall in Las Vegas. And then other exclusive regional meet-ups and meetings throughout the course of the year.
In addition, people who are in decision-making positions within their organizations can help sponsor YANG. We have different sponsorship levels. those sponsorships help us with our programs like the Leadership Conference, or YANG Town Hall at AAPEX, the AAPEX reception. It helps us host regional meet-ups. So everything … The back end work, the social media platform, all those have a cost. And probably most importantly is we do have very dedicated staff liaisons at the Auto Care Association who help facilitate and administer all of our programs. And they’re not free
Amy Antenora: You alluded to millennials sort of getting a bad rap and YANG not wanting to be defined by that bad reputation. How do you feel that those who are non-millennials perceive the millennial generation?
JC Washbish: Well, I think it’s sort of the, like I said, everybody gets a trophy mentality in that we, as millennials, feel like things are owed to us and that we have an entitled attitude or an entitlement problem and we feel like things are owed to us. One other big emphasis that YANG has is our attention to the Auto Care Political Action Committee (ACPAC). Every person on the YANG council has already made their 2018 ACPAC contribution.
We’re dedicated to it, and we were the first to market, to be all in with the ACPAC last year as a council and the year before that. So this will be three years in a row where, before any other Auto Care committee… And that includes the Government Affairs Committee.
So my challenge to every executive, every leader who has the belief that YANG members feel entitled, here’s a bunch of young people not making nearly as much money as the veterans, taking hard earned cash that we’re making and putting it to a red and blue government entity to ensure that we have a place to work in the future because we care enough about this industry that we’re willing to support the ACPAC.
Our Leadership Conference, by design, ends on a Saturday afternoon. We could easily have it during the middle of the week. I think a lot of people would have no problem blowing out the office to go to Atlanta for two days to “hang out” or go to some cocktail receptions and call it a leadership conference. We purposefully, consciously have it end Saturday afternoon to show our employers and the industry we are committed to our own self-development and leadership development by sacrificing our own Saturday and Friday night away from the office to do that. And here’s YANG, with 100 members a year going to the Leadership Conference, nobody complaining that they’ve got to be away from home. And it’s not that they’re all really young and in their 20s. A lot of them are mothers or fathers, have families, or have a spouse at home, and they’re not making the trip with them. But they realize the investment in their own personal wellbeing will benefit them and their company. So they’re willing to do it.
Whatever that assumption is from the leadership, how we answer and respond is the fact that we have people, instead of driving straight home from work at five or six o’clock in the evening, they’re attending regional meet-ups in their area to better network and to better promote themselves and their companies. This is a volunteer group with a lot of action that’s taking place. These aren’t entitled young people feeling that their company simply owes them the paycheck. It’s people who are willing to work with the understanding that, by putting in the hard work today, they’re the ones who approve tomorrow’s YANG attendees to go attend their Leadership Conference in whatever year that might be, whether it’s 2020, 2030 or 2040.