My Take on SEMA

I’m a proud SEMA member and volunteer.

I have served in a variety of volunteer leadership roles in the association for nearly decade, and have been attending the SEMA Show since 1998 (20 years has gone by way to quickly). There is no doubt in my mind that the association and the show are a positive force in our industry and on the hobby.

That said, no organization is perfect. There is a disconnect where the people outside our industry who do know the word “SEMA” associate it with a big car show in Las Vegas. They do not know we are an association, what that association does or why it exists. And yet, we are spending a significant amount of time, money and resources on programs like Ignited and BOTB. I believe SEMA (both the Board and the staff leadership) need to have an existential conversation about long-term goals – if we are going to try and use the SEMA name, SEMA brand and SEMA Show as a tool to engage the general public, then we need to do it on a grander scale.

However if we are not “selling SEMAs” as some people like to joke, then we need to do more to focus the message and budget of these programs on promoting the hobby and trade and less about promoting the show and the brand. Look to the RVIA/RVDA “Go RVing” ad campaign and marketing program – they have done an excellent job promoting their industry and creating a sales funnel for consumers, yet the RVIA/RVDA names an logos are almost nowhere to be seen.

I’d also like to see the association do more to make members (both volunteer leaders and regular members) feel like they have more understanding and ownership of their association.

Many members feel “outside the circle” when it comes to the association, and yet are afraid to speak up about issues they may be having with a council, network, event, the show or even staff because they are afraid of being “punished” by staff who could effect their livelihood with decisions about show booth placement, etc. This is a toxic cultural issue and one that could be remedied with a more transparent, open and honest communication channel between staff and members, much the way relations have improved between the BOD and the councils by simply increasing communication and transparency between the two groups.

On the brighter side, SEMA has done an excellent job building a successful trade show that is both financially sound and a tremendous tool for exhibitors large and small. It has also developed an excellent council and network system that creates tremendous networking opportunities for members to grow their careers and their businesses.

I also commend the staff on doing a fantastic job monitoring a growing list of state and federal legislative issues, helping to create meaningful change on everything from the Johnson Valley OHV situation, to creating an excellent working relationship with the CA ARB and – to some extent – the EPA. I have also sat in in meetings with legislators in DC and the SEMA Washington office staff, and it is very clear that the SEMA Government affairs team not only has a deep well of knowledge to but also is respected by the establishment in Washington DC.

Overall I think we have a strong, nimble organization that we can be proud of, and with the right leadership and a renewed focus on members and transparency it will only get better.