Planning to Learn, Connect and Enjoy at AAPEX 2023

Monday, October 09, 2023

Planning to Learn, Connect and Enjoy at AAPEX 2023

Kristi Hudson

By Kristi Hudson, co-owner, Troy Auto Care, Troy, Michigan, and 2022 Women in Auto Care Female Shop Owner of the Year

AAPEX is just a couple of weeks away – are you ready?

Here at Troy Auto Care, we’ve been planning for AAPEX for six months. In all, we’ll have nearly two dozen representatives from our three shops, including 14 technicians who are coming in two shifts. Aside from the planning for the actual show and related activities in Las Vegas, we have all the logistics of budgets, travel, lodging and coverage back here in Michigan to figure out. It’s a lot to do, and it’s entirely worth it.

This will be my 15th year at AAPEX, and if you’re looking for me, you can probably find me at Joe’s Garage on Level 1 of The Venetian Expo. Joe’s Garage is an entire floor dedicated to service and repair professionals and includes a built-out shop with 10 fully equipped bays for product and equipment demonstrations. I always appreciate the opportunity to check in with my vendors and see new things they’re bringing to the table. It’s also an exciting place to watch live demonstrations and meet with new vendors that I’m interested in. 

The classes are in Joe’s Garage as well, which is convenient, because everything you need as a shop owner is right there. And AAPEX brings in the best of the best, so the classes are always just what we need and what we asked for, delivering a lot of information on relevant topics.

This year I’m looking forward to “Dealing with Overwhelm,” which I feel all business owners deal with, and “Improving Tech/Service Advisor Communication,” because shop flow is based on communication. You can never learn too much! My goal with AAPEX classes is to help my phenomenal team keep improving, especially with shop flow and organization and knowledge to embrace newer things coming out, and to work on building myself up as an owner. My theory is anytime I go anywhere, as long as I learn one thing, it’s worthwhile – and AAPEX always overdelivers.

For our techs, Joe’s Garage is a terrific place to soak up all the new specialty areas like hybrids and EVs and ADAS alignment. AAPEX is a valued partner in ensuring my staff remains current with the latest and greatest tools and vehicles and how they function so that we can make sure we’re taking care of our customers.

Team-Building and Reconnecting

AAPEX is a solid team-building event for us too. The purpose of taking our techs there is for the training, but we make sure they have fun as well. We get to know each other across all three of our shops on a more personal level, and we come out of it tighter as a group. 

Troy Auto Care team members take time out to enjoy the NAPA car in town for customer appreciation day.

Outside of the show, the annual dinner with NAPA folks is always a highlight, and it’s great to spend time with people you don’t get to see every day.

I have to admit, though, that my favorite part of AAPEX is Women in Auto Care Wednesday. From the breakfast to the award ceremony and reception, it’s an entire day dedicated to reconnecting with remarkable women throughout the industry, and I love it. It’s a big boost that makes me remember I have this powerful support group, and appreciate the inspiring things these women are doing in what is still a male-dominated industry. 

If I could only choose one AAPEX event to attend, it would be the Women in Auto Care award ceremony. It’s an amazing thing to witness. It’s like a big family, and you’re all old friends. Even when you’ve never met or seen each other in person, you embrace each other when you’re there. Of course, being recognized last year as the Women in Auto Care Female Shop Owner of the Year was a wonderful honor! But it always makes me feel good to celebrate the winners, and I can’t wait to congratulate the winners for 2023.

Troy Auto Care staff at AAPEX 2022 celebrating Female Shop Owner of the Year award winner Kristi Hudson. 

Getting the Most Out of AAPEX

So after all these years attending the shows, I think I can share a couple of suggestions to help you get the most out of your AAPEX experience. 

First, do your research. I’m very detail-oriented, which means my techs and I each have a schedule so we all know when our classes are and when we can go to the show and what else we have time to do. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t just walk up and down every aisle – you’ll quickly become overwhelmed, and you’ll never get through everything. Download the app, research anything you may want to see and do, and plan for that. Check out the classes beforehand, and if you can take a class, don’t hesitate – it’s going to be worth it. And in your action-packed agenda, go ahead and carve out some time to enjoy the show, wander just a bit and take it all in. 

Second, if you want to do something, just do it. For many years, I would see the Women in Auto Care reception and awards, and I didn’t realize that I could go. When I finally found out it wasn’t for a restricted group, I wished I had asked about it and met all these wonderful people sooner! So try new things. Go to a class you wouldn’t normally choose. Talk to somebody you don’t know. I have made amazing connections at AAPEX, and some of them have turned into good vendors and good friends. There’s so much to see and do. 

I’ll be looking forward to seeing you, perhaps at Joe’s Garage or the Women in Auto Care (WiAC) events, and connecting – or reconnecting – with a hug as we experience all the learnings and fun together at AAPEX 2023.

Kristi Hudson co-owns Troy Auto Care in Troy, Michigan, with her husband, Donnie, and brother-in-law, Frank. In 2022, Kristi was honored as the Women in Auto Care Female Shop Owner of the Year, and the Hudsons were recognized as the AAPEX Shop Owner of the Year. Donnie and Frank were originally partners in a full-service Shell gas, repair and towing station that had been in the family since their father started the business in 1958. When Shell stopped doing repairs, the brothers concentrated their efforts exclusively on Troy Auto Care. They opened their first standalone NAPA Auto Care center in 1998. In 2019, they opened their second NAPA Auto Care location, a 14-bay facility, which Kristi operates and runs. A third shop, an 18-bay NAPA Truck Service Center, was added in 2021. Troy Auto Care is also a Gold-Certified NAPA Auto Care Center, an AAA-Approved Auto Repair Center, a three-time winner of the AAA Approved Auto Repair Center of the Year Award, and the 2022 NAPA Auto Care Center of the Year. 

Oct. 9, 2023