LAS VEGAS — The National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers kicks off today at the Las Vegas Hilton, beginning several days devoted to education and networking.

In a time when more people are having credit problems, it has never been more important to stay on top of the latest trends and business practices in the industry.

The event runs through May 8.

"We are proud of the progress the buy-here, pay-here industry has made over the last 10 years. It is now the fastest growing and most profitable segment of the automobile industry," said Ken Shilson, CPA and conference chairman.

"We expect that more than 2,000 dealers, experts and service providers will attend this year to hear nationally recognized speakers during the expanded two and one-half day program," announced Shilson.

This year's conference theme is "Facing New Challenges." The educational program will focus on things to consider when entering the industry; proven strategies to improve cash flow and profits; where to find capital; how to locate the best customers; and avoiding legal and regulatory pitfalls.

"In 2008, you will face some new and different challenges than in the past. The subprime mortgage meltdown, inflationary increases in staples, rising gas prices, a weakening dollar and immigration reform all combine to make the economic landscape extremely challenging," Shilson pointed out.

"These are all short-tem obstacles which will ultimately drive more customers into the BHPH marketplace which creates some excellent long-term opportunities," he added.

The general educational sessions will feature a single track and all vendor presentations have been moved to concurrent break-out sessions where attendees can choose their topics of interest, Shilson noted.

"The breakout sessions will provide attendees with information on important topics and are not infomercials," he highlighted.

The general education sessions include nationally recognized speakers and experts, including George Dans, D.J. Harrington, Michael York and Jay Rose.

Moreover, Tom Kontos, ADESA's executive vice president of customer strategies and analytics, is slated to discuss the BHPH marketplace, while investment banker, John Nagy, of Stephens Inc., will provide a capital markets perspective.

The program will also provide attendees with the latest benchmarks, industry trend information and outlook perspective.

Continuing on, the NABD said, interactive panels with attendees will cover proven strategies for improving operators' financial management; best operating practices; and successful advertising strategies.

In addition, the general session will include a presentation on ways to avoid common underwriting mistakes.

Attorneys Tom Hudson, Emily Beck and Terry O'Loughlin will also be on hand to discuss how to avoid legal and regulatory pitfalls, along with talking about the best way to handle attorney general complaints.

On Thursday afternoon, Shilson said a series of workshops have been added to provide attendees with practical ways to implement the strategies discussed.

"This year's program has been expanded on Thursday to include a series of workshops which are intended to give you some practical tips on how to implement the ideas discussed during the show," Shilson noted.

"The workshops have been organized into two concurrent tracks. One of these tracks is designed for attendees who have limited or no experience with the BHPH business. The other track is designed for operators who are striving to get to the next level. These are interactive sessions so your questions are encouraged," he continued.

These workshop sessions include discussions on Internet best practices; growing subprime portfolios prudently; selling to the unbankable consumer; the basic principles of the BHPH business; and ways to stand out from the competition.

The sessions are designed to give attendees practical tips on how to increase profits and cash flow, along with facilitating networking.

"Operators need to work smarter, not harder. Dealer education helps them avoid trial-and-error mistakes which cost millions of dollars," Shilson said.

The general sessions will also include important information on increasing collections and recoveries, designing pay plans that motivate key employees and other operating practices that will, "move the needle," Shilson stated.

A complete agenda is available online at the NABD Web site,