HOUSTON — The National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers is slated to host its annual conference May 14 to 16 at the Las Vegas Hilton.

"Based on registrations to date (mid-April), this will be the largest BHPH conference in the history of the industry," announced Ken Shilson, founder of the NABD and conference chairman.

He went on to say the agenda features both general education sessions and vendor workshops. Switching up this year's event, officials said the vendor presentations have been moved to concurrent workshops so attendees can choose topics of interest.

The workshop program includes about eight hours of presentations by industry experts on topics covering leadership, technology, the Internet, capital, payment devices, dealer management software, increasing sales, closing techniques, in addition to warranties and reinsurance.

"These programs will not be infomercials," Shilson explained. "Instead, leading experts will discuss topics of vital interest to dealers and operators."

Additionally, several of the sessions will feature interactive panels that allow attendees to ask questions.

As of mid-April, Shilson said, "Our exhibit hall is nearly sold out and includes more than 150 exhibit booths this year. Interest in the BHPH industry has never been greater."

He also noted that the group's luncheon and two cocktail receptions will be held inside the exhibit hall to give attendees plenty of time to network with sponsors and vendors.

Evolving Marketplace

According to Shilson, the BHPH industry has come a long way from the negative image stereotype back in the 1980s, but there is still room for growth.

"The BHPH industry had a very negative image. It was not even perceived as a legitimate part of the automotive industry, or even the used-car industry. The perception was that the people in it were not good people," he explained.

"I thought it was a challenge, and I knew the negative image was wrong. By that time I had gotten to know a number of dealers and respected them as being good businesspeople," he recalled. "I thought that having a forum for them to show their skills and what they did would be beneficial. I think that is what has happened, and NABD has become a showcase for the BHPH industry."

Commenting on how the industry has changed, Shilson went on to say, "I think there has been a vast improvement. He (the typical BHPH dealer) is more professional, uses more technology, understands how to run his business and not just to sell cars. He understands the need for compliance, both in the tax and regulatory areas. I believe that dealers, in general, now have a much better understanding of what it takes to be successful in the business."

Looking to the future, Shilson said there is more to be done in the industry to continue improvement.

"There is definitely more that we can do. In fact, I think we have only begun to get the BHPH industry to realize the importance of where we need to go. I think we are just now beginning to see the power of working together, of education, of training, and networking. I think we are early on in the process, but we are making headway," he said.

"I think there is still a great need to standardize more of the processes, but that is not to say that there is only one way to do things," he continued. "There are many ways to accomplish the goals of a successful dealership; there is still room for entrepreneurship. There is still room for independence. Not everyone has to do things the same way, but dealers must find their niche in the industry. With that said, there are some common mistakes that dealers have made in the past that do not have to be repeated in the future."

Shilson also touched on the topic of more franchised dealers entering the industry, as they look to find new profit centers to bolster their bottom line.

"As they enter the industry, they are going to bring more changes as well. There are some independent dealers concerned with these changes, but in the end I think competition is a good thing and will make the industry better. When we (NABD) first began to exhibit at NADA (National Auto Dealers Association), we had hardly any franchise dealers interested in BHPH. Now, it seems like they all are interested in this market segment. It is definitely a growth industry."

For more agenda information, or to register, visit www.bhphinfo.com.