Growing into an auto care career: Spotlight on Chris Kinghorn
Chris Kinghorn’s position at UAP has the word “growth” right in the job title. But he has not just helped to grow UAP, he has been growing too. Room to expand one’s skills and career is one of the many things he values at his company and in the industry. Now, as part of the Young Professionals in the Aftermarket, Chris wants to present these growth opportunities to students across the country.
Vice President, Strategy & Growth, UAP
Years in the automotive aftermarket industry: 17 years
How long have you worked in the automotive industry? How many of those years are in the automotive aftermarket?
My career in the industry started within OEM dealers in 1998 doing car detail and light mechanical work. I joined the aftermarket in 2004 and other than a brief hiatus to the agricultural equipment industry for just over a year, I have invested a majority of my career in automotive aftermarket.
What company do you currently work for and what is your position?
I work for UAP currently supporting our team as Vice President, Strategy & Growth, where I help enable the organization to strategically evolve for the future, through optimization, growth and transformation. My team’s responsibilities include corporate strategy and planning, strategic initiative execution, market and business intelligence, and mergers and acquisitions. Our scope is all Canadian banners including NAPA Auto Parts, CMAX, Altrom/Auto-Camping, Traction, TW and Cadel.
I have been fortunate to take on many roles at UAP over my 17 years with the company, while progressively taking on more responsibility. In 2004, I started as a sales development specialist for our NAPA Multi-line group in the prairies working up to the role of General Manager based in our Winnipeg regional office. In 2016, my family and I moved to southwestern Ontario to take on the role of VP for our Ontario NAPA operations before moving into my current role in July of 2021.
Where did you attend school? And what is the highest level of education?
I entered the industry right out of high school and luckily was able to get established and start a career quickly. From there I looked at post-secondary education, where I took several courses while working full time. Eventually I settled into a program at the University of Winnipeg earning a management certificate, and later earned my Marketing Management Diploma. After this, I entered the MBA program at Royal Roads University and graduated in 2013.
Did you know you wanted to work in the automotive aftermarket?
Actually, no – I initially wasn’t considering a career in the automotive aftermarket space. I am, however, very passionate about vehicles and was intrigued by the industry’s opportunities. After my time on the automotive OEM side early in my career, I saw an opportunity to join the aftermarket with UAP. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to grow my career by finding my place within this organization, community, and greater industry, where I feel a great sense of pride and reward.
How long have you been a part of the Young Professionals in the Aftermarket Committee?
I have been part of the Young Professionals in the Aftermarket Committee for 8 years.
What does your participation in the Young Professionals in the Aftermarket Committee mean to you? What would you like to see us, as a committee, achieve in the years to come?
Being a part of the Young Professionals in the Aftermarket Committee is a great opportunity to network and learn. It also provides exposure to industry events and expands your ability to connect with others from all aspects of the industry. I value my time as part of the committee and have been able to interact with many students looking to explore opportunities in the aftermarket.
Moving forward I would like to see the YPA Committee continue to expand membership nationally with increased interaction with colleges and universities to increase awareness of the career paths in the automotive aftermarket.
Have you had an industry mentor? If so, who and why?
Luckily, I have been able to build great relationships over the years. I’ve found that at different points in my career I have had various people who have had a profound impact on my career path, although it’s hard to single out just one. These have come as both sponsors and mentors; and my reality was that this was not always from someone in a leadership position – I often find that my peers and extended teammates played a role in supporting my aspirations, and in many aspects still do.
What is one of your proudest moments in your career so far?
Leading the Cambridge Ontario team through a very large expansion and modernization project of our NAPA Distribution Centre, to which it has become one of the most advanced operations in the organization.
What is one of the biggest lessons you had to learn as a young professional?
Finding the right balance between my professional and personal life. Discipline and prioritization at work is critical in enabling the right balance for a fulfilling life. My family is incredibly important to me and being involved with my kids through things like coaching is something I highly value. Being organized and focused to create value at work ensures that I can contribute and accomplish my ambitious objectives, without sacrificing my family life.
What advice would you give to those young students or to anyone who is thinking of transitioning into the automotive aftermarket industry?
Always be curious and build a network. Wherever you end up in your career, be OK knowing that you don’t need to have all of the answers. You are in your position due to your experience and attitude, in which gave someone the confidence that you can be trusted to make good decisions and most importantly figure it out. As you grow your network, this will help you prepare for and navigate through the decisions needed in your work. Be humble, be kind, and believe in yourself.
A few last fun questions to get to know you better
Make and model of your first car?
What are you terrible at, but love to do anyway?
Do you collect anything?
What is your favorite way to spend a day off?
Outdoors with family and friends
What is the phone app you use most?
What is something you are excited about right now?
About UAP Inc.
UAP is Canada’s leading distributor and merchandiser of automotive parts and replacement accessories for cars and heavy vehicles through their brands of NAPA, CMAX, TRACTION, TRUCKPRO, ALTROM/AUTO CAMPING. UAP is a subsidiary of Genuine Parts Company (GPC), the largest vehicle parts distribution network in North America, which is headquartered in the United States. In Canada UAP operates 12 Distribution centres and services communities across the country from its network of approximately 700 stores.
Find out more about careers at UAP Inc.
About the Young Professionals in the Aftermarket Committee
Young Professionals in the Aftermarket (YPA) is an Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA Canada) committee comprising of young executives, of 45 years or younger, in the Canadian auto care sector. The Committee’s mandate is to ensure the future growth and prosperity of the aftermarket industry.