Born into a racing family in Waltham, Massachusetts, Steve Bolio has been involved with cars and competition since he began to walk. He spent five to seven nights a week at racetracks from the time he was three years old, and he started piloting go-karts when he was in grammar school. He has maintained that affinity for the track throughout his life and still, at age 60, manages to turn hot laps in karts when time and his business allow.
He has also competed for 45 years in the automotive specialty-equipment industry, working at a variety of jobs in retail, wholesale, new-product development and manufacturing.
His first break into the SEMA side of the industry came after graduating from Waltham High School and attending Bentley College, where he studied accounting and finance. Bolio began his SEMA career when his best friend, a local body shop owner, informed him that Carl Carpenter, owner of a speed-parts distribution venture called Auto Racing Equipment Company in Cochituate, Massachusetts, was looking for help. ARE was one of the top five distribution outfits in the country at that time and was located on a dairy farm.
Interestingly, one of Steve’s fellow workers at ARE was Charlie Siegars, who later became the chief engine builder at Hendricks Motorsports under Ray Evernham and is currently director of manufacturing services at Evernham Motorsports. At ARE, Steve met and made an impression on the man who was to serve as his mentor, John Scafidi. (Scafidi himself was named to the SEMA Hall of Fame in 1998.) Even though Bolio was only 25 years old and was considered too inexperienced by some, Scafidi got him hired into the Hurst Performance company, where Bolio worked in manufacturing and product management and eventually became national sales manager. With Bolio’s induction, there are now seven members of that original Hurst sales and marketing team in the SEMA Hall of Fame.
“I had a lot of role models and mentors,” Bolio said, “but John Scafidi had faith in me for some reason. I was the youngest guy at Hurst, and I had pretty much a free hand. Hurst was a heck of a company then. We bought the Schiefer clutch company, and I ended up being senior product manager, though I’m not sure how that happened because I know I didn’t want it. I was also heavily involved with the development of the Schiefer quick-change rear end, which was a phenomenal product. And though I wasn’t really involved with it, the Jaws of Life was another of our major accomplishments.”
As his career progressed, Bolio held key positions with Keystone Wheel and Appliance Wheel, where he worked to restructure the companies’ customer base, reducing the number of direct accounts to make the line more valuable to the distributors and taking sales in the East from $6.3 million to $14.7 million in less than one year. He then devised a plan to spread the base to ensure that the loss of an individual account would not have a catastrophic impact on the company’s sales and profits. “It took about six months and a huge team effort, but we got it done without a hitch,” he recalled, “and that’s something that manufacturers are still trying to figure out today.”
He said that the Keystone organization had the best sales team he’s ever worked with. “I had two manufacturing experiences with people who are legends in the industry,” he said. “When I was at Keystone Wheels, we just kicked ass. People like Chuck Blum [former SEMA president/CEO and Hall of Fame member], Don Turney [former SEMA vice president of marketing], Don Kane, Mike McGarry [currently sales manager for Unique Wheel], Barry Horlick [WIC member] and Steve Swanson [who replaced Bolio on the SEMA board].”
For the past 18 years (as of 2006), Bolio has been a partner with John “Skip” Scafidi, son of his mentor, in the Manufacturers Rep firm of Scafidi-Bolio & Associates. As he gained experience and developed his skills from his earliest days on, Bolio also recognized that the industry needed to organize, regulate and promote itself, and he became a hard-nosed proponent of all things SEMA. His tenure with the organization spans its history, from the first SEMA Show at Dodger Stadium to its most recent iteration in Las Vegas, and it is replete with top-level leadership responsibilities.
Bolio served six years on the SEMA Board of Directors and five years on the SEMA Executive Committee. As the only male member ever elected to the SEMA Businesswoman’s Network Select Committee, Bolio is obviously an adamant proponent and supporter of women’s advancement within the industry. He also headed the SEMA Awards Committee Task Force and serves as a member of the SEMA Show Committee. He currently consults with several of the SEMA councils and offers his time and support for the SEMA Mentoring Program.
Bolio has been an active member of the Manufacturers’ Rep Council (MRC) for many years and serves on its Select Committee. In addition to his involvement with SEMA, Bolio served four years on the Performance Warehouse Association’s Board of Directors. He was previously honored by SEMA with its Rep of the Year award in 1999, and he was recognized as the association’s Person of the Year in 2003. Throughout his life, he has been a force to be reckoned with.
“I tend to be outspoken,” he admitted. “If I think something is wrong, I’m going to say so. I do try to make sure that I have a strong position, and I can honestly say that I’ve never said or done anything involved with SEMA or the industry that I couldn’t back up at least 100% and was in the best interest of all SEMA members. I think being accepted for that—for me to get into the Hall of Fame, which, frankly, was a big surprise—tells me a lot of things. One, that I’m getting old, but also that you can push the issue and still be respected.”
While he is justifiably satisfied with his career and his professional accomplishments, his pride is even more evident when he speaks of his family. “The only thing that I might change would be to not have traveled as much when my three boys were young,” he said, “but Sally did a fantastic job, and I was there at all events unless it was the middle of the week and I had to be on the other side of the country. I have no regrets. I didn’t always make the right decisions, but I’m comfortable with the decisions I did make and what I’ve done.”
And the industry is proud of who he is.