ARA's annual gathering delivered, as promised, hearty helpings of knowledge, fun, and inspiration in Texas-sized servings. It even ended with a rousing celebration dinner.
Everything's bigger in Texas and that includes the 67th Annual ARA Convention & Exposition October 20 through 23 at the beautiful Austin Renaissance Hotel. The Convention attracted a big crowd of 1,039 who enjoyed a bigger offering of classes and workshops than last year and a bigger Trade Show. With $108,000 in corporate sponsorships, the 2010 Convention & Exposition set a new record for financial support.
The Convention was the finale for a big year for ARA, a year that ARA CEO Michael Wilson described as "dynamic," during the ARA Annual Membership Meeting held the second day of the event. Wilson noted that 2010 brought in 167 new members, a 35 percent expansion, and the best percentage increase the organization has seen since 1992. "It's equally important to retain members, and we had a 95 percent retention rate for the year, adding up to an exciting year of positive changes," he added.
Outgoing President Bill Tolpa was equally proud of ARA's accomplishments, and mentioned ones like added benefits in his farewell speech at the dinner. But the most moving moments came during a standing ovationforTolpa at the dinner. Then later, Randy and Fran Reitman, who could not attend the convention, had a crystal vase presented to Tolpa on their behalf for his service to ARA. Both moments were a display of appreciation from the membership to Tolpa for his year as President, which was laced with many accomplishments.
The convention committee meetings started early on Wednesday morning to accommodate an afternoon Golf Outing at Barton Creek. The golfers returned in time to enjoy a welcome reception and the start of several days of networking. With a buzz in the air, members in attendance were eager to network, learn something new, and explore new technology that can impact their bottom line.
Best, Newest on Display
While all of the ARA convention appeared to have delivered on its promises, the 2010 Expo was the place to be. One exhibitor, Tim Patrick of Cotaco Creek Converters, Inc. said it was the "best show in terms of leads I've ever been to."
The Austin Convention was the second ARA convention for Dave Tittle and his wife Anne, of Tittle's AutoWrecking and Recycling, Galion, Ohio. The Tittles, who have been in the auto recycling business for about five years, are committed to learning everything they can about their chosen industry, as quickly as they can, from experts who can help them avoid some common pitfalls. Testimony of the couple's dedication to their business, Dave Tittle was named as one of three recipients of the Automotive Recycling magazine 2010 Trend Setter Awards.
The Convention is the ideal place to learn, both in formal sessions and informally from other recyclers and vendors, Tittle said, noting that the Trade Show was one of the highlights for him and his wife this year. "We were able to spend a lot of time with certain vendors and learn so much more about how to run our business better, from equipment to insurance," he said. "The vendors at the Trade Show were very worthwhile for us."
Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon, more than 150 vendors and suppliers filled the hotel ballroom for the Trade Show. The show attracted a number of first-time exhibitors as well as long-time ARA friends. Diamond Sponsor Brock Supply, an ARA member since 1968, had one of the most eyecatching displays with Jerry Brock's prized 1958 Chevy 525 wrecker fully restored to its original glory in honor of his company's 50th anniversary.
"The exhibit hall was packed every minute of the day," observed ARA Senior Membership Consultant D.J. Harrington. "It's very exciting when we see vendors like Phoenix Automotive Cores, who [ARA Past President] Sandy Blalock met just four years ago at the Arizona show when they had a 10-by-10 booth and now has become an unforgettable presence complete with their Clint Black-like cowboy outfits [worn at the barbeque] and giveaway photos of attendees."
Gold Sponsor and faithful ARA supporter Al-jon Manufacturing was among the many suppliers that return to the show year after year. The reason, says Sales Manager Curt Spry, is that no other show delivers the prime demographic that the ARA Trade Show does. "The ARA show gives Al-jon and our sales people the opportunity to network with over 500-plus auto recyclers at one destination," he said. "It is important to Al-jon to support the ARA and what they do for us, and being a Gold sponsor reflects this."
For Hollander, a Solera company, Diamond Sponsor and long-time ARA supporter, the Trade Show provided the ideal venue to introduce recyclers to their newest products, Hollander e-Link and Audatex PartsView. "We literally had a line all the time of people wanting to test PartsView or see a demo," said PartsView sales specialist Mary Moberg.
"Hollander was pleased to support the ARA as a Diamond Sponsor at this year's Convention," added Rich Lauria, Hollander's Managing Director. "The convention provided an excellent opportunity for recyclers to learn about technology and best practices to help their business grow. For Hollander, the networking opportunities were strong, and our boothwas very busy. As always, it is a privilege to work with the ARA, and I will continue to encourage even more collaboration in the future."
Moberg, who is new to Hollander and the auto recycling industry, added that she was impressed by her first ARA Convention. "To see the networking and sharing of information thatwent onwas amazing," she said. "ARAmembers are some of the nicest, warmest, friendliest people I have evermet in business. I immediately felt at home and part of 'the family.'
Learning, ARA Style
The Convention delivered not only more educational sessions than in previous events, but sessions that offered quality content with excellent take-aways for success. There was a wide selection of presentations, classes, and workshops that covered every aspect of the industry. In fact, by member request, the 2010 schedule packed in 40 percentmore educational sessions than were available at the 2009 convention.
Chris LoCurto delivered a memorable keynote address, "EntreLeadership," that inspired, entertained, and left his audience wanting to hear more fromthis gifted speaker. In a departure fromthe usual leadership lecture, LoCurto focused on how recyclers can help employees learn tomake good decisions that will help their business grow. "Aleader's job is tomake sure your employees can grow," he said. During his presentation, he challenged recyclers to learn the difference between persuasive power and positional power and lead by example with a dedication to excellence in even the smallest task. (Look for a feature article from LoCurto in a future issue.)
In keeping with the industry's continued technological evolution, numerous sessions were available on Internet sales andmarketing andWeb-based employee training through ARA University. Other popular sessions covered business planning, legislation, business insurance, and optimizing profits from salvage.
Long-time ARA member Ed Salvi, of Barger- MattsonAuto Salvage, with six locations in Idaho, and a veteran of half a dozen conventions said he was impressed by the curriculum in Austin. "This was a very worthwhile investment for us," he said. "The quality of the educational sessionswas at a higher level than it ever has been."
ARA University (ARAU), the organization's online training resource, enticed Convention attendees with a free 60-day "test drive" that provides access to ARAU's extensive course offerings. (Recyclers can still take advantage of this great promotion by contacting ARAU at 888-385-1005.)
Young recyclers like Mark Salvi, who accompanied his father,were quick to get in on the sessions about using technology more effectively. For Salvi, 22, this was his second ARA convention and his first as an adult. (He was 16 at his first convention in Tucson.)
"This time I really enjoyed every aspect," the younger Salvi said. "Besides the sessions being informative across the board, it was great to interact with other recyclers in an informal setting and hear that we all share the same problems and frustrations."
Networking, Of Course
The opportunity to learn from other recyclers at any age is always a highlight of the ARA Convention, Harrington noted. "I believe you can learn more from the guy next to you who has the same problem you do," he explained. "Fellow recyclers shorten your learning curve because they are always willing to share what they are doing for compliance, uniforms, or whatever. This is the stuff you learn over a glass of your favorite beverage, out in the hallways, talking."
"Networking with recyclers is always valuable, regardless of how long you've been in the business," Ed Salvi added. "The level of professionalism in our industry is advancing all the time," he said. "That is most obvious when visiting with other recyclers and hearing what they have found to be successful in their business."
First-time attendee and speaker Andy Latham, from Bluecycle, the UK's online marketplace for salvage auctions, presented a session on ethical auto recycling from the UK/European perspective. "The seminar was well received with lots of support from UK and Canadian delegates and a number of requests for copies of the Ethical Auto Recycling paper that I have produced," he said. "In fact, the seminar was so well received by one delegate that he quoted me directly in his own seminar a few hours later."
The educational sessions expanded his knowledge of theU.S. recycling industry, Latham added. As the industry takes its place in the global economy, he suggests more sessions on global salvage at future conventions. In fact, delegates from six of countries were in attendance this year, from the UK, Canada, Sweden, Japan, The Netherlands, and Mexico.
The traditional Friday evening fundraiser and barbecue, graciously hosted by Dan Snyder and his team at Snyder's Recycled Auto and Truck Parts, Holland, Texas, took on a true Texas flavor, complete with a mechanical bull-riding competition to challenge all the buckaroo wannabes in the crowd (see sidebar on page 26).Approximately two dozenARA members of all ages rose to the challenge, paying $200 each to test their bullriding talents through four elimination rounds. All the entry fees went to the ARA Scholarship Foundation, which was the biggest winner of the night, taking home a grand total of almost $65,000 from all convention fundraising activities.
Latham, who was traveling by himself, enjoyed the opportunity to chat informally at the Friday night event with ARA members and other presenters. "It was a great opportunity to meet a number of different people while traveling to and fromthe event and at the event itself," he said. "I did not gravitate towards colleagues or people that I knew from previous events so was very happy to talk to a lot of delegates from all over the U.S."
Ed Salvi summed up the response of many of the members in attendance when he said, "I was very impressed. This Convention was so good, we're already planning for next year in Charlotte."
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