The Magic of Change
ARA's 69th Annual Convention & Expo helped auto recyclers gain insight to increase their profitability for the future.
I came here to get more information, especially to help with marketing our business,” said Cody Howard. “I think it’s interesting to get a more global perspective and understand other’s perspectives within the industry. It also gives me a chance to share my perspectives. It’s been really interesting.”

This was the first ARA Convention that Howard, from River City Recycling in Virginia, has attended and he was pleased with what he learned.

With the beautiful backdrop of the Gaylord Palms Resort and the many theme parks in Orlando, Florida, automotive recyclers and over 100 exhibitors (a record number) convened to attend ARA’s 69th Annual Convention and Exposition in October. There were many familiar faces as long-time ARA members caught up with each other but there were many new faces like Howard’s this year as well.

This was also the first time that Nick Elia and Ian Bell, from the UK, attended an ARA convention and exposition.

“We attended the International Roundtable (IRT) in Liverpool as an exhibitor,” said Bell. “This is our first ARA convention. We came to see what’s going on in the industry in the U.S. and what we could take back and use in the UK.

“We have gathered some inspiring ideas and I’ve really learned a lot from the trade show – viewing the equipment and meeting the different vendors,” said Elia. “If we start to use some of the systems used in the U.S. in a big way, such as an Interchange, we could really change our industry in the UK.”

George, Roberto, and Roxana Torres recently moved to Florida and are starting a new yard, Central Florida Auto Yards. For them, the convention proved a valuable source of information and contacts to help them build their business.

“We’ve made good contacts already just walking around the trade show,” said George. “We are really finding it worthwhile to be here.”

Rick Wyen from Walt’s Auto, Springfield, Ohio, has been attending the annual ARA convention for many years. This year he brought his three sons who are also involved in the business.

“We always find something exciting at the ARA Convention and Exposition,” said Wyen. “We get so excited about what we’re learning and new ways to do things and we want to take them and implement them in our business.”

Honorary Lifetime Member Greg Freeman, from Missouri, said, “I don’t believe I’ve missed an annual convention since 1977. When I go home and they ask what I did while I was gone, I say I went to see family.”

Networking and Building Your Business

One of the most valuable things that most attendees gain from an ARA annual event is valuable friendships and a strong network of other auto recyclers. This year was no exception as they all gathered to exchange ideas, advice, and share in a bit of fun.

A recent addition to the networking events, the Third Annual Golf Tournament was held on Tuesday, October 23rd at the beautiful Celebration Golf Club. Twenty-nine golfers hit the greens, with the longest drive going to Garrett Morrison, and the first place foursome going to Chuck Ossenkop, Dale Reed, Doug Reinert, and Michael Wilson.

During the tournament, Logan Oil hosted a “Beat the Pro Hole” and anyone who drove the ball closer to the hole than their pro, the company’s CEO Chris Knightly, won a sleeve of balls as well as a $25 donation to the ARA. Thanks to this event, $450 was donated to ARA to further its important work.

A longstanding and popular event, the yard tour, was hosted by GreenStar Auto Recyclers at their new, impressive state-of-the-art facility in Orlando.

Recyclers were treated to a barbecue, complete with a fussball table, a D.J., popcorn, and hot dog stands. Neil Harrow, GreenStar Auto Recyclers owner, says he wanted to add some fun to the event and give fellow recyclers a New York-style welcome.

“I brought my own hot dog and popcorn stand so we could have a little taste of New York and do something a little special for the guys,” said Harrow, a former New Yorker. “I’m glad to have had the opportunity to show the others our new facility and hope it was a great time for everyone.”

Exposition Excellence

The 69th Annual Exposition kicked off with the Past President’s Reception and a record number of vendors this year – topping 100. Phoenix Automotive Cores drew a lot of attention as they donned “gator gear,” and featured a live baby gator to attract attendees to their booth. Participants were thrilled to get a chance to hold the alligator and receive a photo to prove it.

Across the exhibition hall, Duesmann and Hensel Recycling, based in West Berlin, New Jersey held their very own Octoberfest, complete with imported German beer and lederhosen. Clemens Hensel, one of the owners, traveled from Germany to attend the expo. “We meet so many of our customers here that it is worth the trip from Germany,” said Hensel. “For me, personally, I like to get to know my customers and this is a great way to put a name to a face.”

Bob Henning, who works from the company’s New Jersey location agrees. “This is our third ARA convention and expo and it’s a great show. We make a lot of contacts and have a lot of fun at the same time.”

Throughout the exposition, there were several fundraisers to benefit ARA’s Educational Foundation. Some of the activities included the “Bronco Gator,” an electronic gator that only the most courageous dared to ride. The ride, sponsored by Phoenix Automotive Cores, attracted many brave opponents. The winners were: Robert Buessing, the son of Past-President Mark Buessing, who held on for 32 seconds to take the Bronze; Peyton Wright, son of President Chris Wright, received Silver for lasting 35 seconds, and Gold was awarded to Cody Reinert, son of Immediate Past-President Doug Reinert, who stayed on for 51 seconds.

There were also fun photo booths stationed throughout the exposition hall that many enjoyed while donating to the Educational Foundation.

The ARA Educational Foundation will use the new funds raised, totaling $40,000, to continue to provide  top-notch up-to-date training on ARA University, as well as other educational programs of value.

Progress By Committee

The Convention is a time when all are reminded that ARA is a membership-driven organization. ARA depends on the commitment and wealth of information and ideas that its members bring to the table, especially when it comes to the various committees that help to shape the industry. These volunteers give their time to make a difference to the industry as a whole.

The diverse committees include Safety, Government Affairs, Electronic Commerce, Events Advisory, Technical Advisory, Gold Seal, CAR, Airbag, as well as the Scholarship Foundation, and the Educational Foundation. Others that met were Affiliate Chapters, and the Regional and At-Large Directors.

On Wednesday, the first day of the convention, each group discussed progress on various issues and set goals for the upcoming year. The committee chairs addressed the ARA membership at the Annual Membership meeting on Thursday morning. Here are some of the highlights:

To stress the importance of committee work, President Randy Reitman encouraged the younger generation to step up and get involved.

“ARA needs new faces to join the familiar ones,” he said. “The newer generation needs to come up in this industry. It’s you young-bloods that are going to make the industry strong in the future. When we work together, great things are accomplished.”

It appears that Andrew MacDonald, agrees. He recently joined the family business as an co-owner of Maritime Auto Parts. While he is the newest and youngest committee chair, serving for the Technical Advisory Committee, don’t let this fool you. Growing up, he witnessed his parents, Ed and Lana MacDonald find success through service to the industry, and he brings a wealth of experience from his work as a Quality Control Engineering and Project Manager, Purchasing, with Toyota. He has also presented discussion papers to the Society of Automotive Engineers on the auto recycling industry.

MacDonald reminded attendees about using the Hybrid Vehicle Dismantling Guide as a resource in their facility, and that it is still available for purchase through ARA. The committee is also compiling statistics and data from different regions on all stormwater activity that occurs to better pinpoint what the local issues are and how to help recyclers address them in their business and with local legislators. Please report any local stormwater regulation changes to the committee.

The Electronic Commerce Committee, then-chaired by Greg Beagell, debuted the recently-developed ARA Recycled Parts Guide online database. This electronic expansion of the parts guide brings the huge paper document of common descriptions online. According to Beagell, it’s goal is to describe parts in a way that people will understand and to continue the drive for a unified way to describe parts across the industry.  This reference tool can assist a company develop its online descriptions to increase its online sales activity. 

The free database, hosted on the ARA website, will assist inventory personnel, parts buyers, and insurance estimators speak the same language when discussing a part. The first audience it speaks to is our own, noted Shannon Nordstrom, committee member. “We need to use this internally so the correct standards and descriptions are distributed uniformly.”

It illustrates to a buyer, like a body shop, what comes with a part they need, and includes images and illustrations where available. It details, says Beagell, “what a buyer should expect from an auto recycler when they are purchasing the part.” 

The CAR Committee, chaired by Shannon Nordstrom, reported that they added 48 new CAR members since last year.

“The Certified Automotive Recyclers Program recognizes automotive recyclers who meet the program’s high standards in four areas: General Business, Environmental, Safety, and Licensing,” he explained. “We are proud to have 367 Certified Automotive Recyclers currently in the program. They are a cornerstone of our association as we strive to provide quality service and parts. We need your support to continue the standard of excellence in the industry.”

Doug Reinert, chair of the recently-formed Safety Committee, said, “Our goal is to help businesses meet OSHA requirements as well as to save money and protect employees.” They have published five safety tips thus far, and plan to produce them in Spanish, as well. They will work with E-CAR and other committees to complement their safety-related efforts.

If you have never served on a committee before and would like to join with your fellow recyclers to make a difference in this industry, please contact the ARA office to discuss the opportunities available.

Insights to Better Business

This year, there were even more educational seminars, 40 in all. They covered a wide range of topics from how to maximize use of industry specific tools, like Car-Part Pro™, Bid-Buddy, and the Interchange to name a few, making used tires a cash crop, excellence in phone skills for better customer service, to the latest trends in the automotive technology, and how those changes will affect the industry.

Industry leaders in collision repair, e-mail marketing, international auto recycling, I-CAR, hybrid vehicles, and more, as well as speakers with insider knowledge of the industry created a buzz in the halls as they delivered practical information that were realistic and on-point. 

Frank Heckenast and Sherri Heckenast, a father/daughter duo in the u-pull-it business shared “Small Details Lead to Big Profits” with a no-apologies style. Both demanded more from attendees on making a good impression on customers in every area of their business, and how it leads to profits.

Vice President of East Coast Auto Salvage Taia Cessana presented “The Cost of Bad Customer Service.” She highlighted, to an attentive crowd, how business is lost with every poorly handled phone call, and shared how she even checks up on competing and partnering yards to see how they treat customers on the phone.

In his session, “Don’t Short Yourself on Vehicle Purchasing” Rian Garner, of Counts Consulting, presented practical tips on how to maximize your buying by using the right person and other tips to enhance your bottom line. He pushed attendees to look beyond the obvious candidates to buy inventory.

“Think about it,” said Garner. “Some have natural ability and others have to work harder to succeed. That is especially true when it comes to purchasing cars. Your buyer is the most important person in the business.” He suggests looking to your best salesperson in your business to help with purchasing, or even your best inventory management person who might also be trained to handle or help with purchasing. Both know what sells and what doesn’t.

He encourages using your inventory management system to examine all the data to determine what in inventory really sells and to think about what each car will cost them. He notes, “Just because a car is cheap doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for your business.”

ARA Past President, Bill Tolpa, Tolpa’s Auto Parts of New York, was an attendee. “We want to always stay on top of the industry,” said Tolpa. “This has been a great refresher course and there are always tidbits we can pick up. There is always something that we can use.”

Dan Snyder of Snyder’s Certified Auto, in Holland, Texas, enjoyed the session as well.

“Buying is one of the most important parts of our business,” said Snyder. “Most of us owners, have a hard time turning loose the checkbook to let someone else do the buying. The tools available today need someone who is patient, steady, and analytical as the perfect buyer. Use the tools and information available and teach the rules to someone who can buy for you.”

Keynote speaker Tom Morris, Ph.D., Chairman of the Morris Institute of Human Values, presented “True Success – The Art of Achievement in Times of Change,” which proved to be a timely and relevant message for the automotive recycling community. 

“Everyone gets so comfortable with the success they’ve recently had that no one wants to get of their comfort zone and set new goals and go a little higher,” said Morris. “It’s not the course ahead – everyone today is yelling it is a tough course with the economy, but it’s not about the course – but what you bring to the course.”

He taught on his plan for achievement, The 7 Cs of Success, which he feels are necessary to secure it:
1. A clear CONCEPTION of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imagined.
2. A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain the goal.
3. A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach the goal.
4. A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.
5. An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we are doing.
6. A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on a proper course.
7. A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way.

Donald Cooper, motivational speaker (at right), also packed the room as he shared practical and cut-to-the-chase ways to create an extraordinary life and business. His pragmatic sessions served to remind attendees that “life is a special occasion,” and that they should try different experiences every week. It was a refreshing perspective on why you should be in business.

He also emphasized the need for a plan of action, and suggested you start with the end result you want, such as the money you want after taxes, and figure out the math and goals that need to be met from that perspective. He said, “People are searching for people to be loyal to. Define yourself by how you help them. Get good at it and then brag about it.”

Many other interesting seminars will be featured topics in this year’s magazine, so stay tuned to get educated and reminded of all the important information that came from this spectacular, magical event.

And, we must tell you that next year’s convention destination is Phoenix, Arizona, so mark your calendars to head west with your fellow ARA members on November 6-9, 2013!

Michelle Keadle-Taylor is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia.

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