Thursday, 19 December 2013 10:48

Automotive Recyclers Association Hosts 70th Annual Event

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The Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) held their 70th Annual Convention on November 6 through 9 at the Sheraton Convention Center in Phoenix, AZ. Michael Wilson, CEO of ARA, was pleased with the event, and, though they are still finalizing the balance sheet for this year, he believes “the 2013 Convention will go down as the most financially successful Convention in our association’s 70 year history.”

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The event boasted approximately 1000 attendees, no small feat considering the consolidation of larger companies within the industry and the reduction in the number of employees that owners are sending to out-of-state conventions as the economy still recovers from the recent recession. Wilson notes that all associations struggle with this dilemma, partially due to the increased availability of online training and seminars.

Wilson believes that holding the event on the West Coast for the first time in several years attracted several new ARA members as well as longtime members from the West Coast who attended the Convention for the first time. The majority of the automotive aftermarket parts industry is located east of the Mississippi River, but luckily, East Coast dwellers were also willing to travel in order to attend this valuable event.

ARA’s 2013 Convention featured nearly 50 educational sessions, all packed into three days. Wilson says “it was a great overall package. We offered something for everyone, from small mom-and-pop automotive recycling facilities to large corporations.” He was particularly pleased with the participation of several industry speakers in particular, fellow auto recyclers Ron Sturgeon and Rob Rainwater who are both well-respected favorites within the auto recycling community.

Attendees were also excited by the presentation given by WD-40 President and CEO, Garry Ridge, who discussed his 2009 book, “Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called ‘Don’t Mark My Paper, Help me Get An A’”, co-authored by Ken Blanchard. Ridge’s presentation took a look at employees as an asset and discussed how to focus on utilizing and improving this asset. Wilson states, “it was a good message, and his presentation was well-received by the many business owners in the audience.”

Another important presentation was given by former U. S. Representative J. D. Hayworth from Arizona, entitled “A Recovering Congressman’s Guide to Survival on Capitol Hill.” Hayworth discussed the importance of regulatory rule making process. According to Wilson, Hayworth was full of energy and energized the recyclers about the importance of getting involved in the governmental arena.

AudaExplore’s Michael Anderson, along with Bob Jabjiniak from CCC Information Systems, spoke about the importance of data integrity and doing a better job of parts grading as it relates to the electronic parts procurement. Because technology now allows companies the ability to filter estimates and parts preferences more effectively, utilizing ARA parts grading standards can help improve the quality of the parts being purchased, if used correctly.

ARA also made several important announcements during the Convention. On November 6, the association announced that they are moving forward with improvements to their Certified Automotive Recyclers (CAR) Program, and they plan to launch a conversion to a points-based system in January 2014. Currently, a sub-set of the committee is working on fine-tuning the conversion in order to roll it out for the new year. Auto recyclers and affiliate chapters that are already participating in the CAR Program will be grandfathered in for 2014 and rolled over to the new system in January 2015.

Immediately following the Convention, ARA hosted an International Roundtable on Automotive Recycling with featured keynote speaker Tony Aquila, founder, chairman and CEO of Solera Companies. Approximately 75 attendees, representing eight different counties, gathered to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced across the industry worldwide and to brainstorm possible solutions.

Wilson says that ARA’s 2013 Convention was “one of our most financially successful events ever. As an association, we have been lucky to remain very steady; however, consolidation has significantly affected our attendance over the past ten years.” As such, ARA plans to push for more corporate input and support to provide additional training opportunities that attract more owners and employees.

When discussing his expectations for the Convention and the reasons it is important to the industry at-large, Wilson had plenty to say. First, this type of event provides an efficient marketplace for industry vendors and members with significant buying power to interact. Since around 90 percent of attendees are automotive recycling business owners, they are able to make executive-level purchasing decisions, creating a good situation for vendors. Wilson explains, “we want it to be successful for both our members and vendors.”

The Convention provides an “important funding revenue for the association so we can invest in more programs for our members. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for us to meet with our current members, as well as prospective members, to present our benefits and promote our association’s value by highlighting the specific products and services ARA provides its membership. Talking to our members allows us to gain a better understanding of their needs so that we can take full advantage the collaborative power a united association membership base can provide and focus that energy heading into 2014,” Wilson explains.

The main benefits of attending these types of functions are obvious: education and networking. As vehicles become more sophisticated due to technological advances, ARA members need to stay informed on these updates, and the Convention serves as a means of providing this type of information. The discussions and feedback garnered also aids ARA in determining how to move forward.

Networking is also a key ingredient in the success of association events as it allows ARA members to benchmark themselves and their peers in the industry in order to determine how others may have overcome certain difficulties. Many members know each other since their businesses have been passed along to multiple generations, and Wilson describes, “it’s like a family reunion. It’s good for all those folks to get together to talk about the industry and the various trends.”

By granting ARA staff a chance to directly interact with members, the Convention allows them to gain valuable industry insight. In turn, they use this insight to identify industry challenges and work with members on potential solutions. All of this “allows us to better carry out our role in protecting the industry,” Wilson explains.

ARA has a lot of projects in progress. ARA Direct, their online salvage auction program, is starting to come together, with discussions taking place with insurers and auto wreckers to secure salvage vehicles for the auction. ARA has invested a lot of time and effort into this project, and Wilson believes it will be successful in the first quarter of 2014.

ARA is also focused on seeking opportunities to increase their outreach to other sectors of the industry, such as collision and mechanical repair, as well as the insurance industry. Wilson hopes this will provide a better understanding of common issues and that, as an industry, they will be able to uncover ways to work collaboratively, resolve shared problems and move forward together.

In the coming months, ARA will begin preparing for their mid-year Board of Directors meeting, annual Hill Day Event and Legislative Summit. They are moving their annual visit to Washington, D. C. from March to early June 2014 so that more members will be able to participate. Wilson explains, “this will allow many family-owned businesses to bring their children to see the Capitol and learn about the legislative process. Many of them are growing up in this industry, so it’s important to teach them early on about the importance of being involved.”

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