Going It Alone Isn’t An Option

Jul 1, 2023 | Industry

By Shan Lathem • ARA President

There is something I really enjoy about my career in automotive recycling, and I am sure many of you will agree. There are few industries like ours that collaborates with our competitors. We may not share client lists or sales tactics, but we will share experiences about most anything else to help another recycler. My business is better because I know you! Many of you have shared from platforms and hallways about what you know, and it has inspired me to want to know more and share it with others as well. This is the reason I got involved in leadership of the FADRA state association and now with ARA.

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As a second-generation auto recycler, it isn’t good enough to do things the way my parents did. I must keep up with the times, and that means heading into unknown territory, like learning more AI and EVs, which makes me nervous if I am being honest. Yet, I know I have people I can lean on, ask questions of, or just hang around to inspire me to make the necessary changes I need to grow my business the way I want to grow it. Maybe you too are excited for more opportunity, but a little nervous of the impact it will ultimately have. Together, we can figure it out.

When you think about our 80-year history, being celebrated at the 80th Annual ARA Convention, just imagine the number of family businesses that have shared information to bring us to where we are today. It is remarkable that we have been able to maintain this industry through entrepreneurially minded men and women – trailblazers in their own generations. There is no manual to run an auto recycling business, and no two businesses are alike. This is unique, and yet we manage to run successful businesses. Or maybe this is what makes us successful – our ingenuity.

We must also acknowledge the people we employ who keep the business running every day. While we are working on the business, they are working in the business, to keep it moving. Think about the number of employees, and their families, that have benefited from working in our industry over the last 80 years. While we complain about the lack of talent available to us, many of us have legacy employees, who have worked most or all their career in our business. How lucky are we to have an industry where this still occurs.

For me, I want to share about Sandra Adams. Sandra started with me as a title clerk, moved into bookkeeping with no experience, but always had a drive to learn and accept any challenge that was presented to her. As bookkeeper, she thrived and eventually became the Office Manager. When I was invited to become part of the EC for ARA, I knew my time at Cocoa Auto Salvage would be limited during my term, so I needed to hire a manager. Sandra helped me in the interview process, and we hired a few people that just didn’t work out. We were both frustrated. Eventually, I looked at her and asked, ‘do you want to try this? I think you can do it!’  Hesitantly, she accepted the position. Under her leadership, the business grew by leaps and bounds. She learned things she never thought she would know. I watched her grow professionally, as she took great care of the business like it was her own. 

I can trust Sandra completely; and I know that if other employees, the business, or I need her help, she is there without question. She is one of the smartest people I know and isn’t afraid of hard work or taking on a challenge. What she was able to accomplish even surprised her. If it wasn’t for her stepping up and taking on that role, I would not have been able to fulfill my responsibilities in my seat with ARA.

Sandra has been with me 23 years. Earlier this year, she decided to step back, and gave up the day-to-day operations management, but she is still and will continue to be an integral part of Cocoa Auto Salvage. No one person can do this business alone, and trusted employees like Sandra should be valued for their contributions to the overall industry. They make it work.

As we celebrate our 80 years at the Annual Convention, remember that it is one place that you see everything that is new and changing. Stay on top of it, and don’t get left behind. If you are new to ARA, the annual meeting can be overwhelming at first. There is so much going on, so many people, so much information. I encourage you to engage and put what you learn into practice. It makes a huge difference in the trajectory of your business.

Let’s keep making history together! 

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