By Shan Lathem• ARA President
ARA exists to promote and protect the right of auto recyclers to sell their parts into the best market possible. And there are many ways to do that. There is no one standard operating procedure for selling recycled auto parts. And I want you to know that the volunteers that make up the Executive Committee reflect that. We reflect you.
We are full-service, self-service, multi-site, large and small operators. We are second generation, third generation and founders. We represent three generations of thinking, and we are as diverse in the type of operations we run as we are in the way we run them. This is one of the things I most appreciate about being part of the Executive Committee (EC). We are indeed different, but it is our love for this industry that brings us together.
It’s always interesting and exciting when we have a new member join the EC, getting a new and fresh perspective, learning each other’s personalities, what drives them, what vision they have for our industry, the association and seeing that transformation of the leadership committee is exciting. I feel so blessed to be on the EC with this group – Marty, Nick, Eric and Shannon. Marty has set the bar high, like Marty does, and I’m grateful that I have him for another year, sharing his wisdom and leadership with us as immediate past president of ARA.
Like so many of us, I am a second generation automotive recycler. I grew up going to work with my parents and brother. My mom and dad had many automotive-related businesses – convenience stores, repair shops, towing, used car lot, finance company, and, of course, the salvage yard.
Now mom is retired and sadly both my brother and father have passed. I know my dad would be proud that his legacy lives on and that drives me. I have two smart, beautiful daughters, 22 and 20, Madison and Kaitlyn, who are both in college and working for me part time.
My mom and dad built their businesses and lived their lives based on doing the right thing. It was important to them that our name meant honesty and integrity. Whether it was in the community or within our business, this was always a guiding principle and continues to be how we operate today.
I am driven to succeed. As a business owner, we have to be sure to tell our team when they’re doing good. But as an owner, no one is going to tell you when you’re doing a good job! You must find your satisfaction in your work.
If you don’t enjoy the work, no amount of “atta boys” is going to help. Yes, the numbers tell a story, and I’m proud of what my team has accomplished over the past several years. Very proud. If it were not for the amazing job they do day in and day out, I would not be able to serve on the EC. So, surround yourself with people who are better than you, who challenge you, and who care about the things you care about in business. That’s what success looks like for me.
I used to feel as if there was a chasm between those who served, and those of us who ran our businesses. So, I decided to get involved. And to be honest – at the time I didn’t really know the difference between ARA and URG, and I still think some people are confused about this. URG produces great products that help us make money. But it is crystal clear to me that without ARA monitoring legislation and representing and fighting for recyclers’ rights, we would be in trouble and likely our businesses would not be what they are today, if they existed at all. And that’s an ongoing battle.
The EC is made up of people wanting to move our industry forward, together, because together we can do more. I’m proud to be a part of this team. And I would like to encourage everyone to get involved. I started by volunteering at my state level on the convention committee
(Go FADRA!). You don’t have to take a public facing position to contribute, there are so many opportunities.
Reach out and ask us, if you are interested.
I’m often asked about being a woman in “a man’s world.” What are the challenges? How is it different for me compared to my male counterparts? It’s really no different I suppose. Except for the part where if you’re quiet then you’re weak, and if you speak your mind, you’re a b…., well, you know. Honestly, I don’t really like to make that a topic of conversation, but I absolutely owe a debt of gratitude to those brave women who blazed the trail before me. I’m referring to past presidents Ginny Whelan, Sandy Blalock and Linda Pitman. Because of their courage and willingness to lead, it has made it easier for everyone in the industry to accept women in leadership roles. Thankfully we are seeing more and more women-owned facilities, women-led vendor organizations, women-led committee chair people and the list goes on and on. Balance is good.
Over the last year or so we have been working on programs that will elevate the recycler. As Scott Robertson has often said, “We are the most misunderstood industry in the world.” We get a bad rap. Historically we were not viewed as supply chain partners, or as environmentally conscious business owners, or as leaders in the community. We were dismissed. For all the bad things COVID introduced, it did help to shine a light on our ability to deliver parts that the OEs were unable to provide during supply chain issues.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of ARA Executive Director Sandy Blalock, we have begun to see doors open for us. OEs are now considering having our parts (which are really their parts) be sourced for repairs.
Thanks to the ARA Certified Automotive Recycler (CAR) program, trust in our product is continuing to grow. Being certified makes a difference. We are seeing large companies – such as eBay – that will only allow the certified automotive recycler the ability to sell parts through specific platforms. There is the potential for only certified recyclers to be able to purchase salvaged vehicles through some channels.
Our industry has been green long before “going green” was a buzz phrase. How can we leverage for the recyclers our ability to create carbon credits? We are working on a study that will quantify the recycling/reuse of some of our top-selling parts to carbon credits. Will we be able to sell those credits?
Will companies be looking to offset their carbon footprint by purchasing resources that provide credits? We hope so.
So much focus has been on the growing electric vehicle market and how that will affect our industry. ARA has been tracking this on your behalf for years. As a result, ARA was first to produce the training and certification program made specifically for EVs and as a free member benefit through the ARA University. This program is opening doors for our industry in places where doors have been locked for decades. ARA has been participating in the Suppliers Partnership, NAATBAAT, and more! We not only have a legitimate voice in these circles, but we are being pursued as the experts, and being called “superheroes!” This is largely because we have a certification program in place.
We will continue to search for and secure endorsements for the CAR program that will continue to open more and more doors for our industry and the individual recycler.
I want my time as President to be spent focused on continuing the mission of expanding awareness and training. I want more people to know what our great industry does and how it benefits our communities and our planet. I want more recyclers to embrace certification and I want to help deepen the great relationships that have begun with the OEs.
So, if there is one piece of advice that has served me well, and I wish to pass along, it is this: When you are offered a seat at the table, you take it! That’s what ARA is doing with the OEs, the collision industry, the battery industry, and many others. That is what I did when I joined FADRA. That is what I did when I was asked to join the Executive Committee for ARA.
By the way, this is your invitation to the table as well. We need you. We need your experience, and your ideas. I already know you’re passionate about the business or you wouldn’t be reading this magazine. So come, come to the table. Take a seat on a committee and be a part of this great Association and share your experience.
I am truly humbled and appreciate the opportunity to serve our great industry at this level. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out.