By Shan Lathem • ARA President
Every three years, the ARA hosts a Strategic Planning Meeting to identify goals, review progress and chart a path for the Association to continue to move forward. This year’s meeting was held in my home state (presidential perk) of Florida – specifically, in Clearwater, Florida on the 4th and 5th of January. The Executive Committee, Board of Directors, Committee Chairs, and Staff were present. Additionally, as is customary, a few strategic industry partners were invited to participate as well. We spent some time taking inventory of our progress since the last SPM but mostly looked forward to seeing how best the Association can serve its members.
There will be a recap of the full plan in next issue, as we are still working to finalize its approval. A high-level summary is that there are four strategic pillars that the Association works on. Although each pillar has its own merits, they are all intertwined and overlapping.
During my time on the EC, we have often spoken about how misunderstood our industry is. This may have been the hill that past-president Scott Robertson Jr. planted his flag on. And as a result, we launched the ARA Awareness Campaign (found at https://www.a-r-a.org/choose-
recycled-parts-marketing-campaign.html). We recognize that there is very little understanding of what a professional automotive dismantler does, and how we do it.
Heck, even our name leaves some interpretation, right? The average person doesn’t know that ARA is comprised of companies that provide quality, ROE® to the consumer. Awareness – it’s a real thing that takes time, energy, and money. I feel strongly about this. So, for this reason when we broke up into small groups to work on pillars, I chose to work in the branding sub-group. In my opinion, it all starts there. If people don’t know who we are or what we do, how do you get them to buy into our products?
Side story – I knew my own child would have an issue with a vehicle that had been wrecked and repaired with recycled parts, so I left that little tidbit out when I presented her with her first car when she turned 16 – a big red bow on top of that pretty white Malibu. It was a great moment – one that I was not going to let be ruined by me telling her how proud I was of the transformation since I had purchased it. It’s a mindset. Even in my house. So, if a person who has benefited so much from this industry can’t see the value, how do we get people that have never even heard of us to see it? I know, my fault, but just work with me here …
A few days after our meeting in Clearwater, I was flying to my Profit Team meeting in Dallas. I was searching Delta’s video database for something to watch. I usually go with something like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations or finding a house in the Bahamas – something that doesn’t take much thought but is fun and easy to watch. Being fresh out of such an inspirational “think tank” I must have been feeling a little extra thirsty for inspiration.
I clicked on the TED talk options and came across a video that featured a talk about inspirational leaders. I tuned in and found the “Ah ha!” I was needing. The gist of it was that most often companies try to tell their audience, their potential customers, how great their product is and the reasons why they should consider purchasing from them. But the true standouts go about this in an entirely opposite way. So many times, and especially with twentysomethings and thirtysomethings, it’s the “why” that gets their attention, and creates the interest in your product. People follow those that lead – not for the person, but for their own personal reasons that the person represents – because they have connected to the “why.”
We have a story to tell as automotive recyclers. Our product is good, no doubt. At a time when we are looking to gain more traction in the marketplace, we have to tell our story. And it is a compelling one! Forever “green,” environmentally sustainable, carbon negative, reducing waste, recyclability, reuse, economically sustainable. So often we proclaim that our parts are good parts, heck they are the OE parts – buy them, they’re good! My hope is that going forward we will continue to look for new and relevant ways to tell our story to the people outside our industry. Our customers.