Recycler to Watch: Certified Leader

Sep 1, 2023 | Industry

Nick Daurio brings a steady hand and common-sense leadership approach to tackling the complex issues automotive recyclers are facing today.

By Caryn Smith

Teamwork in the organization is the only way we can succeed.

At the 80th Annual ARA Convention & Expo, Nick Daurio – owner of Daurio Auto Truck in Pueblo, CO, with his brother Mike Daurio and son Greg Daurio – takes the gavel for his year as president of the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA). His term on the Executive Committee (EC) began during 2020’s epic COVID-19 pandemic, and culminates during the 80th year of the Association’s history. During these milestone years, Nick brought a stable common-sense approach to very complex issues to the EC. Much of his strength in leadership is rooted in his heritage, learning from his father who was the son of an Italian immigrant and the anchor of their family business.

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Nick Daurio – owner of Daurio Auto Truck.

Daurio Auto Truck started by John Daurio in 1957.  He quickly landed insurance contracts in the mid-70s that set the business up for future success. While he passed away a little over a year ago, his no nonsense work ethic, high standards of integrity and forward-thinking vision is a legacy that is present in the operation today. The full-service facility currently encompasses 30 acres in four lots, with entire buildings devoted to specific parts – with nothing touching the ground.

Under Nick’s leadership, the business is now an ARA Certified Automotive Recycler (CAR), and ARA Gold Seal Certified. We interviewed Nick on his thoughts on ARA, the industry, and his certification story.

Automotive Recycling: You came into the ARA Executive Committee during the pandemic, how was that experience for you?

Nick Daurio: Scott Robertson was president at that time, and the EC was organized in structure, which was a benefit to the time we were in. They all made me feel very welcome and made sure I was up to date on every agenda item that was being discussed and voted on from the very first day. It was important to them that I understood the issues and the potential solutions in a very positive manner.

The main difference between our state association in Colorado and ARA really is the magnitude of the agenda items. From the government affairs involvement, the number of auto recyclers that ARA serves to its advocacy, education, and training. In the ARA organization, every facet is large and very complex, with so many moving parts every single day.

The most rewarding part is seeing the progress being made and the vision that develops looking forward, and the many accomplishments achieved in the last three years.

As a member, I would go to a convention, meet a lot of people, and learn about what the industry had to offer. When you’re looking from the outside in, it’s totally a different picture than seeing it firsthand the inside operations. You just really can’t see as a member how much work and structure it takes for the organization to flow and thrive.

As an organization, especially from the EC, the staff and the board perspectives, we need to make sure that every member feels like they are valued, and their voice is heard. We need to educate them and get them involved as much as we can, even with the affiliate chapters.

AR: What is the value of being a part of ARA in your perception?

Daurio: With all the various groups and business models available to our industry, ultimately, we all need to fit in together as a community. That is a hallmark of our industry in how we collaborate.

We’re stronger in numbers then we are as small groups or individuals. We need to figure out a way to unite on common ground, not only as ARA members but also as certified auto recyclers to improve our image. We need to educate the world on our value; we are probably the most misunderstood industry in the world.

ARA is the advocacy for our entire industry. The importance of being involved as a member of the association is for the betterment of the industry. Participation in the certification programs, government relations and industry relations are key to our progress to actively build better relationships and to make sure that our voice is heard and considered in matters that directly or indirectly impact our business and livelihood.

Teamwork in the organization is the only way we can succeed. One person can’t do everything. And that’s where involvement in committee work comes into play; it’s very important for all recyclers to contribute, no matter what your business model is. For me, being on the EC is like getting a master’s degree in teamwork. Everyone involved must feel their worth, believe that they count and their opinion matters. We all think differently, yet we must work towards a common goal and a viable solution.

Jose Angel Valdez, Greg Daurio and Nick Daurio.

AR: What are initiatives that the EC has advanced during your EC tenure?

Daurio: When I first started, there were only a few electric vehicles on the road. In a few short years, the numbers are increasing exponentially. The future is here now.

I must commend Scott, Marty, Shan, and Sandy for the initial vision to get involved in training and education for all members on electric vehicle dismantling. We are now seeing the development of the secondary use suppliers for spent EV batteries. The ARA team opened the doors for communication so that we could face the future challenges with a seat at the decision-making table. Going back to teamwork, the proactive decision to develop the relationship with NAATBatt and its members [an organization promoting the commercial interests and supporting developments in advanced energy storage technology] is a game-changer.

We also have contracted with the Worchester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to conduct a national study on our industry to officially verify our carbon-negative impacts on the environment. I’m really proud that this has happened. It ties in with the ARA strategic plan. It ties into certification. It ties into industry awareness. It holds a lot of weight in many places we visit, but we need outside verification through a carbon study on the carbon savings data. Will carbon credits have a value someday? I think they will.

As far as the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) corporate factor, governments are requiring it now. You must know what your impact is on the environment as a business. In our business and our industry partners, we want to be able to answer: What do you do with that metal? What do we do with the parts? How do we get the parts? Are we creating new parts? What is the energy savings? It will become very important information going forward, I think.

AR: What do you believe are the strengths of the ARA?

Daurio: The annual convention is always a strength of the organization, and it continues to get bigger and better – from the number of quality exposition vendors to the growing participation from attendees to the educational program, including the Tech Talk track. It is a critical asset for the industry to understand trends and strategies for growing operations.

The Mentoring Program brings quality operators together with those that want additional growth and insight, which again points back to industry teamwork. You can see the success that it’s brought to recyclers who went through this program. It takes a lot of time and effort to make it work from both sides – mentor and mentee, but it is important for our industry to elevate all operators who want to achieve greater success.

This past year, we had a strategic planning meeting, where we developed four pillars on ARA’s three-year path. The pillars include Data, Advocacy, Education and Certification Compliance, and Strategic Partnerships. They impact every one of ARA’s committees.

We initiated the Awareness Committee, which works to guide effective member and outside communications, with the goal of attracting new members. This committee is conducting a professional marketing audit of ARA communications to determine what direction is best to meet internal and outreach goals. Also, they will create a new website in the next year make it more useful for members and to maximize our exposure to the world.

The training through ARA University is a great educational resource for members, and we are also creating new training to update and refresh it, including Spanish translations on some courses. The Certification Committee and Interchange Committee continue to increase their impact on a recyclers’ credibility and profitability.

AR: What lessons did you learned from the certification process?

Daurio: I was serious about the becoming certified, and for many years, it was a goal of mine. Unfortunately, I felt that I was too busy, and my staff was too busy. I believe this is the same for others who are not certified. We decided to do it, even though we always kept our property and warehouse very clean. We had our house in order, you know, as far as our grounds, containment, signage, storage, freon removal, tires, oil, and antifreeze, all the things you want to do right.

So, I visited a few auto recyclers how they were accomplishing their certification. After doing my homework, I thought it would be a shoe in, no problem. We started working on it and, when ready, hired a third-party auditor to come out. Let’s just say, I got my first “F” I’ve ever gotten in my life. We failed.

We didn’t have our rainwater permit done correctly, for which I was surprised. We didn’t have tires covered outside. Our rainwater outfalls were good, but not perfect. Our record keeping was good, but it wasn’t perfect.

We accepted our failure and instead of quitting, we got things corrected. Now, we’re in rural Colorado, so I could have thought, ‘who’s going to check me,’ but that wasn’t my attitude. If I was going to start something, I was going to finish it. In one year, we went from failing to A+ on the next audit.

It took time and a little bit of money, but what I learned in that year was that every staff member in the company started holding one another accountable, and it made the leadership’s job a bit easier. The importance of having an emphasis on what happens in day-to-day operations to prevent things from getting out of hand just takes the right training.

Fast forward four years, one day recently three auditors show up from the state of Colorado, with two EPA officers. They gave us two business days’ notice of their impending visit. I was very nervous about it, but also, I was excited to really know how we would rate knowing the success that we should have from our certification work. There wasn’t one question or one item that our auditors asked us to provide that we didn’t have an answer for. And for the most part, my son Greg knew most of the answers to questions about our numbers of fluids processed. If it was a regulatory question, those answers are also documented in our CAR paperwork.

One auditor even asked to take some photographs to illustrate to other recyclers in other places on how to do things the right way.

Greg asked the auditors if they knew how to determine what a professional automotive recycler is, and then asked if they knew what the ARA is – and we were surprised they really didn’t know. So, it goes back to the earlier point on awareness. Who knows who we are? Where are we failing? Who do we need to educate? Not only governmental and regulatory, but insurance companies, repair facilities, repair shops, our neighbors, our city, local government – the list is long.

And at the end of our audit, I asked the auditors, ‘would you have a chat with our staff and tell them who you are, what agency you’re from, and why you were here.’ And they said, ‘Absolutely.’ So they introduce themselves. They explained what our audit was about and why they were there. The praise that they gave our staff was incredible on how our audit went, and on the performance that they achieved.

Just recently, we achieved ARA Gold Seal Certification was a real highlight of mine. It was a very, very proud as a company and probably one of our proudest moments as a team.

AR: This year, what is your goal?

Daurio: My emphasis going forward, besides what we have discussed already, is that I strongly feel that we’ve been junkyards since day one, and people are going to look for us on Google that way. We can accept that fact, but we don’t have to operate like the name reflects.

AR: I’m always asked, what is your return on investment for certification? Or, what does it cost you in the time involved with a certification program?

Daurio: Yes, Whatever effort it took us is far surpassed by the ongoing results we experience.

Yes, we’ve increased our sales since getting certified. Our process efficiency is ongoing every day. We’ve saved time by always keeping the facility clean and efficient, instead of wasted time spent on big cleanup days. Yet, the biggest return on this investment for me, personally, is knowing that if five regulators show up at our facility – as they did – I have confidence that our team effort in certification will result in passing with high marks, every time, and pride knowing that we did the work to make that happen.

We all have a next step, what is yours?

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