Together for the Better

Jan 1, 2023 | Industry

By Sandy Blalock • ARA Executive Director

We have the privilege to represent our auto recycling industry at many related industry events every year. I am just returning from the Collision Industry Conference (CIC), an event that was the brainchild of a few very forward-thinking collision repairers who were tired of being told that it wasn’t the time or place to discuss the issue at other industry events. They felt there needed to be a forum where anything could be discussed, and 40 years ago CIC came to fruition. The CIC is a forum made up of participants from all industry segments for the expressed purpose of discussing and exploring the issues that occur among them.

It is an impactful organization that meets quarterly, has several committees that work together and present at each of the one-day meetings. It is sometimes a lot to absorb in just one day, but it works. I, along with some of the ARA staff, have the privilege to serve on a couple of the committees and have presented alongside committee members at CIC. We have made many good friends and contacts and often find that we have much more in common than we may have believed. It has been an important learning experience for both us and our collision industry partners.

I would like to highlight three presentations that I think are extremely relevant to our industry.

Talent Pool & Education  

One of the biggest challenges facing the collision industry is identifying and attracting qualified talent. Sound familiar? We heard about the Newgate School in Minneapolis discussing their unique business model that is producing entry-level technicians who receive training, at no cost, that is needed for a career in collision repair centers, customizing shops, restoration services, or auto accessory and hot rod shops.  They also have a program for entry-level mechanics. Many of the graduates are now working in the collision repair industry in and around the Twin Cities.

Education is desperately needed in our industry, as well, and ARA will continue to work to bring that education to our members. How do we expand that to bring others into the industry? We need to find ways to capture talent that will be needed in the future of industry as it evolves.  

Becoming the Employer of Choice in Your Market

Dave Luehr, one of the keynote speakers at ARA’s 2022 Convention, spoke on key elements that makes your business magnetic to the industry’s best talent. He shared a story about one member of the band he played in before he was in the collision industry. They hired him because he was extremely talented. Little did they know he would become the doom of them. Luehr encouraged everyone to not hire or keep “bad apples” simply because they are talented.

He also talked about making sure to have good communication with your employees, so they have clear expectations and goals and a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities and objectives. We need to learn to trust and respect our employees and make sure we give them the recognition and respect they deserve.  

People become more motivated when they can develop their skills. Be sure to learn to delegate effectively and find ways to give all of your employees ample opportunity to expand their capabilities in new areas. If an employee is interested and capable, help the person advance in the company. It’s easier to develop an employee you already have than to try to find a new one.

Future Disruptions

Many do not want to consider the changing technology in the vehicles we process, however the impacts and implications of real-world telematic data usage and technologies will have a huge impact on our industry. How will auto recyclers be equipped to handle the new technology in vehicles?  

I think we first we have to recognize that the narrowing gap between the upfront costs of EVs and traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles, along with potential reduced cost of batteries, rising fuel costs and lower cost of ownership of electric vehicles will greatly impact the number of these vehicles on the road.

It’s not just EVs. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, more connected services and features can be found in vehicles. How will we harvest those to put back into a viable marketplace?

This is only the beginning, and we must continue to work together to assure our industry’s strategic place in the automotive repair industry in the future. Our industry is unique and strong. We will adapt and continue forward into the future automotive market. It will be different and will require collaboration, but we are on the path now and will not look back.

Reach Sandy Blalock at sandy@a-r-a.org. Share your thoughts pertaining to the advancement of professional automotive recycling. Your letter could be published in an upcoming issue.

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