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Convention Preview

The 75th Annual ARA Convention & Expo, Oct. 31 – Nov. 3, 2018, celebrates the Association’s 75th anniversary and focuses on building a stronger unified industry, with a little bit of the help from the most famous mouse in history.  By Caryn Smith

The global Walt Disney World® empire provides magical family fun that transports people of all ages to far away places that mostly only exist in fairytales and imaginations. But they come alive in such believable ways that even adults find themselves lost in the story and bowing to princesses of non-existent lands.
Behind the magic is a genius business model, and an educational program that peeks behind the magic curtain to reveal how it all works. The Disney Institute® ( principles can be applied to any business model. Disney Institute trainers say, “You could say we ‘strategically focus’ on the details that organizations may under manage – or ignore. Where others let things happen, we’re consistently intentional in our actions. This insight allows us to maximize the opportunities to exceed Guest expectations. As a recognized leader in training and professional development, Disney Institute focuses on presenting content relating to leadership excellence, quality service and employee engagement – essential elements of the customer experience.”

Attendees at ARA’s 75th Annual Convention & Expo, October 31st – November 3rd, 2018, get a rare and exclusive opportunity to be a student at Disney Institute. This Keynote experience, sponsored by Hollander, offers automotive recyclers a chance to hear Disney’s business insights and time-tested principles to inspire individuals and organizations to enhance their own business experience. This opportunity is available only to Disney property guests, including anyone who comes to the ARA Convention. This powerful learning experience is not about becoming Disney, but rather learning to think differently about the details of your business in order to find your own magic.

If that wasn’t enough, the convention offers top-notch speakers in over 30 educational sessions, where you are sure to get a return on investment. Big draws to this year’s educational track are a master talk on millennial and gen Z workforce (we can never know too much about them), peer-to-peer process sharing sessions, yard system updates, a seminar on current wage and labor laws, the 3rd Annual Recyclers Roundtable, and meaningful mentoring sessions.
But before we dive into the educational opportunities, speaker selection, and networking activities, let’s discuss location, location, location.

Accommodations That Won’t Disappoint
While a hotel and fun experience isn’t the most important reason to attend this year, let’s talk about the elephant in the room (or rather, the mouse). If you ever wanted to combine business and pleasure with your family time, this is the year to do it. The host hotel is the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort. The property is conveniently located between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios and close to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and Magic Kingdom Park. Towering palm trees and elaborate fountains greet guests upon arrival, as do two 56-foot dolphin statues perched on the rooftop. Whether you’re in the mood for casual or fine dining, you can please the palate at any of the resort’s 17 restaurants and lounges.

The Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort offers five swimming pools, whirlpools, and kiddie pools. As if that weren’t enough, it features a white sand beach, two sand volleyball courts, a basketball court and four lighted tennis courts. Guests can also tee off at several Walt Disney World golf courses. Those looking to stay fit can jog down Disney’s BoardWalk, around Crescent Lake, and take in stunning views of Epcot. Alternatively, they can avail of a state-of-the-art health club equipped to please even the most demanding fitness devotee or just relax at the Mandara Spa. There is much more to say about this world-class property, but you’ll have to go to for more about the hotel’s additional features.

Being in a Disney property, and bringing, say, a thousand or so people to the area affords ARA guests deep discounts to the parks. Information on ticket sales is located at on the home page (look for the brown Disney brochure). We have to warn you that the choices are tough when it comes to which parks to visit. Discounted tickets must be purchased by Oct. 29.

Magic Kingdom offers your best chance at a princess sighting, especially near the castle. Epcot is the land of yesterday and tomorrow, with rides that explore nations and worlds. Hollywood Studios puts your favorite movies, like “Toy Story” and “Star Wars,” center stage, with the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith as an editor’s pick! And finally, explore an African savanna with real wildlife, the rainforest, Pandora – the mythical land of Avatar – or coaster down Mount Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The ultimate Disney experience combines a visit to more than one park. More about each park can be found at or the multitude of travel “insider” websites that give you all you need to know.

Peer Support is the Magic Ingredient
This year more than ever before, the ARA 75th Annual Convention & Expo is directed at a more personal experience. Peer-to-peer sessions and the ARA Executive Committee(EC)-hosted business mentoring sessions are designed to help auto recyclers with the real day-to-day issues they are facing that are inhibiting success or growth.

The peer-to-peer sessions will focus on different areas of business, where like-sized yards can share information. There are seven sessions scheduled, four for full-service and three for self-service facilities.

Also for more individualized support, the EC is hosting two first-ever business mentoring sessions geared toward helping auto recyclers that want perspective with issues that are bogging down operations.

“Having so many of the finest automotive recyclers from around the globe under one roof for a few days, learning and growing together, is an event I look forward to year after year,” says Shan McMillon, President, Cocoa Auto Salvage, Inc., a regular attendee to industry events, serving on the Florida Auto Dismantlers & Recyclers Association as its current president.

“We want recyclers leaving the 75th Annual Convention with tangible takeaways that will help their businesses run more efficiently while moving money down to the bottom line,” says Jonathan Morrow, the incoming ARA President and inventory manager of his family’s business, M & M Auto Parts, Inc. “The desired outcome is to help strengthen our business leaders by creating helpful strategies and developing deep relationships, with the goal of positioning our industry for the future.”

Morrow, who is hopeful this initiative will spur on and increase industry communication, credits his mentoring to his father and uncle, as well as Benny Cunningham.

“The most current data that we have shows that automotive recyclers are failing at a rate of 6 percent per year. We must do everything that we can to slow, stop, or reverse this trend,” says Chad Counselman, owner of Counselman Automotive Recycling, and ARA’s current 2nd Vice President/Treasurer. As a self-professed numbers guy, he is very in tune with running an operation based on a tight P&L and being flexible to change processes to streamline production, and generate savings. “Our industry must survive. We will work to identify successful yards that will mentor those who want it.”

“We plan to host two 15-yard sessions resulting in 30 yards that are asking to be mentored. In the same perfect world, we plan to find 30 successful yards that are willing to be a mentor. The yards that need fresh insight into their business practices will be attending the Saturday afternoon classes with those mentors,” says Counselman.

Any owner or general manager attending the convention who is interested in being a mentor or mentee should reach out to any member of the ARA EC. “The EC will work to pair yards that are not competitors, yet have similarities as in YMS, buying practices, etc.,” Counselman emphasizes. “We need these emerging yards to learn new tactics to thrive,” Counselman continues. “We want the sessions to be a catalyst that sparks a renewed energy and vigor for all yards.”

Counselman and his fellow EC members are by no means judging any yard that might be looking for answers to their business dilemmas. He has personally found that mentoring becomes a two-way street, and both parties learn from each other (see box). “My father mentored me on the basics of running the yard. However, I have developed the majority of ideas on our current practices, tactics, and goals through interactions with fellow recyclers. In fact, I am currently working with two yards – I have one hour set aside for each yard per week.

We share ideas, plans for growth, and hurdles we encounter. As we talk about issues, I learn as much as they learn. As I explain how we do things, I begin to question why we do certain things. I continue to make improvements to my operation due to the time that I spend with each of these two owners.”

“Lots of recyclers are asking for assistance in order to stay competitive,” says Scott Robertson, ARA’s secretary and owner of Robertson’s Auto Salvage. “We are a proud industry, which makes many resistant to ask for help. Therefore, these sessions, to be held on Saturday, are limited to 30 yards who are seeking new ideas. It will be a roundtable format where recyclers can share areas of concern and get advice on solving issues.

“My father and uncle mentored me,” he says. “But many didn’t have the benefit of personal mentoring like I did.”

The sessions will be separated by yard management system, specifically Hollander and Checkmate, but will include any yard that wants to participate. The yards seeking mentoring must preregister to attend.

“By offering targeted individual sessions, we hope to increase convention attendance and ARA membership. Membership needs are a primary focus of our executive committee efforts for the next several years,” says Robertson. “We are also looking to get auto recyclers more engaged in our industry to become more united.”

In addition to peer-to-peer and mentoring sessions, the ARA 2nd Annual Recyclers Roundtable – Tackling the Tough Issues kicks off the convention on Nov. 1, at 8:00am. This session brings all convention attendees together to discuss industry trends and solutions. This is a well-attended interactive session provides an opportunity to share together what is happening in many regions and nationally and internationally, and understand the complex dynamics in the fight to maintain market share.

Sessions to Manage Operations

As usual, the ARA Convention promises educational tracks that address day-to-day issues.
The “Current Wage & Labor Laws” session will provide you with the tools and guidelines to help you be in employment compliance, while other sessions include “Data Security & Management,” “The Evolution of Automotive Recycling (75 years and beyond),” Recycling of High Voltage Batteries,” “Choose Recycled Parts: ARA’s Awareness Campaign One-Year Later,” and “Recyclers and Repairers: Creating Positive Synergies,” among others. You can find an updated agenda at

One session of note is “How to Optimize Millennial and Gen Z Hiring: Retention and Leadership Development in the Automotive Recycling Industry” by Yuri Kruman of Master the Talk (on left). Kruman is a Fortune 500 corporate trainer with a keen sense of the next generation. Many automotive executives and managers find millennials to be flaky, entitled and otherwise difficult to deal with.

Yet, given that millennials will be the prevalent demographic in the corporate world by 2020, they have no choice but to understand what makes them tick, what attracts them to a company, as well as how to manage, retain and develop top talent. In this session, you’ll explore demographics, mindset, language, and work environment expectations as well as best practices from across different industries designed to improve and increase the lifecycle of a millennial and next generations inside a company.

In another interesting session, author Dave Luehr (at right) speaks on his book, The Secrets of America’s Greatest Body Shops, which unravels one of the common challenges facing the industry, whether from the collision repairer or the recycler point of view: how to survive and thrive in what appears to be a very challenging future. He will challenge stale beliefs and share some exciting opportunities that exist within all the challenges you might be facing.

Let Us Entertain You
For first-time attendees, ARA offers a special session just for you. The convention experience can be overwhelming, with a lot of choices to make and many people to talk to. On Thursday, Nov. 1st from 7 am – 8 am, come learn how to maximize your convention experience from veteran ARA members.

The Ladies of Automotive Recycling Association (LARA) invite all women who are automotive recyclers, associates to the industry, those that work in a recycling business, or support the industry in any way to their Annual LARA Breakfast. This is a highlight for many industry women who attend each year. The breakfast offers a time to network, hear an inspiring speaker, and encourage each other.

“The breakfast is good for networking and reviewing one’s life story on what brings women into a business that has a stereotype of being men only,” says Fran Reitman, owner of Reitman Auto Parts & Sales Inc. “I think sharing what we do helps our ability to be proud of what we do. A few weeks ago I was at a lunch with some local high school children. I got into a discussion on certifications needed in any trade. One of the boys in the group was studying to take a welding exam. I asked him, ‘Would you ever think of a woman being in my industry?’ He said, ‘No, but you must do it very well because I hear you all the time on the radio and ask myself, ‘What’s a girl doing in a salvage yard? And just why are you doing that?’ My comment was, ‘Because I enjoy what I do, that’s why it looks so easy.’”

As a departure from the usual more formal Awards Dinner to celebrate the Association’s 75th Anniversary – and because we are in sunny Florida – a more casual resort wear for a Friday Night Big Beach Bash is planned. Beach music sets the tone for a relaxing evening celebrating the best of the industry with friends and colleagues. Some awards will be given at the party, but in a departure from tradition, the speeches and gavel passing will be spread throughout the week’s activities.

Saturday night is worth sticking around for as the Annual Convention comes to a close with a networking Dessert Reception & Disney’s famous fireworks display. If you have never seen Disney’s display, you are in for a real treat!

Mixing Business with Pleasure
A highlight for many attendees is the opportunity to walk the aisles at the largest gathering of industry associates at the Annual ARA Expo. Automotive recycling vendors share their latest news, products and services in order to help recyclers in their daily operations. Become reacquainted with existing business partners or discover new companies and contacts to meet your changing business needs.

“I always look forward to the ‘one-on-one’ time with my customers,” says Larry DeMik of Supershears, a vendor who has not missed a convention since 2005. DeMik generously donates a Supershear each year to the annual fundraiser, which this year benefits the ARA Educational Foundation, who developed ARA University and now AR Career Zone. Contact Ginny Whelan at to participate.

“The ARA Expo is the best place for customers to see new products and discuss new processes with vendors who can help them build and grow their business,” says Dave Donneral, Specialized Machine Sales Manager of Kobelco Excavators USA. “What’s better than a room full of knowledge and tools specific to the auto recycling industry?”

The Expo is the largest gathering of industry vendors each year. Hours are Thursday, Nov. 1 for the traditional Past Presidents Expo Reception from 5pm – 9pm, Friday, Nov. 2 from 1pm – 5pm and Saturday, Nov. 3 from 8am – 10am.

Plan Now for the Best Experience
Whether you are a first-time attendee or a seasoned ARA Convention goer, you’ll enjoy the location, keynote, sessions and entertainment. The ARA room block will close on Oct. 1, 2018, so do not wait to secure accommodations before this date to ensure you receive ARA’s group rate, which is $199 per night for single/double occupancy.

“Even in this digital age and all that it affords, attending the ARA 75th Annual Convention & Expo will be one of the industry highlights of 2018,” says Sandy Blalock, ARA Interim CEO. “I have found that the more industry events I attend, the more I expand my network. The more you expand your network, the greater potential to expose yourself to greater opportunities. It’s time for you to be in the right place at the right time! Opportunity awaits your arrival!”
Caryn Smith is the editor of Automotive Recycling magazine and has been covering the industry for over 20 years.




Chad Counselman didn’t set out to create weekly mentoring phone calls that have powered his business in double-digit growth for the last two years. But that is exactly what happened when he visited another yard for a tour, located far away from Counselman Automotive Recycling, LLC in Mobile, Alabama. During the tour, he noticed that they did things differently in ways where he questioned the productivity. Trying to be helpful, once he got home he called them, asking if they’d mind if he could share the way he did things, and they obliged. “I began to talk them through some of our processes, and while I was speaking I started to question my own company’s standard procedures. I realized that maybe I didn’t have the answers. From there, we started a weekly phone call where we bounce ideas back and forth.”

The power of this led Counselman to another connection with a different recycler. “I speak weekly to the General Manger of another recycling facility, where he and I both are ‘numbers guys.’ So we talk about our data from P&Ls to inventories. We never have an agenda; we just start a conversation on what is happening that week. It has given me many ideas to take to my leadership team, and we then change things accordingly.”

“My right-hand man John McWilliams says the only thing consistent at Counselman Automotive Recycling is  CHANGE,” jokes Counselman. “But it is true. Having someone to explain in great detail about our processes makes me think about it differently and question it. On both mentoring calls I have weekly, they have the freedom to question anything I say, and so do my managers in our weekly management meetings. I always challenge the status quo.”

“As an industry, we have to get past the idea we have the secret sauce to success. There are others who are probably doing what you are doing. Sharing your current processes and standards gets you to think about what you are doing, and gives you a chance to look at other ways to do it. I am a firm believer that if you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.”

Chad established his weekly calls with both companies on Thursday and Friday mornings and looks forward to them each week. “The more I can learn from other people’s successes and mistakes, the better I am, and my company and employees benefit.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             – Caryn Smith