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Heart of the Industry

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Heart of the Industry

Interviews by Caryn Smith

For the past few issues, we’ve introduced you to dedicated volunteers who serve the Association in time and talents, to make ARA stronger than ever as a united voice. This month we hear from a committee co-chair and a Regional Director on why they feel it is important to be an active part of the Automotive Recyclers Association.

Meet Sue Schauls
Executive Director,
Iowa Automotive Recyclers
Co-Chair, Affiliate Chapters

Like many people in the auto recycling industry, Sue Schauls was born in to it. However, not in the traditional sense that she is the daughter of a yard owner. Rather, her grandfather and father owned a used car dealership in the old neighborhood where she grew up, at a time when neighbors worked and lived in the same space. Her particular neighborhood included several auto salvage facilities; therefore, buying used auto parts was just good business for the dealership.

Sue first studied computers in college and worked for Electronic Data Systems (EDS) before she returned to Iowa to finish her bachelor’s degree. After milling around college, she discovered that while she had not taken any computer classes, she was, in fact, only three classes away from an environmental science degree, which she pursued.

She began an internship at the Iowa Waste Reduction Center at the University of Northern Iowa as one of the required courses. The Iowa Automotive Recyclers newsletter came across her desk shortly thereafter, and she felt compelled to call Dianne Van Gorp, the longtime IAR Executive Director. After a long conversation about contributing compliance information to the newsletter and speaking at the upcoming summer outing, an alliance was formed. Dianne ended the conversation by asking to have Sue’s dad call her husband about a rebuilder newspaper advertisement. “Being a small community, I had no idea Dianne knew who I was – being young and naive back then,” says Sue. Needless to say, 23 years later the relationship worked out by “fitting like an old glove,” Sue notes.

The industry continued to mature and change at such a rapid rate as the computer world took over that Sue’s computer skills and newly-achieved Environmental Science degree converged at the right moment to bring compliance assistance to a personal level to the Iowa Auto Recyclers. “My computer-generated stormwater pollution prevention program software was so timely for IAR. The fun fact is that the idea itself is credited to Jeff Smid of Jeff Smid Auto, Inc. in Davenport, Iowa.,” says Sue. “Jeff and I were standing in his yard during a routine audit and he said, ‘You’d think some gal could make a program we could all just pop in the computer to make these compliance things easy.’ And so it was done. The idea of the I-CARE program evolved from there. This collaborative work spirit is quintessentially why I love working with auto recyclers.”

The transition to the Executive Director of the Iowa Auto Recyclers was a natural one for Sue after implementation of the certification program in 2008-2009. That work led to participation in ARA’s Affiliate Chapters Committee and eventually becoming the co-chair with Steve Fletcher in 2016.

“If being the Director of an auto recyclers association is like herding cats, then being in leadership of those directors is like drinking warm milk,” says Sue. It is so easy with a group that is full of passion, perseverance, and patience!”

“I participated in the ARA Strategic Planning meeting this past January and I believe that the path set forth by the ARA leadership team is critical to the success and survival of the businesses that make up the ARA membership, and extends to the family of auto recyclers that make up the state associations membership, as well.”

The promotion of used auto parts to the public, one goal set in the session, received full support from the Affiliate Chapters committee. They could play a role in grassroots efforts to raise awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of buying used auto parts as one way to help the industry and our members succeed in the changing business climate.

“I hope that I can play a role in providing guidance, as an example, to help reach millennial consumers to educate them that we ARE the original recycler, so embrace us as part of your shop local/think global mindset,” says Sue.

“I challenge all members to take note of opportunities and tools that the Affiliate Chapters committee will be producing. We can try to instill in parts buyers to first, think of used auto parts!

Meet Shannon (Shan) McMillon
President, Cocoa Auto Salvage, Inc.
Regional Director, Southeast

“My mom and dad founded Cocoa Auto Salvage in 1979, adding it to a list of automotive-related businesses they owned over the years including convenience stores with repair shops, towing business, used car dealerships and a finance company. Although we no longer own any of those businesses, I grew up getting to experience firsthand how each of these worked,” says Shan McMillion. “I always found the salvage industry most intriguing -– it is such a dynamic business with so many moving parts. I would go to work with my parents and run the register, sweep, do office work – whatever an unskilled kid could do to help.”

A turn of events led Shan to take the business seriously. “The summer I turned 16, I worked delivering parts. The manager at the time suspected I might be stopping by the mall on my route and he tried to fire me. Thankfully, this was before GPS and I must say my work ethic dramatically improved.” Her freshman year of college was spent on academic scholarship to the University of Florida. “One of the greatest gifts this year of my life bestowed upon me was learning to appreciate my family. I moved home for my sophomore year and finished my Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Central Florida in 1997 – go Knights! After graduation, I began working fulltime, really learning how the business worked.”

“We made the decision as a family for me to manage the accounting and finance side of operations, but I really wanted to be more involved with operations,” says Shan. Over the last ten years, she moved into that role and now manages all operations.

Her dedication to the industry is evident in her great work in the industry. “I have served on the FADRA (the Florida Automotive Dismantlers and Recyclers’ Association) Board for the past six years and am currently its President. I was honored to be asked to complete Chad Counselman’s term last year as the Southeast Regional Director once he moved onto the Executive Committee as Secretary/Treasurer. I will begin serving my own term as the Southeast Regional Director in October.”

“Growing up in the industry, I have seen how we view ourselves change and shift so drastically,” says Shan. “In the 1980s and 90s it was very much a ‘junk yard’ mentality – the owner’s viewed their own inventory as junk and the customer’s expectation didn’t seem to be any better. Now we are as much of a service industry as anything else. Our industry has become so competitive that we know if we don’t exceed expectations, we won’t have longevity. The industry continues to evolve and change quickly and we have to be able to adapt.”

Many times, Shan believes, small business owners don’t feel they are heard. “For me, as the Southeast Regional Director, I have a responsibility to those in my region to provide a voice through me to leadership at ARA. I reach out to the Affiliate Chapter Presidents for each state in my region at a minimum every other month to ask what is going on in their state and if there are any concerns or events they want passed along to leadership.” It is disheartening to Shan when she doesn’t always hear back from her inquiries, but understands the time pressures everyone is under. “Participation in the associations that represent us all is critical, whether that be on the state or national level or both. Yes, it takes time, but I view it as an investment in my future,” she says.

Investments toward the positive future of the industry is an endeavor she truly understood once in leadership. “It wasn’t until I began serving on FADRA that I began to understand how much time, effort and funding goes into having adequate representation with our governing law-making bodies. A large portion of dues paid to our associations is spent making sure that as an industry we are protected. This requires a lot of time; time that many of us don’t have to spend outside our businesses,” Shan emphasizes. “The legislative monitoring happens on both the state and national level. And we can all contribute to that! Be a member of both your state association and ARA and get involved. There are so many opportunities and I encourage you to reach out. If we don’t fight for our businesses, or at minimum support those that do, then who will?”

Shan feels very fortunate to have great leadership within ARA. “I am still learning how I can best serve our industry, but I would say that on a fundamental level, there would not be any donation of one’s time or abilities that would not have a positive impact. Bottom line – get involved!”

Caryn Smith is the editor of Automotive Recycling magazine.