15 Minutes With Chad Counselman
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Chad Counselman has filled many roles: Husband of 21 years to Rachel, father of 18-year-old Emily, missions pastor of his church, and co-owner of Counselman Automotive Recycling in Mobile, Alabama. This past October, he stepped into yet another role: President of the Automotive Recycling Association.
Counselman brings a lifetime of industry experience to the ARA presidency. His father, Edward Counselman, and grandfather, James P. Counselman, started Counselman Automotive in 1966. Chad began working there after graduating from high school in 1993 and then purchased the business with his brother, James G. Counselman, in 2008.
Chad plans to step away from the business while he steps into his leadership role at ARA, prepared to wage a tough battle against legislation that could harm the industry. Ever the multi-tasker, he took time to talk to The Locator during a drive to a meeting in Pensacola, Florida. He spoke about issues facing the industry today, how he’ll tackle the ARA presidency, and how he balances work, church, and family.
What do you think is the biggest struggle for automotive recyclers today?
Themselves. I hate to say that, but so many are unwilling to change. That status quo doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s an unwillingness to work with others, an unwillingness to accept technology. The marketplace demands ongoing technological improvements. If you’re not doing that, the customer is going to call someone else.
The thing that helped us was joining Recyclers Cross Dock four years ago. Our sales were in the $6 million range, and we’ll finish this year in the $15 million range. There are 39 other yards to trade parts with.
Where do you feel the biggest opportunity is for auto recyclers today?
The exact same thing. If you’re not involved in a trading group, you need to step into a trading group. That’s the biggest opportunity.
What can members expect from the Automotive Recyclers Association this year?
A hard fight on the legislative front. We’ve already caught word that OEMs are working with the Auto Alliance to push legislation in 20 states. These bills have language in them that could result in requiring OEM parts to repair vehicles that are five years old or younger. We have to keep these bills from passing the way they’re drafted.
What is the most important goal you want to achieve during your presidency?
Coming into it initially, I wanted to follow through on what the previous president started with ARA University. It is the ultimate training tool.
Right now, however, my number-one goal is to prevent legislation from passing in 20 states. I’ll be traveling and appearing in those states if needed. My number-one goal is to keep us in business.
My number-two goal is ARA University, to grow that and strive to have more content and continue to be the ultimate training tool for our employees.
How do you plan to achieve your goal?
I’ve learned the biggest and best solution to defeat legislation is grass-roots efforts. I plan to energize and educate, energize and activate yard owners to make phone calls to kill these bills. We have to be very reactive and on the phone and working with yards in these states non-stop. When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, I will be on the phone eight hours in a day to yards. I will personally be involved, and I will travel and actually appear at public hearings if needed.
We’ve got to keep these bills from passing, and they are working their way through one state at a time.
How do you feel your term will be different from the terms of other recent presidents?
I plan to be more involved with ARA because I plan to slow down my involvement with my business. I’m putting 40 hours a week into ARA. (Past ARA President) David Gold did the same thing, and I plan to mimic that as far as the energy and effort I put into it.
You’ve grown up in the automotive recycling industry. Do you feel that gives you a unique perspective?
Absolutely. Absolutely. You’re not going to be president of ARA without being in the industry for years. It gives us a better position. The legislators we’re dealing with, they don’t understand the industry, so we need business owners, someone familiar with the industry, speaking out. I have a passion for the industry and for fighting this legislation. I’ve been called a bulldog when it comes to legislation. I want to get answers from legislators, because this legislation is something that could put me out of business.
How does your family feel about your new commitments?
They’re 100 percent supportive. Four years ago when (Past ARA President) Ricky Young asked me to be ARA secretary, I said let me pray about it and talk with my family, my employees, and my church. I’ve been married to my wife, Rachel, for 21 years, and my daughter, Emily is 18 years old.
I knew my daughter would be a senior in high school while I was president, and there would be lots of traveling, lots of commitments. We agreed to move forward. We all enjoy travel, and I bring Rachel and Emily on trips with me as much as possible. I’m thankful that my wife and daughter support me in this.
I was Missions Pastor at my church, and I oversaw 24 mission trips in 2018. I needed to devote my attention to ARA, so I had to resign that position, but they want me back on board as soon as I finish ARA.
When your term is over, how do you want people to remember your time in office?
I want them to know that I am a Christian man doing everything I can to follow the Gospel and be a Christian example to everyone I possibly can. I’m also committed to the industry and to doing everything I can to help the industry.