Industry Insiders: Steve Fletcher and Canadian Auto Recycling
We recently caught up with Steve Fletcher, Managing Director of Automotive Recyclers of Canada. Fletcher has extensive experience as an executive in this industry with a very active online presence. Below, we discuss how he brings structure into Canadian rauto ecycling, helping small businesses thrive through the creation of auto recycling oppportunities and how social media has helped his Association. Part 1 of 2 is below.
Hollander: Can you start by telling us more about yourself?
Steve Fletcher: Of course. I’m Steve Fletcher and I’ve been in the auto recycling association field for 23 years. I run the national association in Canada, along with the Ontario provincial sssociation. I have Bachelor's degrees in science and biology, and a Master's in Business Administration from the university here in London, Ontario. I am married with two kids: Ben, who is 17, and Iris, who is 14. They are both nationally competitive volleyball players.
Hollander: Great, so what inspired you to join the auto recycling world? What sparked your interest into the industry?
Fletcher: Following my MBA, I began my career in marketing consumer-packaged goods. Eventually, I started my own agency and focused more on communications and marketing. A friend of mine approached me about a group of auto recyclers that was then called Canadian Auto Recyclers. I realized how big the automotive industry was, and how fast the environmental business was growing. When you marry those two industries, you’re representing junkyards or auto wreckers, the advertising guy in me said, “this is the biggest opportunity ever because nobody really knows what this industry is all about.” I took the Canadian Auto Recyclers on as a client, and over time, the people, the messages and the environment required more and more hours. It’s family-run industry for the most part and they work hard and are very intense. The good ones know what they’re doing well. My job is to help them talk more and better and deeper with the outside world-- whether it’s the general population, or media or politicians. I interpret the outside world for them to do what they need to do.
Hollander: What does a day look like for you?
Fletcher: I work in a remote office, but have staff in Hamilton, Ontario that handles the administrative activity of processing cheques, opening mail, doing the hour-to-hour business of the association. My time is more big picture industry: Where do we go, where do we need to be, who do we need to be dealing with and working with. Because I have a national mandate, I have to be fairly flexible in terms of what areas of the country I'm talking to, because the opportunities and regulations change every year.
Hollander: Lots of cultural and political sensitivities.
Fletcher: In Canada, we don’t really have a whole lot of national laws specific to auto recycling. It’s a big country-- there are a lot of different ways of doing business and it all boils back to the fundamental things that you need to do to be successful. No one really understands how our industry operates, it just needs to be explained what we do and how we do it to them.
Hollander: What are your goals for the industry and for your organization?
Fletcher: The biggest goal is bringing what I call regulatory structure into the industry. So, having a modern, defined set of rules as to how you should be operating in this industry. Have guideposts and targets for members by making sure that they are in compliance. It’s bringing a regulated definition of what is an auto recycler, and what does an auto recycler need to do in order to properly manage the vehicle. Ultimately, we want to be the steward of the end-of-life vehicle-- whether they are a total loss vehicle from insurance companies or they’re just at the end of life and don’t have any more value on the road.
Hollander: So, for you personally, is the biggest drive helping these small businesses in the economy, or is it about an environmental component, or is it a mixture of the two?
Fletcher: I’d call it stimulation of a green economy. One of the reasons auto recyclers have a unique role to play is that they do decommission and remove vehicles in a proper manner. In order to get at the parts they want to sell, you have to make sure that you’re properly taking the vehicle apart and dealing with all the components that come out of that. Then, you must have the ability to sell those parts back into the overall automotive economy. It’s a green angle to it all, but ultimately you need to be doing it profitably so that you can invest in your infrastructure, your employees and keep growing the legitimate side of the business. I wouldn’t call myself an environmentalist--it’s more about doing good business deeds that are also good for the environment along the way.
Hollander: Can you speak to how you’re using social media in your role and what you put into it and get out of it?
Fletcher: When I originally got involved in social media, I first started blogging. It was only to keep track of all the good stories, good ideas and the good things that were happening in the industry. I found that it was a convenient way to keep track of the different things happening so I could refer back to them. But, eventually, as I dabbled in Facebook and Twitter, it became more of a way for me to broadcast to my stakeholders (government, media, new members, manufacturers) what we were doing, what we were trying to do and what we think is important. At the same time, we were developing marketing strategies to try and put some branding behind the industry to try and convey to people very quickly the kind of complex positioning that we have; it’s environmental, it’s economic, it's safety. We knew we had to communicate to a lot of people about what this industry was about, all while wanting to create tools and resources for members to pick up on. A lot of my social media activity is to keep information flowing freely in the industry, so that my members can look at what I put out there and go, “Okay, I’m being educated on the overall industry.”
Hollander: Have you found that these stakeholders and your target audience are engaged and talking with you or reading your posts?
Fletcher: To a certain extent. I monitor it by retweets and likes. I look out for what’s getting engagement.
Hollander: What have they commented on or what you have you noticed has worked really well for you in this communications strategy?
Fletcher: Because we do a lot of things internationally and there is a lot of international activity on our auto recycling page, Members always think about their industry as sort of the local situation. We try to convey that there is a different kind of industry out there with a web of connections that reaches beyond their local trading area.
This concludes our interview with Steve Fletcher. To learn more about the Auto Recyclers of Canada, visit http://autorecyclers.ca/.