SEMA News—February 2014
By Mike Imlay
George Lathouris Named 2013 SEMA Person of the Year
Presented annually at the SEMA Show Industry Awards Banquet in Las Vegas, the SEMA Person of the Year Award ranks among the association’s most prestigious honors. At the 2013 SEMA Show, the award went to George Lathouris, a 36-year marketing veteran. Lathouris was recognized for his volunteer leadership contributions, philanthropy and overall influence on the marketplace.
Lathouris is currently senior category manager at Keystone Automotive Operations in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He started his career working in a warehouse for American Speed Equipment in New York and worked his way up to the position of national sales and advertising manager. He opened warehouse distribution in Colorado for Dick Cepek in 1992 and became the company’s purchasing manager in Los Angeles in 1994. He then moved back to the East Coast in 1995 to become the eastern regional sales manager for Deflecta Shield and, eventually, Lund Industries. He took a position as national satellite sales and outside sales manager for Keystone Automotive in 1999, which led to his current position.
In addition, Lathouris has served two terms as chairman of SEMA’s Light-Truck Accessory Alliance, where he was active in informing and educating committee members on how to be more engaged with SEMA and industry leaders. He put together the first-ever “Jeep Build” to showcase new products and was active with SEMA Cares activities to bring the voice and resources of the SEMA community together to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Lathouris received his accolades in front of more than 3,000 industry luminaries and business owners who were gathered for the annual gala awards dinner on November 7 at the Las Vegas Hotel (LVH). He still marvels at where his career has brought him, though it started out simply enough.
“In the late ’70s, I was looking for work out on Long Island,” Lathouris recalled. “A close friend of mine was working at an automotive warehouse distributor known at the time as American Speed. I had tinkered with cars throughout high school, and I jumped at the opportunity to apply.”
His earliest duties included unloading tires and rollbars from trailer trucks and assisting Frank DiFranco in the returns department.
“I’m glad to say that, 35 years later, Frank and I are both working for Keystone today,” he said.
For Lathouris, the most gratifying aspect of working in the specialty-equipment industry has been the continual learning process that customers, suppliers and fellow associates have provided.
“This is a complicated industry, but the approach to the complexities must remain simple to be effective,” he observed. “Doing what you say you are going to do and being sincere in one’s actions have helped me become more successful in my career.”
As for his greatest sense of personal accomplishment, Lathouris pointed to the growth he helped foster.
“When I started with Keystone, we had one stocking warehouse and three satellite locations in Toledo, Greensboro and Toronto,” he said. “The satellites and outside sales staff were my responsibility, and I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best associates in the industry to open more than a dozen warehouses and crossdocks across North America. Those facilities helped us grow into the company we are today, and I take great pride in those efforts.”
Now Lathouris can add his recognition as the 2013 SEMA Person of the Year to his ample list of successes.
“This has been a surreal and incredibly humbling experience for me,” he said. “I’m still pretty speechless, and for those who know me, that’s unheard of!”
Lathouris added that he owes a huge debt to the customers he’s considered friends over the years, along with his Keystone teammates, without whom he believes he could never have garnered Person of the Year recognition. Far more important to him, however, has been the support of his wife Margie.
“I share this award with her,” he said. “Her sacrifice has allowed me to prosper professionally, and I will forever be thankful to her for that.”
“SEMA is most pleased to honor George Lathouris as our 2013 Person of the Year,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “He and his career represent the true spirit of the automotive specialty-equipment industry. From his humble beginnings as a warehouse staffer to his current position at the top of one of our industry’s leading warehouse distributors, he has distinguished himself by passion, initiative, service and philanthropy. Moreover, George Lathouris has built a solid reputation for integrity and is a trusted industry friend to many—a true inspiration. We congratulate him on his achievement.”