10 years of Salvage Wire, 10 things we have learnt from our experience with clients, partners and friends.
1 - Reluctance to change
‘We have always done it like this’ are the seven worst words anyone can hear. This indicates that the speaker has no ambition to look at things differently, find ways to improve, become more efficient, safer or cleaner. A willingness to change means the business could be looking forward, finding that competitive advantage, reducing cost, being more efficient and improving profitability. Change does not have to be dramatic, it can be many little changes over a period of time, so much so that the changes are only really seen when the business looks back over a 12, 18 or 24 months and notices how much has changed for the better.
2 - Resistance to learning from management
One comment we do get is ‘why should I train my staff, it will cost me and they will either demand more money or leave and join the competition.’ I despair sometimes at the negative comments from some senior managers and owners, but it then gets me wondering why they are like this and how I can change their attitude by outlining the benefits of training.
- Safer working conditions - reduce risk, reduce insurance costs, less time off due to accidents
- Increased efficiency - more product per day, reduction in costs, increased profit
- Quality Improvements - more satisfied customers, potential increase in repeat business
- Satisfied staff - more likely to stay because they feel valued and respected
Yes, it could mean a wage increase, however this will be more than covered by increased efficiency, safer working conditions, more repeat business, and better staff satisfaction. What would you rather have, employees who are trained, safe, efficient and respected or employees who are not trained?
3 - Rapid changes in vehicle technology
For many years vehicle technology hardly changed. Over the last 10 years vehicle technology is on a very steep trajectory - electric vehicles, advanced driver assistance systems, vehicle structural changes, emissions regulation and more. Vehicles are now computers on wheels and the best technicians need to understand all of this so they can correctly diagnose faults and work on the vehicles. Repairing vehicles cannot be a process where you chuck new components at it until the fault goes away, you have to analyse, diagnose and correctly repair the vehicle, and then make certain all the systems are correctly calibrated and functioning before the vehicle is released to the customer - training and experience is vital.
4 - Do not want to fail
Failure is part of life, without failure we do not learn, grow and develop. Too many are afraid of what could happen if they fail so they do not take any risks. Smart people try, if it doesn’t work they review, change and try again, and again, and again if necessary. A description of stupidity could be doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome each time. Thomas Edison found over 500 ways how not to make the light bulb - he kept going until he had perfected the light bulb.
Years ago I was part of a panel interviewing candidates for a project manager role, I deliberately asked the candidates about projects that had gone wrong because I wanted to see how they reacted to failure and what they learnt. One of the candidates said that he had never had a project fail because he was so good - he didn’t get the role!
Failure is essential to learn, get better, stronger, smarter and succeed - do not be afraid of failure!
5 - Happy with the status quo
The vehicle recycling and dismantling industry occasionally falls into this trap - we are doing ok so why change? As an industry we should be looking upwards and challenging not just everything we do, but the perceptions of the industry.
We need to shout about how environmentally friendly the industry is, the benefits to the planet alongside the cost benefits of re-using vehicle parts. But we can do more.
Public, professional and governmental perceptions are that vehicle recyclers are just ‘scrapyards’ - dirty, smelly, poor quality, low standards, unsafe, I could go on… As an industry we need to change this through professionalism, working with politicians and government agencies to influence legislation, increase enforcement of illegals and combat the unscrupulous elements of the industry; but before we do this we need to get our own house in order, this includes our environmental performance, professional standards, training, association membership, certified recycler status and more, and use this to show that we are a professional industry and not ‘scrapyards’. All of which will improve the perception of the industry, increase sales of parts, bring the industry to the table in talks with government, legislators, enforcement agencies, vehicle manufacturers and more.
6 - The larger the company, the slower they pay their bills
As a small business our cash flow is important, and the vast majority of our clients pay their bills quickly and without fuss, but bigger organisation can take months to pay - why is this? They have vast reserves, lots of cash flow but insist on taking 60 or 90 days to pay. We know who these are and price our work accordingly to allow for the delay in payment - they can do better and should.
7 - Who you know is sometimes worth more than what you knowSalvage Wire first started I relied on people I knew from the industry who gave me tips, connected me to others, or gave me work - I will be forever grateful to them all. Over the last few years I have been able to do the same for a variety of others, connecting them, helping and supporting, giving them work or just being there to talk. It all helps.
8 - Preparation gives the ‘luck’ required to capitalise on opportunities
I have been called lucky for being in the right place at the right time for the EV boom - it has taken me 40 years to get here. My EV journey started before Salvage Wire came into being and has grown because I have invested in training for myself, been open to learn, worked on these vehicles, worked with others and taught many more. All of this ‘preparation’ has given me the chance to capitalise on the many opportunities that are out there.
9 - Never turn down the opportunity to learn
Every day is a learning day - a quote I often use. Rarely does a day go past without me learning something, and I get very annoyed with those people who have no ambition and look upon learning, training, or development as a waste of their time - our learning doesn’t stop the day we leave school, we have to continue that learning and I see so many wasted opportunities. In many cases this could stem from how people were treated at school, or at home, but many employers have had the opportunity to change that and failed to mentor their staff, improve them, develop them and allow them to soar. Look at the people in your teams, if they had been helped, mentored, and allowed to learn, grow and develop how good would they (and potentially your company) be now?
10 - Some conferences are worth the investment - but only because of the people you meet!
You have to be selective, I get so many conference invitations I could become a professional conference attendee - but pick the right conferences and your revenue will increase!
As I look back at 10 years of Salvage Wire there is one piece of advice I would give to everyone.
Start each day with a little bit of quiet reflection - no phones, no music, no kids (I know, sometimes not possible), and think about the day ahead. Write down up to three things that if completed (or significantly moved forward) would make your day amazing - this is not a to-do list (keep that separate), it could be 1, 2 or 3 things, but no more than 3, that at the end of they day leave you with immense satisfaction and a feeling of a job well done. I have done this for years and kept all the records and occasionally will look back over them to see how far I have moved forward in that time - truly inspirational!