By Sandy Blalock • ARA Executive Director
Adapt. That’s what our industry does best. We find creative ways to do the business of auto recycling that is full of a long history of ups and downs. I believe we will play a key role in how the world learns to adapt to this supposed “new normal.” We must be ready to accept the fact that some of what we are currently facing will effect a permanent change in our lives. Those who have been able to successfully create new ways of keeping their operations running will have the opportunity to further develop the changes made as “essential” businesses.
Some have struggled more than others, yet there are lessons learned for everyone. The future will require all of us to take stock and reevaluate whether they can and should be going back to the old way of doing things.
So where do we go from this point in time? Let’s start by reviewing what changes in process you made. Did the changes accomplish what was needed to keep your business open? Do they have value to continue doing?
I like to look at the bright side and think of all this pandemic has taught us. There is no doubt that we will learn from this and hopefully come back stronger.
Remember, we know how to look at problems and find solutions … we are literally in the solution business. We see the good where others see bad, profit where others see loss. We think on our feet and that’s what makes us so different than other industries. We take chances and if it doesn’t work, we keep plugging away until it does.
Auto recyclers will need to continue to monitor, evaluate, communicate, and engage entire teams involved in the process. Some of what you do may not meet your expectations the first time, but don’t give up until you find what works.
For those who had to reduce your workforce, there may be struggles to fill vacant positions or you may find an opportunity to use more remote workers. Only you will know how best to approach this going forward.
I suggest the industry continue to experiment with new ways to get the job done, and share their successes with others to learn from. For instance, we may see more shift work, where there are fewer employees in the building at the same time. Do those employees whom you sent home to work remotely really need to be on site now?
Those remote sales people who are producing well should be in the last phase to return to the office, if at all. If you continue to work some of your team remotely, you have to continue to nurture a sense of closeness and loyalty to your company that you hopefully have fostered these last few months. There is no one right answer for everyone – be flexible to try new things to find the right solution for your operation.
We also have to listen, now more than ever, both to our employees and our customers. We are all learning to adapt to many changes in our everyday lives – not just our work lives. Get ongoing feedback from your employees on what’s going on outside of work. What they share will be the same things your customers are facing. There’s a lot of stress and we have to be cognizant of this, and not place unrealistic demands on our teams and customers.
Your business will not survive without your team. Consider them first and develop your plan with your customers’ needs also in mind. If you engage your team in the planning process, they will be more willing to embrace the new normal. Empower them to share ideas and continue to get together with video meetings and chats.
Beyond your four walls and acres of inventory is an industry that depends on you in many ways. Do more than the minimum required by your state or community. Stay in contact with your industry at both a state and national level. There are many people working behind the scenes to assure you have resources and information available.
Many industry members have shared some great ideas that you can embrace. You see them all over social media. Some things work better in different environments, but never stop seeking out new ideas. Change is tough and especially when it is forced on us. Never stop looking for that rainbow – look for the benefits that have resulted from all the changes over the last several months. You may have just found a better way to do something and other things may gradually return to how you operated before the pandemic. I’m really hoping that you give change a chance to show you a new path to success.
Ultimately, the best path to success is accepting change and challenges that throw you off kilter with a sense of knowing that you can and will survive – and even come back stronger than before with a new positive outlook. Give yourself permission to innovate and adapt at your own pace. I see opportunity ahead for our industry and I hope that you do too!
Reach Sandy Blalock at email@example.com. Share your thoughts pertaining to the advancement of professional automotive recycling. Your letter could be published in an upcoming issue.