Your good name is the best foundation for future success according to Nick Daurio, ARA’s new member of the executive committee.
By Caryn Smith
Like many in the industry, Nick Daurio is proud of his automotive recycling heritage. “We’ve been at it for 50 years. We are very family-oriented, with our family, and the staff and their families. Several recently retired employees had been with us from the beginning with my father. We have current staff members who have ten to forty year tenures with our company.”
At Daurio Auto Truck in Pueblo, CO, for which Daurio now serves as President, he notes, “We have been able to survive changes within the industry, and for us the most important aspect of that is our good reputation in our area, but also online. You are only born with one reputation. You have to get through mistakes honestly. You only have one shot at that, reputation is critical from top to bottom. With that in mind as a company legacy, we made it to the third generation, and that is something.”
Founded in 1957 as a service station by patriarch John A. Daurio, he pivoted the business in the fall of 1970 to a towing and auto recycling facility. In 1975, Nick joined the company full-time, while attending college, and brother Michael, who serves as vice president, started five years later. Nick’s son Greg, who is 31 and represents the family’s third generation, joined the company in 2014 and is the company’s general manager. Michael’s two daughters have pursued other careers and John is now retired.
As most family businesses go, Daurio worked at the facility when he was young into high school, and then attended college for four years on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and worked full-time Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. What drew him to the business ultimately was that he enjoyed cars, and more so, buying and selling – which has obviously changed a lot since then.
The full-service facility is comprised of one central location on 26 acres over three different properties within the neighborhood. It operates with 12 full-time employees processing mostly late-model four-wheel drive trucks, SUVs, automobiles, including some foreign models. The facility focuses on buying quality over quantity when it comes to vehicles processed.
As added services, the facility offers towing, as well as mechanic services on vehicles, engines, transmissions, etc., all arranged through the sales team.
As the newest member of the 2020-2021 ARA Executive Committee, coming in as Secretary, Automotive Recycling magazine asked Daurio about the importance of service, direction of automotive recycling, advice for the next generation, and more.
From when you entered the industry, what changes have impacted you most?
I really enjoy buying. In the old days, we used to send in sealed bids to buy cars at auction. A couple of auctions would send VHS tapes of the autos and we’d bid them this way. Then, we had up to 10 insurance contracts in 80s and 90s. In the early 90s, I would fly to Casper, Wyoming and Montrose, Colorado, once a month, and bid at live auctions. I’d only be gone a partial or one whole day and be back home with 40 cars purchased at once.
Then, the auctions went to simulcast, where I would drive to Denver and bid live or bid simulcast. Back then, it was all local auction houses, and, of course, everything is corporate now.
Buying has tremendously changed. Now with auctions and insurance companies, auto recyclers don’t have a lot of choice of where we buy merchandise. We tend to buy more on volume. We have worldwide competition in broadcast auctions and need buying tools to assist based on our data. Information on inventory tracks our past history, what to pay for vehicles, what’s good and bad, and ties it all into our YMS. All the data is now in our database, on which we must rely.
What are your thoughts on the direction of the industry in the next 5-10 years?
CHANGE – It is here. EVs are here to stay. We must adapt. Recyclers are very resilient, what we have been through and what we are going through. Yet, we all have to learn how to better use the technology tools available to us to get past margins.
PROCESS – We need processes and procedures in all areas – purchasing, sales, dismantling, safety, and we have got to pay attention to DATA.
IMAGE – Some things go back to our image. We need to get our professionalism out there more so that we are not seen as junk yards, but automotive recyclers. Your company image and your website, all your processes and procedures come into effect going forward.
For instance, when you take a picture of a part, look at the background, look at the photos. At our facility, we wash every car and clean it before we take a picture. We clean out the trash and make it look like something you care about. Same for our parts. They are clean and well-photographed.
CERTIFICATION – We need to have more auto recyclers certified, like ARA’s Certified Auto Recycler (CAR)program. Use the ARA University, lean on environmentalists because they are a great tool and can certify you. Pay attention to safety and health procedures and OSHA requirements. If the majority of the industry can certify themselves, we can make a stronger unified assault on OEMs, insurance, collision and mechanical repairers and protect our industry and our marketshare.
ROE – Recycled Original Equipment® is spot on. We must emphasize that we sell what the OEM manufacturers produced. It is no different because it is the exact same parts that came off the production line with the car.
HONESTY – The parts you sell, if they are mechanical, and you are honest with what you put down for mileage, it helps the customer or insurer decide to buy recycled or go to OEM or reman. But parts being returned due to inaccurate information doesn’t reflect well on your facility or the industry.
INVOLVEMENT – The lack of involvement is a problem. We all get in a rut, and in the old days we could shoot from the hip and double our money on vehicles mostly from our local area. Those days are gone.
What inspired you to accept a position on the Executive Committee for ARA?
My decision was based on the people that are on the EC now. I think it’s an outstanding group of people. Executive Director Sandy Blalock also played a big part with her dedication to our industry, for auto recyclers, vendors, sponsors, etc. I think she is a true asset to our industry.
I also see this as an opportunity to support the industry on a larger scale. I participate in a lot of different organizations in my community. In the 80-90s I served on the board for Colorado Auto Recyclers. In 2018, I was given Colorado’s lifetime achievement award, and my son Greg is currently VP of the chapter.
ARA is good for big and small. There is no status quo, it doesn’t matter what size you are. The programs provided are exceptional, and should be taken advantage of, especially ARA University and ARA’s Mentoring Program.
Ultimately, getting involved helps us all improve our image and protects our industry.
What is your advice operating a multi-generational auto recycling business?
The benefit is that you have more eyes and ears, and more passion, in the business.
The team is more involved if the generational owners are doing what your team is expected to do. Don’t ask employees to do what you wouldn’t do yourself. Get everyone to buy in on everything you do. One bad apple ruins the whole bunch.
The challenge is that everyone has different opinions, and sometimes you don’t want to say something to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. While you might have various generational family members in different positions to develop their leadership roles, communication is key for decision-making to accomplish unified leadership.
Keep lines of communication open and be willing to try someone else’s idea. If there is an argument, you have to leave it at work – we still are family.
In our business, Dad never did have any resistance to change, because he was more of an outdoors person as far as the facility goes. He had great vision for building, acquiring property, and, always, the bills had to be paid before anything else.
For years, my brother and I took care of all the sales and I believe we were too high strung, and too demanding with high expectations. We have realized that we need to set goals and have more processes and procedures now. It has helped a lot with our staff knowing the expectations.
I will be the first to say I am not computer literate. In 1991, we got our first computer. But, Greg ushered in vital technology tools and reworked our website. He is responsible for our success today leading us to the electronic age and being on top of current trends. As I said earlier, DATA is what you use to make smart decisions.
How has the COVID and economic conditions impacted your business?
When COVID hit in March, we sat down with all our employees and we talked about it daily. We had a morning meeting, outside, for 80-90 days. At these meetings, we checked the health and well-being of all our employees and their families and went over our customer-related safety practices. By late March, we closed the front office to the public and went curbside; delivery drivers were curbside service only, everyone wore PPE, gloves, and sanitized. We shut off the bathrooms to the public, and followed all state and local guidelines.
We got to the end of May and business was terrible, off 50 percent for 2 ½ months. Then in May to August, business went back up to what it was or better. We are still closed to the public, and deliveries are curbside only. All employees need to wear masks now.
We put one person in charge of COVID issues. If an employee has a concern, they are to report to that person and that person makes a decision on what to do.
Early March through end of May, we rotated the staff’s days off during the week with a staggered work schedule for everyone. We accomplished a lot of projects during down months, like cleaning, repairing, inventorying, warehousing. We took COVID very seriously, and are probably even more concerned with it now.
ARA did a great job on emailed updates, daily, and as needed, and PPP and other seminars to understand and go through the application process.
What is your one achievement you are most proud of and why?
Third generation, it doesn’t happen very often. Besides being a 50-year-old generational business, I am proud of our facility. We have always tried to have a nice, clean, organized modern office and warehouse. Our products are always cleaned, we have a modern parts washroom inside, and have for well over 35 years. Every part is washed and we do not discharge any water. It is completely recyclable. No chemicals. In fact, we were first in U.S. to have that type of facility for product quality and environmental stewardship. We keep our trucks clean and impose standards for our delivery drivers as the face of the business. From inside to outside, we project professionalism.
What is one failure that defined a turning point in your business or your career?
We all have failures and turning points.
For me, I am not in it for me anymore – I am in it for the company, and that is why we are a part of ARA.
I got into a rut where I did not train or learn for myself what was going on in the data side of the business. It is by far the biggest failure I’ve had. My son, Greg, has brought a new perspective on data and how to take advantage of it.
With expectations for employees – I failed. Not everyone does everything like you do. But if you train them in the right manner, you then open their eyes and give them confidence when they succeed. Praise them, they will buy in on what you are trying to achieve.
Getting employees involved in the ARA and other organizations gives them a perspective that it is not just coming from the boss. They can see the success that others have had, especially if they can see some of these facilities.
We feel we have one of the nicest facilities in the region, but there is always someone who does it better, and we are open to new ideas. We have learned that this has taken us a lot farther for the total buy in.
Why is it important to serve the industry?
Get involved. Join your state association, join ARA, get certified. This leads you to discover what you are doing well, and see where you may be lacking in processes and procedures. Our industry organizations are our representatives when we go to the OEMs, insurance, collision, repairs or the public. Be a part of change.
Represent professional auto recycling. Make sure your facility is clean and operated like a store. Modernize your office. Clean your trucks. Train your staff in safety, modernize equipment. I buy one or two pieces a year. Understand your YMS tools and electronic tools! Pay staff a fair wage. Listen to your gut sometimes. And have a business plan that has realistic goals – you need to see success.
Set your monthly goals, 3-6 month goals, and then have your 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 year plan. You will have road blocks, but setbacks can be overcome.
Take a vacation! We all live for our business. We all believe in it, and we have to be sure all our employees and customers believe in us, too. But we all need a break!
A solid foundation, goals and a plan will make us a lot better than we were yesterday.
Caryn Smith is the editor of ARA’s Automotive Recycling magazine and has been covering the industry for over 20 years.