The Participation Award Goes To…

Dec 1, 2023 | Toolbox

Kirchhayn Auto Parts & Recycling in Fredonia, WI

By Theresa Colbert

It’s funny because normally a “participation award” is given to everyone. But in this case, the participation award only goes to one yard – Krichhayn Auto Parts & Recycling. The owners, Heather and Terry, along with managers, Scott and Bob, are committed to continuing education. They want to learn and grow the business more than ever before.

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When I saw them at the Auto Recyclers of Michigan (ARM) show this year, I was shocked to see how many people they brought with them. They had so many people in one of my classes that I had to ask, “How many employees did you bring with you?” The answer – 16! Then, you know me, I had to ask, “How many employees do you have at the yard?” The answer – 17. “What? You brought almost your entire team?” Every employee had the same answer to my question “Yes, we want to learn.”

The Kirchhayn team is so amazing that they gave up T-ball games, ballet lessons, and an entire Saturday to learn. They also brought four people to the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) show in Kansas City – spending time and money to go to classes and meet other recyclers.

I am so dang proud of every single Kirchhayn employee that they all get the “Theresa Participation Award for 2023!”

When I go to recycler tradeshows, I’m always curious to see how many employees are from the same yard. Believe it or not, some of the owners of larger businesses will bring every single one of their employees to a tradeshow. The yard shuts down for a day or two. During that time, they’re missing chances to sell, and then they’re coming back from the tradeshow facing catch-up work. Why would they let that happen? Because these recyclers know a little secret – in our industry, you just can’t get better at your job without continuing education.

And when I say “continuing education,” I really want to stress the “continuing” part. Auto recycling is always changing. Every year, more sales happen online. We all know that’s the case, but do you really know what your yard should be doing differently, as things change? Do you know what the latest tools are for selling online?

Another example: Electric vehicles are becoming common. I see the charging stations all over the place now. Would you rather learn about how this new tech is changing the industry by Googling “EVs” and hoping for the best, or by attending a class with an expert who actually works with EVs? If you attend an ARA event, you can get the second option.

When I go to tradeshows, I don’t just learn from the presentations. I learn a lot from other attendees. Other yard owners have faced the same challenges my business faces, and they’ve been generous with their knowledge. I always pick up tips and tricks. I’ve had experiences where I’ve gone to a tradeshow, and just a lunch with the right group of recyclers made the whole trip worth it.

The networking opportunities also help – I’ve made partnerships with other yards. Through brokering and more, we’ve been able to really help each other out.

In my experience, conferences are well worth the time and money (especially for new and small yards). If you’re thinking, “Well, I’m trying to make money, not spend it getting into tradeshows,” I want to remind you that, really, these events don’t cost. They pay – dividends. You’re going to learn something that helps you run your yard more efficiently, or something that boosts your bottom line.

But there are also training opportunities you don’t need to travel for. has free webinars for its recycler customers. And they aren’t just one-size-fits-all lectures. You can ask experts questions that affect your business. If you’re trying to sell more parts online, it’s a great way to learn what tools are available, and a great way to learn best practices.

As always, have a great month. Email me at, text or call me at 859-802-2382 if you have any comments, questions, or need help finding recycler events in your area.

Theresa Colbert owns Recycled OE Parts in Richland, MO opening it from scratch 3 1/2 years ago.  For the last 13 years, she is a Sales and Training Specialist at Her goal is to find the correct product to fit each customer and make sure that they are trained to use it. Reach Theresa at (859) 802-2382 via phone call or text, or email

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