Archive for January, 2012


The answer is yes. You need to have some sort of company handbook to set some standard operating procedures (SOP) for your auto repossession business. Having a company handbook will save time in your daily operations because it lessens the possibility of having to answer the same questions over and over again. It will help create uniformity and set a standard in your company, as well as prevent disagreements on how things need to be done.

If you have an SOP for your company, then there will never be a question as to what is expected of your office staff and repossession agents. They can sign that they received and read the handbook. This holds them accountable for their work performance, whether it is good or bad. Your employees will not be able to claim ignorance about a rule when you have to take action on a violation of a rule found in the handbook. This can help protect you and your company from unemployment claims, as well as possible legal action. You can combat claims of favoritism if you simply enforce the written policies of your company equally with all of your employees. It will put all employees on level ground, and this helps create a happy and well-running work environment. A well-drafted company handbook will not only protect you, but also protect your employees, as well.

Having a company handbook is also a valuable tool in marketing your auto repossession services to potential clients. It shows that your company is a professional, efficient company that has guidelines on how to serve them from the acceptance of the repossession order to delivery of their collateral to auction. You can actually share with the lenders your step-by-step written guide on how you get the job done and minimize their (and your) window of liability.

Your handbook should detail all the procedures you want in place for running your collateral recovery operation. It can lay out such things as hours of operation for your office, to medical and sick leave, to drug testing of employees. It can map out the recovery process you want your repo agents to follow in the field, and how you want your office staff to stream information to your lender clients.

You want to be sure you cover all areas to avoid lawsuits from debtors. One area in particular would be the storage of a debtor’s personal property, how it is inventoried and what documentation you have the debtor sign and file upon receiving his personal effects. One suggestion I have for you that was a rule at my company was the storage of liquids. We always disposed of liquids – chemicals, bleach, laundry detergent, gasoline, etc. We did not want a hazardous material spill or chemical reaction to occur at our office. Another suggestion I have for you is to have a rule regarding the storage of firearms and what procedure is set for returning guns to a debtor. One of our members and contributing authors, Bill Meinhardt, posted an excellent suggestion in our auto repossession forum. Bill posted this:

“I always unloaded the weapons and rendered them temporary inoperable with plastic pull ties” in a thread titled Guns and ammo in car – what’s your policy?

I suggest to all of you who do not have a company handbook to get one. it will professionalize your repossession business and help things to run more smoothly at your company.

Loyalty

I read a quote recently that said, “The man who inspires loyalty will never die alone or at least his death will not go unnoticed.” I have known a slew of people in my life that have demanded loyalty from the people around them. Some of them were business owners demanding loyalty from their employees. Others were pastors expecting complete loyalty from their parishioners. I knew of one chief of police that demanded 100% loyalty from the police officers that were under him at his department. I even have known some husbands that expected undying devotion from their wife and children. I guess there is nothing wrong with any of the above scenarios, is there? The problem that I saw in many of those situations was that the loyalty was expected to flow up to the leader, but was not reciprocated back down to the followers. Loyalty in any relationship needs to be a two-way street. It needs to ebb and flow between the king of the castle and those that dwell in his domain. In each of the above relationships, I saw a police chief, a pastor, a husband and a business owner demand loyalty from those under him, but these men did not return the loyalty they so fervently demanded to those around them. How can we, as business owners, be loyal to those members of our organization? We can be patient, understanding, attentive, and forgiving to our employees. We need to see them not just as employees, but as human beings that have personal lives, struggles, and the ups and downs that life dishes out. Of course, when you are running a business, you must have expectations of your employees, right? Definitely, but your responsibility as the person running the company is to be sure that your staff receives the proper training for the job they were hired to do. You need to be sure that what you expect from them is patiently explained and taught. You need to not get angry or explosive when a mistake is made and to take the time to retrain them on what they did wrong.

I remember being in the office of a “mom and pop” repossession company a few years ago. They had a decent office, they had some nice-looking wreckers, and they even had a storage lot with a decent amount of collateral stored there. The owners greeted me with a big, friendly “hello” and invited me into their office. As soon as I walked in, I could feel that something was not right in the office. All of their staff greeted me with a smile, but, for some reason, it lacked in sincerity. As I was sitting there talking with the owners, I could hear a phone ringing and ringing in the main office, and one of the owners seemed to get stressed, all of a sudden. He quickly answered the phone and was very abrupt with whom I suspected was a client calling for an update. As soon as he hung up, he exploded into a loud tirade and chewed out the girl that did not get the call. She explained that she was on the phone with another lender and he blew up even more loudly, using some of the vilest profanity. He then came back into the office and loudly told me (so she could hear) how worthless that girl was and how he was gunning to fire her. A few weeks later, I heard that girl quit and, over the next several months, that company went through a string of office workers. This was because the explosive behavior of the one owner caused a high turnover rate in their office. That company is still running today, but, in my opinion, at only 50% of the potential it could be running. Sadly, I know of many repo companies where this scenario is played out day in and day out.

Employees treated with loyalty and respect will be loyal to you. I had one big, strong, muscle-bound guy working for me, that probably would have charged hell with a bucket of water for me. When I sold my company and retired, he cried on my last day at the office.

I sometimes joke about death and funerals, and it relates to the above quote – “The man who inspires loyalty will never die alone or at least his death will not go unnoticed.” When I am joking about the topic of funerals, I always say this: “Some people will die and will have loyal friends that will fight to be pallbearers to carry the beloved’s casket. Others had better be cremated, because they will be lucky to have one person willing to tote the urn that their ashes are kept in.” Loyalty – expect it, but also give it.

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Branding Your Auto Repossession Company

Are you branding your auto repossession company? Before you answer, let’s take a look at some of the essentials of branding. A successful brand needs to:

  1. Be different. Forget about all the cliché claims that other repo companies make. Be unique in ways that really matter to the lender.
  2. Make promises on which you can deliver. Never make claims that you can’t live up to. I know several repo business owners that are unable to be honest with their lenders about service. Some regularly accept assignments that are way, way out of their service area, and they do this thinking they will make their client happy. They always promise to be diligent on running those long distant accounts, but are lucky to get around to even doing a first run. The bad news is, the client won’t be happy. The owner would be better off to tell the lender that they only provide quality service and, in this case, they can’t do that. They could then give the client the name of another repo company right in that area. The lender will appreciate the honesty.
  3. Interact with your clients. Get to know them personally and develop a deep, long-lasting relationship – a bond, if you will. Be genuinely interested in them personally, instead of just being interested in their business.
  4. Communicate regularly with your clients. In a day and age of landlines, cell phones, text messaging, email, twitter, Facebook, etc., there is no reason why you should not stay connected with your clients. Don’t forget the U.S. Postal service for getting a Christmas card or birthday card delivered right to your client.
  5. Have a catchy company name, logo and motto. I was told recently by a vendor manager of a large lender that said a cool name and motto sticks out in their mind when someone does a sales call. She said that the staff in the vendor department sit around talking at lunch about the coolest name of the companies that had made sales calls that day. You don’t have to change your name, but you can always add to it. For example, there are several auto repossession companies in America that bear the name Bulldog Recovery. If there are twenty of them nationwide, how would an owner of one of them get their name to stand out in a nationwide client’s mind over the rest? How about a catchy motto? “Bulldog recovery ~ We take a bite out of your past due accounts”. Corny? Maybe, but that Bulldog Recovery will stand out from the other Bulldogs.
  6. Get your name out there physically. Get packets, brochures and business cards in the hands of every possible client out there. Do not send an expensive gift to one person in a department, but rather send something that brands your company to every customer service representative that works for your clients. If your name is on every desk of a recovery department via coffee mugs, post-it notes, pens, etc., whom do you think will come to mind when they need a car picked up in your service area? Check with your client to see if this is allowed. Most will allow it, if it is a small gift to every employee and not just to one person.
  7. Get your name out there in the cyber world. Hello! It is 2012, and if you do not have a website, get one built. You need to drive traffic to that site. The way you do that is to advertise on ALL the online auto repossession company directories on the internet. Am I plugging our site? Sure, I am. If I said I was not, I would be lying. However, I am also plugging the 4 or 5 other directories out there, as well.  You need to be on ALL of them, not just ours. The successful repossession companies out there advertise in the directories, and the ones that struggle do not. You also need to write some auto repossession articles on your website and a blog you set up, as well as other repossession industry related sites that will allow you to do so. Why? To brand yourself as an auto repossession expert and professional.

Your brand will reside in the hearts and minds of your current clients, as well as prospective lenders. A strong brand is invaluable as you battle to build a broad client lender base. It is so very important to spend some time investing in, researching, defining, and building your brand. Your brand is the source of a promise to your lenders. It is the foundational cornerstone in the marketing of your auto repossession business. Google, Coke, Ford, Dairy Queen and many other successful companies brand themselves. You know their names because they branded their companies. Besides knowing their name, you need to learn from them in the area of branding.

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Losing Money Is Not Good Business Sense

One of the main reasons an auto repossession business fails is that they do not charge enough for auto repossessions. It really seems simple enough, but I constantly talk to auto repossession company owners that tell me they are in the red every month. I can see why, when they tell me their repossession fees. If you own a proper auto repossession business – one that has the correct insurance coverage, a real office, storage lot and decent equipment, then you need to charge a rate that makes you money. Remember, you are not in business to make yourself a living. You are in business to make money, to prosper, and to be a successful entrepreneur. You will not stay in business very long if you are just making ends meet. You need to turn a profit and save for your company’s future. One day, you will need to replace the current wrecker you have. Or you might have to finance the expansion of your repo business by opening a satellite office, hiring more staff and purchasing new wreckers. You will not be able to achieve any of that if your business is just surviving month to month.

So the question is, “What should you charge?” You need to look at several things. One is what your successful competitor is charging. Your competitor that runs a proper repossession company. You should evaluate and match his rates, rather than some fly-by-night company that can’t afford to get a burned-out headlight fixed on their 1984 sling truck. You should also look at what your business expenses are going to be and charge a fee that not only covers those expenses, but makes you a healthy profit. I keep hearing talk of repo fees at $200 for an involuntary! I can tell you what successful, profitable auto repossession company owners say about the $200 rate – “I would not turn the ignition key in my wrecker for $200 a car”. You need to look at the fact that if you work for rates that cause you to lose money, then you might as well not be in business. I know it is hard to not go in and undercut your competition. I know it is tough to say “no” to a lender when they call and ask you to lower your rate because “Rat Recovery” is doing repos for $25 cheaper than you.

It is also tough to have to go down to your local lawyer’s office and file bankruptcy on your auto repossession business. It is a lot tougher to have to announce to your office staff, repossession agents and other employees that they no longer have a place to work. It is real tough to lose your life savings that you excitedly invested into your new business venture. What will you do? Go work for one of your competitors? Sure, that may be an option, but I can tell you from experience, that once you have been a business owner, it is quite hard to go back and work for someone else.

The truth of the matter is that you can be successful in this business! You can do it through hard work, honesty, integrity and, most of all, good business sense. That good business sense entails knowing that you have to make a decent profit to survive in any business. If you are doing a great job for your clients, then you are worth paying a “great” fee. We, as an industry, have gotten ourselves in a mess by constantly lowering our rates, when we should have been raising them all along. I can tell you that 20 years ago, the auto repossession industry was a profitable business. Lenders were paying more 20 years ago than they are paying now. They were also paying for more services back then, and there were no “freebies”! Each and every company owner needs to take steps to overcorrect this downward spiral of the industry for which we have so much passion.

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