Archive for June, 2012

As the old saying goes, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” If you are having problems with your auto repossession business, it is not your agents and office staff that are to blame. It is not the debtors or your clients fault. It is certainly not what you complain about most–“the nasty forwarders fault”; as the owner, it is your fault. The buck stops with the owner of any business, and the auto repo industry is no different.

Your true character will eventually rise to the surface, no matter how much you stroke and massage the lie. If you are lazy or dishonest or careless in the running of your company, then expect that your negative quality will be imparted to your staff. If you are slothful in your appearance, then expect your staff to follow suit. If you break rules in business, then your employees will emulate your actions. Your company needs to have strong core values that provide the optimal auto repossession services to your current and potential clients. You, as the owner, need to communicate and ensure that your employees also possess your vision on your company values and objectives. Lead by example and never deviate from your mission statement. Have regular meetings with your staff to make sure they catch your passion for having the best customer service, recovery rate and professionalism in the industry.

However, how you conduct yourself as a business owner is not determined when you are seated at your desk in your office. It starts when you pull back the covers and arise out of bed. Statistics show that a company owner that manages a strong personal reputation will transmit that to his company, develop loyal customers, have dedicated and productive employees, and reap profits higher than the average in their industry. Your personal reputation will follow you into business. You are a business owner, and everything you do as a private citizen will reflect on your business. Your actions as a husband, father, son, brother, neighbor, coach, lodge member or whatever personal role you are in at the moment will rub off on your company’s reputation.

As the company owner, before any situation arises, you need to decide how you will act on a personal level before you decide your actions as a business owner. For example, I decided in my life that I would never steal, even if there was no one around to catch me. I decided that long before I was ever a business owner. That decision probably occurred when I was in high school. One day, my rollback was in desperate need of tires–and not just one tire, but all six tires. It was in the month of March during the dreaded tax season–low volume of repossession orders–time. Suddenly, the storage yard gate swung open, and, lo and behold, a competitor’s rollback rolled into the yard with one of my agents at the helm. This competitor was closing its doors and was not going to redeem the truck that happened to have 6 “just like new” tires that were an exact match for my truck. I could have swapped out those tires and not one person would have noticed. The collection manager that sent over the repo order on the truck was a dear friend of mine, and he probably would not have cared if I stole those tires. But, I would have known, and by doing so would have broken the rule I set on myself, before I was a business owner, to never, ever be a thief. The truck went to auction with its nice tires and I bought a new set for my rollback.

You need to act professionally at all times, whether you are on the clock or off the clock. You are a business owner in the community and all eyes are on you. You never know whose set of eyes are doing the viewing, as was the case of a friend of mine that owns a repossession company. He was involved in a road-rage incident and made the decision to curse out the driver with whom he had the altercation. He ended the situation by giving the dreaded middle finger. He did not realize that the driver was the brother of the woman riding in the car. She happened to be the wife of the collection manager of one of his largest clients. Not only was she in the car, but her children were in the back seat. To add insult to injury, they had just left the hospital where they had been visiting their dying father. The story ends with my friend losing an account where he was picking up around 40 cars a month. I know his rates, and that is close to a $15,000 a month loss (not including his key cutting and transport fees) in business, over some cuss words and one finger.

You need to do some self examination of your personal life and reputation and ask yourself some questions.

  • Do I conduct myself in my personal life in a way that would make my family proud?
  • Do my actions benefit those around me?
  • Do I contribute to the community I live in?
  • Do I live by a certain set of standards no matter what situation arises?
  • If someone were to ask the neighbors on my street, would they all say they were happy to live by me?
  • Do I treat the people I interact with in my daily life with respect and kindness?
  • Do I make people have a better day after having contact with me?

If you are not giving yourself high marks when answering the above questions, then your personal reputation is probably hurting your company’s reputation. You need to work on fixing your actions and personal reputation so you can begin building a great reputation for your company.

One of the most important steps of the repossession process is the personal property inventory. Any veteran of the auto repossession business can tell you scores of stories about debtors claiming that the Rolex watch or diamond ring they left in their vehicle was missing. Of course, someone that owns a $20,000 watch or ring can certainly make their car payment, right? In any case, these sort of claims might be leveled against your company, and you will want to protect yourself from this window of liability. You might be thinking that a debtor would not be able to pursue a lawsuit because they are a “deadbeat” that won’t be able to afford a lawyer to file the case on alleged missing property. I have known of more than one repossession company that thought the same thing, and lost a suit filed by the debtor all on their own, without paying a lawyer a dime.

Your Word Choice Can Make or Break You

When you inventory someone’s property, make sure you are very detailed and careful with your descriptions. Never say a gold ring or a gold watch, but rather describe these items as “gold colored”. Be sure you never call a watch by its brand name, as it might be a knock-off. Your description of an item might place more value on it than what it is actually worth. Complete your detailed property inventory, listing all items, and have one last entry of “various personal papers and trash” if those items are indeed found in the car. I know of some company owners that video inventories of personal property that are over a certain value.


Make sure you safely and securely store all of the debtor’s property in a container that is clearly marked with the debtor’s name, the lender, the account number and the date of repossession. The date record will allow you to track when the property can be disposed of. We never stored any liquids found in a vehicle because we did not want them spilling on any of the debtor’s other items. We also feared the possibility of a HAZMAT situation if chemicals leaked and came into contact with other liquids. If you choose to store liquids, make sure the containers are tightly sealed and stored on a level surface, and consider putting the container into a plastic bag. Always store any valuables, guns, jewelry and cash in your company safe. If you do not have a safe, then get one. All property should be stored in a locked area that is accessible by a limited number of people. Property in my company was only accessible by our lot man or by me as the owner.

Illegal Contraband

Contact your local police jurisdiction if you find illegal contraband, such as drugs or drug paraphernalia in a debtor’s car. Make sure you obtain a police report when they take custody of it. I can remember finding a revolver with the serial number obliterated off it in a brown paper bag in a police officer’s truck we repossessed. The ATF and internal affairs division of his police department was very happy to take custody of what might have been used as a drop gun. That debtor is now a former police officer convicted of several crimes, including making death threats to an ATF agent. He tried to file a lawsuit on us for turning over the gun to the ATF, claiming we caused him to lose his job, even though he had multiple criminal charges. Our detailed incident report and property inventory stopped his claim cold.

When it comes to a property inventory, more is always better than less. The more detail, the better. Your company will have more creditability when the report is neat, concise and consistent.