What Will the new Normal Be?

Whether you are a small business owner, a fortune 500 company, or the average working person, this is the question that you are now pondering. This has hit us fast and hit us hard, and the bad thing is that we are really not sure when it will end. Also when this is over what will the new normal be. At the present time, (April 13th) this is what we do know: by “social distancing” we seem to have flattened the curve, the economy is basically in what can be referred to as a drug-induced coma. Un-employment is off the charts. People that are on layoff are wondering if they will have a job to come back to, as well as knowing how they will make ends meet. These are anxious, and uncertain times for sure. Business owners, both large and small are wondering how, and if they will come out of this also.

The bad thing is, this could very well be for our generation, the equivalent of World War II and the Great Depression rolled into one. The only good thing to say is, hopefully this will only last months and not years. There are some businesses that will never be the same. Some will not recover. The ones that will survive and thrive will be the ones that are able to change and adapt.

Travel, tourism, entertainment, or anything else for that matter that results in large gatherings of people will probably never be the same. Will we ever shake hands again?

We, in the Automotive Recycling business are fortunate, as we were determined to be an essential business. While things have changed for us in what we do and how we do it in regards to servicing our customers, we have been allowed to keep our doors open. The government has stepped up with the Payroll Protection Program, (PPP). While this will definitely be a help to all businesses, it will probably only cover a portion of what we will all lose.

In times of crisis, this is where good leadership is critical. Employees have to have confidence in the boss. The boss has to communicate the current situation honestly to his employees. Whether it is good or bad, popular or not, people need to know the truth. There have actually been companies that have laid people off via an e-mail.

For us as Auto Recyclers, having to lay people off is one of the most difficult decisions that we would have to make. For some, unfortunately, there may be no other choice. I told my employees that I will keep all of them working as long as we remain an essential business. If we have to close our doors, I will continue to pay them. Our plan is to work on projects; get our house in order. Our goal is to hope to say when this does end that we kept our doors open, everyone worked, and we continued to service our customers.

As I said before this will affect us all. A/R aging will increase; it will take all of our open account customers whether they are other recyclers, or our shops longer to pay their bills. We will need to be patient with them. My approach is this: for my open accounts that have a history of being current on their bill nothing has changed. We will continue to extend credit terms to them. For those that are slow pay, we will watch them closely. For those that we have to chase for our money, it will now be C.O.D or not at all. Know this: In times of crisis everyone shows their true colors. Do your very best to support and stand by those you employ as well as those you deal with. As bad as things may seem right now, it will pass. What you do or don’t do will be remembered long after this is over. Your employees are your company’s greatest asset, and we will all need them when this ends.

One of the wisest persons in my life was Erwin “Bud” Zalon from C & J Auto Parts. I still remember back in 1975 when I was only 19 what he once told me when he made a mistake on my paycheck in my favor. When I brought it to his attention, he said yes, he made a mistake, but then told me I could keep it (it was $200.00 which was about 900 bucks in today’s dollars). He told me: “in business you should always take care your help, your suppliers, and your customers”. I think of what he said every day.

Back in 1943, ARA, your association, was formed out of adversity. We have survived for 77 years, and we will survive this. We are relevant, we are needed, and we are an important part of the Automotive Industry. We are “ROE”! Maybe after this is over, we will be recognized for all we do, and get the respect we deserve. Maybe the OEMs will now realize that we are not their adversary, we are a viable partner.

This will be one for the history books.

Keep calm, don’t panic and we will all get through this together. In these tough times we all have to put others ahead of ourselves, make sacrifices, and do what’s best for all.

Remember the Doctors, Nurses, and the First Responders. These folks have put themselves in harm’s way to serve and help us all. In this crisis they are the True Hero’s!

Marty Hollingshead

ARA Secretary · Northlake Auto Recyclers — Hammond, IN

Hollingshead has been in the professional automotive recycling industry for 45 years, including 34 years as President/Owner of Northlake Auto Recyclers, one of the industry’s leading facilities. Hollingshead prides himself on taking a hands-on approach in the business, employing the use of checks and balances for quality control to ensure customers only receive the highest quality parts. Northlake was one of the first automotive recycling facilities in the state of Indiana to receive from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management the Indiana Clean Yard – Gold Level Certification in 2009. Northlake was certified as one of the Indiana Certified Automotive Recycler Exemplary Standards (INCARES) program’s inaugural medalists and was the highest scoring facility in Indiana in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and tied for first place in 2018. Northlake was also the recipient of the 2016 ARA Certified Automotive Recycler of the Year award, having been nominated by his peers in the industry.