Employees: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

I started in this business back in 1973 and like the saying goes, if you live long enough, you pretty much will see and hear everything.

In May of 1983, I left my former employer of seven years to come to work as a salesperson here at Northlake. I can honestly say that my first week here was probably one of the worst weeks of my life. I came here for more opportunity and to better myself. I was being paid a base pay as well as a percentage of commission on my sales. I was 27 years old at the time and like the saying goes, “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.”

At my former employer, we had well-trained help, an ample inventory, and all of the tools that a salesperson would need to do their job. This company had a great reputation with other recyclers. Back then, our average pay was $13/hour. Our help was dependable. They did a good job and the place ran like a Swiss watch.

So, coming here, the first thing that I discovered was how undependable and poorly-trained our help was. The second thing that I discovered was that I did not have the inventory at Northlake that I had at my previous employer. Because we had low inventory, I had to chase down (broker) a lot of parts to fill my orders.

The help that was here was being paid $6/hour. Let me tell you, I learned really fast that cheap help costs you money. We had four employees. When I told the boss, who was an absent owner, that these guys were awful and we need to replace them, he told me that I could do what I want, but if I were to replace anyone, I can’t pay them more than $6/hour. When I told him what we paid the employees at the yard I had left, what they did, how they made the company money, and how well the business ran, he still wouldn’t listen.

The following week, I kept track of sales that we had lost on what these four guys damaged that we had sold. It added up to be $1,200.00. When I showed this to the boss and explained to him that with what they ruined, we could have taken that money and definitely hired better help, he still wouldn’t listen.

Three days later at 4 o’clock, the guy driving the forklift comes in to tell me that the forklift is out of gas. So, because I was the only one in the store, I had to lock the door and make a trip down the street to the gas station with my 5-gallon gas can. After coming back and giving it to him, he comes in 15 minutes later and tells me that there is something else wrong with it and it still won’t start. 5 o’clock, I locked the door and go out there. I go to move the gas can and it’s half-full. I took the cap off of the gas tank and guess what? It’s empty. So, I asked him, “where did you put this gas?” He said, “I put it in the tank.” Yes, he put it in a tank, the hydraulic tank!

Now, it’s hot out and I’m frustrated, so I call my boss. I told him what happened, and I told him on his way home to stop and get 15 gallons of hydraulic fluid and a filter so I can get this machine running for the morning. When we finished at 8 o’clock, I said to him, “So, what do you think of your cheap help now?” He told me to do whatever I felt I needed to do. Within one week, I had hired two guys that did the work of all four for the same money with very little drama and aggravation.

The valuable lesson that I learned from this and that I always remember to this very day is that you get what you pay for.

Good employees make the company money and bad employees do the opposite.

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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.00