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Fresh Start
Father & Son Start Second Yard Together


 

 
This father and son duo, Eric and Larry Bagwell, brings more experience to their new, second-chance recycling business.
 


Karen Crowley

November / December 2004

 

This father and son duo, Eric and Larry Bagwell, brings more experience to their new, second-chance recycling business.


 

What if you had the chance to start your business over again? Eric Bagwell and his father, Larry, were able to do just that.

The father-and-son team from Canton, Ohio, recently opened their second auto recycling facility together. Their first was Grand Central Auto, which opened in 1984. They sold the company to Ford in 2000, and Eric stayed on as the company's general manager.

"We saw an opportunity to grow the business with Ford Motor Company, because of who they are," Eric said.

After four years as general manager, however, Eric felt the need to run his own company again.

"It was great working for them, and I learned a lot from them," he said. "I didn't leave because I didn't like them. I left because I wanted my own business again, something that my children can get involved with someday if they wish to."

Eric resigned in August; in October, he and Larry opened Keiffer Auto & Truck Recyclers just 15 miles away. Just as they did with Grand Central, Eric and Larry built the company from scratch, starting with a bare parcel of land and an empty building. This time, though, they came to the business with more money and even more experience.

Larry has worked in the industry since 1968. Before opening Grand Central, he owned Action Auto Recyclers from 1979 to 1984. Eric has been around his father's businesses since he was a child but said the 20 years he spent at Grand Central have prepared him to run Keiffer Auto.

"Now I definitely have industry and auto-recycling background," he said. "I know every aspect of this business."

The time he spent as Grand Central's general manager was also a valuable learning experience, he said.

"The education I got from Ford was on the financial end of it, learning how to create a budget and how to look at expenses closely," he said. "Putting the knowledge I've learned in the past 20 years with that financial education makes me more successful in what I do."

The biggest lesson he's learned is the importance of good employees. While Grand Central had 55 employees when Eric left the company, Keiffer Auto currently has just four - including Eric and Larry. Eric said he plans to add 15 to 20 employees over the next three to five years, though he was not allowed to bring any with him from Grand Central.

"I had a great group of employees, and now my biggest challenge is to grow and mold another group of people to the way we do business," he explained. "It's important to have the right people in the right places. You're only as good as the people around you. That's how we've been successful."

Some other secrets of success?

"Buy the right cars - what people are looking for - and buy enough of them," he said. "Make sure customer service is the most important thing. Anybody can buy a vehicle and sell parts, but the biggest thing is quality and service, and how you manage that."

So far, Keiffer Auto seems to be managing just fine.

"We've done it before," Eric said. "We can do it again."