Putting the Team in Work
By Caryn Smith
This Gold Seal generational automotive recycling facility has a strong legacy of 60 years in the business. Bob Morrison Sr. started Morrison’s Auto Inc. in 1958, working out of his garage in the town of Fulton, WI. It was originally called Bob’s Auto Repair. Bob felt his business was growing well and in great demand. He realized the need for a larger facility. Bob soon moved from his small garage in Fulton, WI, to where it is currently located on State Road 59.
His children would soon join him at his business to make it family-owned and operated, and has remained so ever since. Bob Morrison was an honest hard working man his entire life until his unfortunate death on September 18, 1998. Today, his children carry on his dream, and continue to grow it across the 26 acres it occupies.
This one-location recycler contains 8 dismantling bays, 5 warehouses, and supporting buildings that make this full-service recycler stand out in the late model foreign and domestic niche. Processing about 2,400 cars per year, 70 employees, with many having at least 15 years tenure, work effectively and to the industry’s highest standards come rain, shine … or snow.
Erin Johnson, third generation Owner/Treasurer of Morrison’s, fondly retells, “My grandpa took his two weeks vacation from the Chevrolet dealer he worked at, and told them if things went well he probably wouldn’t be back. He started his own repair shop and then it took off from there. He started towing cars, which led to accumulating cars, which led to the auto recycling business,” she says. Joining her in the company are Bea Morrison, President/Co-founder, Bill Morrison, First Vice President, Bob Morrison, Second Vice President, Julie Koepp, Secretary, Robbie Koepp, Production Manager, and Ben Morrison, Quality Control Manager.
“I started here at a young age, when my grandparents lived right here at the yard,” Erin remembers. “Grandma watched us in the summer when there was no school, so we loved to be around doing things like sweeping floors, or picking up things that would pop tires out in the yard. When I was about 14 or 15, I began actually working on a more regular schedule in the summer or after school. When I graduated in 1996, I became a full-time employee. When Grandpa
passed away in 1998, I became a partial owner.”
Service to Industry Strong
“Service to the industry is a family tradition”, Erin explains. “As a company, we have always tried to be involved in industry-related things,” says Erin, “always wanting to learn and grow. Billy Morrison was on the Board of Directors for CARS of Wisconsin, and is a past-president. He also served on the ARA Board of Directors. I am a prior board member of CARS of Wisconsin, and currently my brother Robbie Koepp is on the board of CARS of Wisconsin, serving as Vice
Obviously, when running an operation for 60 years, there are many things that change. To stay cutting-edge, Erin says “You have to be constantly learning, changing, and adapting to the industry changes. Being involved in as many industry groups as you can helps you to stay on top of these changes.”
Initiatives to improve sales have been important, and embracing online sales has been a process. “Our online sales have slowly grown over the years. We have a pretty good eBay store right now, and customers can order through our website. This is something that we are continually working on growing and trying new ideas to do our best in this area.”
“We have four outside sales representatives who work diligently for us. They really do an outstanding job getting our name out there, as well as our radio ads, social marketing, ads in industry magazines, and fliers we use for marketing,” Erin says.
Mainly serving the repair and collision industry, customer service is always a priority to this automotive recycler.
Morrison’s is unique as an early adapter to the CAR and Gold Seal certifications. Operating at the highest levels is important. “I am not exactly sure when we got certified, but it was in the very early years of when the programs were implemented. We felt it was the right thing to do.”
The biggest challenge the facility has overcome is surprising, with 26 acres. “Space – always needing more – and sometimes not being able to get it is a challenge we struggle with.” They do their best to keep the facility organized and maximize every bit of the property that is possible.
Reflecting on Lessons Learned
The facility has been ARA members since Erin can remember, and are also members of CARS of Wisconsin. “Attending industry events like the ARA convention provides us a great opportunity to learn and network. Meeting new people in the industry that are willing to share their experiences and knowledge is invaluable.”
Being involved also at the state association, Erin says, “It is great to be a part of it to continue to stay up on what is happening in the industry. We have learned a great deal over the years by going to state association meetings, and we have made some great friends.”
Erin shares the family philosophy that the facility embraces, which her grandfather instilled in their culture. “The lesson my grandfather taught me … there were a lot of them,” laughs Erin, “but the most important one I will always remember – and continue to pass on to our team members here – is that the customer is always right. Even when you know they are 100% wrong, they are always right. The customer you allow to leave upset will tell everyone about their bad experience; yet, the customer that has the great experience will tell people about it only if it comes up in conversation. They definitely won’t tell everyone.”
In thinking more about the legacy Bob Sr. left the family business: “My grandfather was a very kind and generous man, and we have always been driven to do our best to treat all of our team members like family. Even if they are not by blood relation … to us, they are all family.”
Technology, Interchange and the Future
At Morrison’s, there is no lack of technology to make business happen. “We use every bit of technology that we can here,” Erin says. “Technology makes our days go better. We have computers everywhere, we have laptops in our yard vehicles, our drivers all use tablets with EZ Route on them and can run credit cards at deliveries, and we are always using cell phones for pictures and any new apps that can help make things proceed more efficiently throughout the day.
The internet and technology in our business are invaluable tools. Skype is probably the greatest invention for quick communication around here.”
Because of all this technology, Morrison’s clients are scattered locally in the Midwest and across the United States. “I would say the majority of our clients are local, but we are shipping daily all across the U.S., and enjoy helping all our clients achieve their repair goals. We work hard to get the right part, on time, as described. ”
Doing business on this level brings big concerns, which are most likely shared industry-wide. The control for data is on the mind of this generation of Morrison’s leadership. Concerns include both manufacturer data, which is still being challenged at the legislative level, but also within industry players. “Our biggest concern is interchange – will the larger players in the industry always continue to release interchange and make it available to us. Without interchange information it will be hard to sell the right recycled auto part to our customer,” says Erin.
The second issue of concern: recalls. “We must always be sure we are on top of recalls, and making sure we are keeping those parts safely off the market,” says Erin, an endeavor that is challenging from the sheer numbers of recalls in recent years. “On top of those issues, the rising cost of end-of-life vehicle procurement and the auctions selling salvaged cars to just about anyone now are other concerns. There should be stricter requirements to only allow licensed
professional automotive recyclers to purchase such vehicles.”
Defining the Future
While Morrison’s Auto Inc. has its unique story, it has the same goals as most professional automotive recycling businesses today. This, Erin believes, is what makes automotive recyclers have a purpose to unite and become a stronger voice. Being an active member of the industry associations and organizations over their 60 years history have made a difference to their business, and she hopes more will unite to achieve common goals.
“Our mission and vision for the future of the company is to always be constantly learning and growing together,” says Erin. “Things change daily in our industry and if you don’t keep moving with the times you will get left behind. Being involved in the industry on a larger level helps us stay informed, and a part of the change that is important to our business and the industry in general.”
At the end of the day, the secret sauce for success at Morrison’s is teamwork. “Whether internally or industry-wide, this is the key to success we’ve embraced, and it is working.”
Find them on the web at www.morrisonsauto.com.
Caryn Smith is the editor of Automotive Recycling magazine and has been covering the industry for over 20 years.