Success in the catalytic converter market does not come easy. But co-owners Tim Patrick and his brother-in-law Harley Mayer Jr. were determined to make Cotaco Creek Converters, Inc., in Lacey's Spring, Ala., an industry leader.
"We really wanted to be in business for ourselves," explained Patrick. "So we picked a business we knew and went to work."
While developing Cotaco Creek Converters, Patrick and Mayer Jr. found buying scrap was a challenge.
"We had no employees and no customers," noted Patrick. "We built the business from scratch. From sweeping the floors, driving the trucks and picking up the converters. We worked long hours, sometimes even sleeping on the floorboards of a truck. There would be times when one of us would want to quit, but the other would talk him out of it. Probably the only reason we made it was because we both
didn't give up at the same time."
Breaking Onto The Scene
Due to the pair's dedication, they were able to persevere. After a few years of hard work, Patrick and Mayer Jr. expanded their business by rebuilding and selling old catalytic converters. They used an outside testing facility at first, but in 2002, Cotaco Creek Converters brought in enough business for the partners to purchase their own equipment.
"We jumped through hoops with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get the exemption to sell catalytic converters," expressed Patrick. "It's illegal to sell a converter pulled off of a car - it has to be tested by a lab like ours; authorized by the EPA."
Today, there are three main aspects to Cotaco Creek Converters' (CotacoCreekConverters.com) business. It recycles converters for metal, sells rebuilt converters to muffler and repair shops, and certifies converters for auto recyclers that want to sell them.
Rebuilt converters come with a two-year, 24,000-mile warranty, and are sold nationwide - with the exception of California, where the practice is illegal.
"Harley and I still do all the buying," stated Patrick. "We're still the ones to go visit customers. There's a lot of competition out there, and it differentiates us because customers get to deal directly with the owners of the company. We've had relationships with [our customers] since the beginning, and we [even] know about their families. It's one of the things that I enjoy most about this business."
Patrick and Mayer Jr. have strong working relationships with their employees as well.
"They mean an awful lot to us," said Patrick. "Not only are they employees; they're friends. They're dependable, trustworthy, always friendly and courteous. Ask [any] one of them to do something for the company and they don't question it."
Cotaco Creek Converters emphasizes customer service as well.
"We have a very customer-oriented staff," acknowledged Patrick. "We're also very lenient with our warranties. If we have a good customer [with a problem], even if we know it's not tour product's fault, we take care of them. We treat people fairly and honestly. That's what keeps them coming back. You don't develop the kind of relationships we have unless you're fair and honest."
Patrick and Mayer Jr. mainly rely on face-to-face contact and friendliness to promote their business.
"The Internet has been great for getting our name out there," said Patrick. "But what works best is a direct call on the customer. We walk in [to the customer's business], introduce ourselves and let them put a name with a face."
Owners: Tim Patrick & Harley Mayer Jr.
Location: Lacey's Spring, Ala.
Years In Business: 18