Locator UpFront 2012 Boss Of The Year
Boss of the Year Alvin “Flash” Collier (far right) and the staff at Alvinʼs Auto Recycling. From left to right: Gene Rush, Cory Zuk, Freddie Hebert, Carlos Romo, James Collier (Alvinʼs brother) and Isabella Caranza (Alvinʼs wife).
When Alvin “Flash” Collier bought Alvin’s Auto Recycling in 1985 he only had two things to his name, a Chevrolet El Camino and his last paycheck. But, that didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dream to run his own auto recycling facility, something he wanted since his childhood.
“My youngest memory was climbing up the side of a forklift with a rope to get inside of it,” he recalled. Growing up, Collier worked in many of his dad’s, Henry Alvin Collier, auto recycling facilities. “I used to sell the shoes I found in the cars. I went on to stripping the wires, then the heater cores and later started pulling parts. I remember putting an intake manifold in a ’64 Chevelle when I was in junior high.”
It was his dad who gave him the opportunity to buy Alvin’s Auto Recycling in Oakland, Calif. They planned on being partners in the business, but Collier bought him out just a few months later in September 1985 and never looked back. In fact, it’s because of his experience and dedication to the business that his employees nominated him for the Locator UpFront’s 2012 Boss of the Year.
“He’s just an all-around good guy,” said Manager Freddie Hebert, who has worked with Collier for more than 10 years and has nominated him in the past. “He’s fair to his employees. His biggest strength is his ability to communicate with us.”
That’s because Collier has been in all of his employees’ shoes at one time or another.
“I’m hands on,” Collier acknowledged. “I’ve done everything. I started in the back of the wrecking yard. I swept, pulled parts and was a full-time dismantler, plus a counterperson at three to four different places. Then I became an owner.”
As an owner, Hebert said Collier is compassionate, honorable, funny, understanding and conducts himself with integrity.
Collier said his management style comes from the past bosses he’s worked with. “I’ve worked for guys that were not good bosses and I’ve worked for some really great bosses,” he explained. He said he took the best from the best bosses and learned what not to do from the worst.
For example, Collier thanks each employee for a job well done when he hands out their pay checks. “When they say thanks to me, I answer, ‘No, you’ve earned this check, this is me thanking you.’”
Collier also buys each employee a cake on his or her birthday, and he’s been doing that for the last 20 years. He said his aunt used to bake him a cake every year, so it’s a tradition he started with his employees. It is a gesture that doesn’t go unnoticed.
“I had one guy, who was a grown man that had never had a birthday cake,” Collier remembered. “He had tears in his eyes when he got that cake.”
“What other boss do you know that gets a birthday cake for you every year?” asked Hebert.
The answer is the kind that not only rewards his employees with bonuses and birthday cake, but reaches out to his community as well.
Alvin’s Auto Recycling donates used auto parts to area nonprofit organizations, buys its shirts from the Handicapped Sales Workshop (www.hsw.net) in Margate, Fla. and is involved in yearly Rebuilding Together projects.
“I’m one of those guys if you’re walking, running or biking, I’m an easy mark,” laughed Collier.
One organization Collier has been actively involved in for the last 20 years is the State of California Auto Dismantlers Association (SCADA) and Bay Area Auto Dismantlers Association (BAADA). He is on the SCADA board of directors and is president of BAADA. Alvin’s Auto Recyclingis also an ARA member.
“I like being both (a member of SCADA and ARA),” said Collier. “I consider it a feather in my cap.”
Alvin’s Auto Recycling is an ARA Certified Auto Recycler and a SCADA Partners in the Solution member. Collier said it is the only business in the East Bay area to have both certifications.
“We’ve been called auto wreckers, then dismantlers and now auto recyclers,” he said. “I’m very proud of being an auto recycler. I think that’s the best thing we’ve ever done is turn into auto recyclers because we’ve been recycling for years.”
The business is a full-service, pre-dismantled facility with more than 40,000 used auto parts stored in its more than 20,000-squarefeet of warehouse space. At first glance, the business doesn’t look like a salvage yard.
“We’re not your typical auto recycling facility,” Collier acknowledged. “We don’t have 500 cars lined up outside.”
It utilizes eBay and Car-Part.com to sell parts. Collier said he and his six employees sell everything, but he likes to stock up on parts from ’97 to ’07 and has a process to figure what he needs to buy. He checks out the parking lots whenever he goes to the movies, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Costco, etc.
“When I’m walking through the parking lot, I look around,” he explained. “And I know if I don’t have any parts for those cars in the lot, I’m not selling parts.”
Collier has been in the recycling business for 27 years. He said he has no plans to leave the business anytime soon.
“My employees know I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’m not trying to sell the place, I’m not going anywhere. “I love what I do. As the saying goes, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’”