Family And The Golden Rule
If there’s one thing that defines the Snyder family, it’s that they never stop dreaming. Over the course of three decades, they have taken a modest auto recycling business and turned it into a family enterprise. Like the parts that they sell, Snyder’s Certified Auto and Truck Parts and its associated businesses are part of a well-tuned machine driven to success — largely fueled by a love of family, a pursuit of excellence and adherence to the Golden Rule.
It all started on August 10, 1988, when Ralph Snyder realized his lifelong dream of owning a salvage yard. After a career in construction, he took the plunge, purchasing 10 acres of land along state highway 95 just south of Holland, Texas. Then he immediately put his expertise to work on the first building. His son, Dan, newly graduated from college, joined him in the business.
In those early years, the pair had to supplement their income with parts installations and welding. Through hard work and dedication, they grew the recycling business steadily, so that it was ready when Dan’s siblings Andy, Bonnie and Travis joined them.
With so many dreamers on board, it was natural to expand. “My dad was still relatively young; we were all relatively young,” said Dan. “Travis was just out of college, and so we were all in the business with maybe 25 employees. We’re all Type A personalities so we wanted to have a little bit more elbow room.”
The first expansion was a self-serve yard called Budget Wrench-A-Part in Belton, Texas, about 25 miles away. Ralph and Travis built Belton from scratch. Then, Ralph and Andy headed to Austin to construct another Wrench-A-Part.
“The idea was that we would start another organization, spread out a bit,” said Dan. “That went well, and so we just did another one and another one.” Today, the business includes Wrench-a-Part locations in Austin, Belton, Holland, Lubbock, and most recently, San Antonio. They also own Phoenix Auto Group, a used car business based in Belton. The original full-service yard in Holland serves as the hub of the operation.
“Working with family and around family is really a blessing in many ways,” said Dan. “We get along well as a family, but when you are all owners, working under the same umbrella, it’s sometimes challenging. You have to really define your roles, so you don’t step on each other’s toes. The expansions allowed us to do that.”
As General Manager of the Holland location, and CEO of all of the locations, Dan maintains a bird’s eye view, helped by regular check-ins with the various businesses. “We have a conference call with the general managers every Friday to review our month-to-date metrics and each location has a weekly manager’s meeting,” he explained. “Once a month, we hold management meetings at one location. As part of the meeting, we tour the location and give feedback to the local manager. That manager then gives an update at the following meeting.”
A big bold entry at the top of every agenda is the Golden Rule: treat people the way you want to be treated. “That’s one of the tenets that we founded the business on and continue to strive for,” said Dan. “It’s not just employee to employee; it’s manager to employee, company to customers, vendor to company. It’s all of those interactions where you choose to treat someone fairly and with respect. Here at the full-service location, we wear high visibility yellow shirts with the slogan, ‘work like your customer depends on it.’ If we keep that in mind, hopefully we’ll do a quality job and take good care of the customer.”
The business originally started social media on their own but a year-and-a-half ago hired a marketing manager to drive Facebook and promotions. As a result, they’ve got a perfect 5.0 rating on Facebook and a 4.1 rating on Google. They also started a chat function on their website to appeal to a younger customer base. Their website has an eCommerce option, too—another way to keep up with the times.
“The idea is to build a family-owned business that we can pass to the next generation,” said Dan. “That’s how we kept going along the way, never really satisfied with the status quo. We like to do things very well and we like to be at the leading edge of what it is that we’re doing. We don’t look back. We don’t settle, we just keep on moving forward.”
“At this stage, a lot of my focus is trying to bring quality employees up, and give them more and more responsibility, allowing them to succeed,” he noted. “They are going to be the future of these companies. That includes the next generation, many of whom are already working here.”
“Part of our succession plan is that any next generation family member who is interested in possibly having some ownership in the future has multiple hoops they’ve got to jump through,” said Dan. “We don’t want any sense of entitlement. That’s why we require them to work for two years outside of the business after college. They need to understand that hard work and dedication will bring them the rewards in the future, and not the fact that their last name is Snyder.”
Though not a daily presence in the business, Ralph Snyder is still around to add inspiration—and consult on new construction. Dan is grateful to continue his father’s legacy, which is now his own. “When you’re young and you dream about things, it’s literally that,” said Dan. “It’s kind of a dream. I think in my wildest dreams, we haven’t yet achieved all that we hope to do.”