Neil Morris’ History In The Industry Goes Back Generations
Owner Neil Morris (front) runs Carolina Salvage with the help of General Manager John Grant.
LASHAY ART & PHOTOGRAPHY
Neil Morris knows scrap. He’s the third generation of the Morris family to be in the scrap business. His grandfather, Earl Morris, started Morris Scrap Metal Company, Inc. in Kings Mountain, N.C. in 1931. Neil’s father Jerry Morris runs that business today. Neil got his start there and is now vice president. But, auto recycling runs just as deep in his veins.
“My grandfather was originally in auto salvage” Neil explained. “I remember my grandfather crushing cars. That’s where my roots are.”
Neil circled back to his auto recycling roots in 2009 when he partnered with Billy Standridge to open Carolina Salvage (www.carolinasalvage3.com), a multi-service auto recycling facility in Rock Hill, S.C. Standridge, a former NASCAR driver, already owned a full-service recycling facility (Standridge Auto Parts) in Shelby, N.C., and led the daily operations at the Rock Hill site. Neil’s initial role was just as a silent partner.
“We had done business in the past and I heard from a mutual friend he was looking for a partner,” Neil explained.
Standridge ran the facility, which included both a full- and self-service yard, plus a scrap processing facility, until his unexpected death in 2012. That’s when Neil decided to step in and run the business himself.
Neil said he embraced the auto recycling side of the business and wanted to make some improvements. He decided to make some changes with the help of his childhood friend John Grant, the general manager.
“I was the first big change. I came on board in 2010 as General Manager,” explained Grant. “I streamlined processes and procedures and also made goals and stuck to them.”
Grant came with a wealth of experience in the auto repair industry. He has worked in collision repair shops in several states in the South, plus Ohio and New York, Neil said. Grant also had experience recycling cores. Together they joined a Counts Consulting Group to get ideas from other auto recyclers. They upgraded the inventory system to Powerlink and opened an eBay store a year ago to sell small parts.
“We’re a lot more organized now, everything is neat and in its place,” Neil stated. “Our goal this year is to buy 4,000 cars and next year’s goal is 5,000 and we’ll do it.”
Neil and Grant also revamped the office and updated the waiting area for its walk-in customers, which make up about one-third of its customer base.
“An updated waiting area makes it more user-friendly and inviting to our customers,” said Grand.
“They feel like they’re sitting in a doctor’s office,” added Neil. “If I hear someone talking and they say, ‘I’m at the junkyard,’ I correct them right away and tell them, ‘No, you’re at an auto recycling facility.’”
The business is a member of ARA, the Carolina Auto Recyclers Association (CAR), URG, IPart - a southern-based parts trading group and it is also a PartsTrader shop.
The key to Carolina Salvage’s success lies in its employees. Carolina Salvage currently has 37 employees for all three sections of the business. Neil said they hire employees that know about the industry and they pay them what they’re worth. The company is also big on training. The employees are cross-trained so they have the ability to work in all sections of the business. For example, scrap processing employees are also trained to work in the self-service yard and self-service employees are trained to work on the full-service side and so on. Grant said this cross-training is important in that it helps combat worker fatigue. The only employees who aren’t cross trained are the sales staff, but they still received extra training. The group recently took part in a sales seminar led by Bill Stevens, said Neil.
But it wasn’t always such a harmonious working environment. Things were different before Neil and Grant took over.
“No one was part of team,” admitted Grant. “It was an ‘Us and them’ mentality. None of the departments talked to each other. Now we have them working as part of one group.”
Grant explained that they now hold regular company meetings, at least once a month, for all employees. They also plan company events and meals to bring everyone together. “Everyone’s paycheck hinges on what everyone else is doing,” he added.
The business has a total of 37 acres and currently works of 31, with plans for developing the last six in the next 12 - 18 months. The South’s great weather allows for many cars to be left outside nearly whole, said Neil. Engines and transmissions are pulled and stored in the 24,000-square-foot warehouse. The business has a million parts inventoried and ships daily. While the full-service section focuses on late-model vehicles, the self-service side has more than 1,200 vehicles from a wider variety of years, including more than 100 classics. The self-service section also sells tires.
Neil said most of the business’ inventory is bought off the street. The scrap processing side also advertises that it buys vehicles. Neil said they can buy 25 cars on a good day and 10 on a bad one. He also purchases vehicles from tow lots. He said he tries to refresh the self-service inventory every 60 - 90 days. Another benefit to having a scrap processing section is that he can buy scrap metals along with cars.
“You’re still in the scrap business, but our goal is to buy cars,” he added.
The self-service yard also feeds the scrap processing section. Once a vehicle is rotated out after about two to three months, it goes to the shredder. Rotating the inventory so quickly is one way to make up for the down scrap market, according to Neil, who also seemed optimistic that the scrap market should rebound soon. “It can’t get any worse,” he quipped.
Neil may have more experience in the scrap industry, but he’s quickly become just as successful with auto recycling.
“Auto recycling is a pretty lucrative business if you do it right,” he said. “It’s all in how you buy cars and how you treat your customers.”