Terry Nicholson

When Jim Croce sang his tale about Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, he dropped in that line about Leroy being meaner than a junkyard dog. But what if you could learn a few things from an old junkyard dog?

The Junkyard Dog is an affectionate nickname I gave to a contractor friend of mine after discovering a few unusual tactics he employs to get an edge on the competition, improve his business, and find out what’s really going on with his team. It might sound strange, but bear in mind that this is one of the most profitable contractors in the country who continues to grow his already highly successful HVAC business.

What does he do out there by the dumpsters that could possibly give you an edge? Here’s a look at a few of the lessons from the Junkyard Dog.


What the Junkyard knows about your competitors:The Junkyard Dog has a particular tactic to figure out how many replacements his competitors might be doing in a given week. You might want to give this a shot as you drive around town. What he’ll do is drive by his competitors’ shops to see the amount of old HVAC equipment they have laying around in the back or by their dumpster. In fact, he does it on such a regular basis that he can even determine when their scrap is hauled away.

By driving by on a regular basis, he can tell just from the amount of old equipment laying around how many replacements that company is doing. The more old systems they have lying around, the more new ones they must have put in. If he finds a competitor that is starting to do a lot of replacements, he’ll start paying more attention to what that company is doing in their advertising and marketing. By doing that, he might be able to learn something about the market, or he might be able to tweak his own marketing a bit to improve his results.

What the Junkyard knows about your employees:As you know, there are always two meetings when it comes to any contracting company. There’s the meeting that you have with your people in the office. This is the official meeting. Then there is the meeting that takes place out in the back by the dumpster after the fact. This is the real meeting. The dumpster meeting is where the real decisions are made.

The Junkyard Dog knows where to be after the official meeting wraps up, and all successful leaders should know where they need to be after the official meeting, too. Head out to the real meeting and hang out by the dumpsters. You can go out and lend a helping hand.

The image will be that you’re lending a helping hand to help your team clean their trucks and get ready for the day so that they don’t have to work as long at night. But the real reason you’re there is to avoid having decisions made at the dumpster without you being present. Plus, you’ll be able to counteract the effects of those bad seeds that might sabotage the changes you were trying to make.

What the Junkyard knows about your bottom line:As the owner of your company, you ought to take time to jump inside your dumpster and root around. That might sound strange, but it’s something the Junkyard Dog does on a regular basis.

You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find in there. As the person who writes the checks for your supplies and parts, you’ll be in awe of what your team throws away that is still valuable. You may crawl out with parts that are still good, tools that still work, tape that still has 25 percent of a roll left, and more.

Once you’ve collected a box of valuable parts and supplies, take it with you to your next meeting. Spread it out on the table so everyone can see it, and then explain what that means. Discuss how throwing away items like these drives up your cost of goods and prevents you from paying people more money. Let your team know that they have two options. They can continue throwing away items like these and throw away the opportunity to earn more money, or they can stop throwing away these items and help lower the costs so everyone wins.

You’ll find that you have good employees that are now educated on how throwing away items hurts their success, and these employees will actually become your dumpster regulators. It’ll become a self-policing activity, and you won’t have to jump in that dumpster as often anymore.

If you don’t believe there are some valuable items being thrown in your dumpster, just invite a one-man band contractor to come fish through your dumpster one day. Let them keep whatever they want. You’ll find that a one-man band will be happier than a hobo on a hotdog with all of the beneficial items he pulls out that he can put to immediate use.

That’s just one of the bits of wisdom that has made the Junkyard Dog one of the big dogs in his market. Stop the junkyard madness in your company. That’s how you make even more money every day.

Publication Date:12/10/2007