TRAXERO On-The-Go Podcast E20: The Weils On The Bus…

In our 20th episode of the TRAXERO On-The-Go Podcast, The Weils On The Bus, we were honored to welcome Steven Weil, Jr., VP of Weil Wrecker Service and his wife Anne Weil, Chief Compliance Officer. Since their business opened in 1977, they have gained the respect of their community by taking towing to an elevated level and for their unique auction setup in a converted school bus, raising the stakes for how to run a professional operation. Click play to hear their story.

Laura Dolan:

Shelli Hawkins.

Shelli Hawkins:

Laura Dolan.

Laura Dolan:

Do you know what today is?

Shelli Hawkins:

Gosh, I’ve got a couple of ideas. Today actually is JR Cady’s birthday from Ten-West Towing.

Laura Dolan:

Oh, happy birthday.

Shelli Hawkins:

You bet. Did I win something, or did I guess it, or what is it Laura Dolan?

Laura Dolan:

No, you’re wrong.

Shelli Hawkins:

What?

Laura Dolan:

Keep guessing, as much as I’d love that to be the answer.

Shelli Hawkins:

JR Cady’s birthday. It is the anniversary of, I give up.

Laura Dolan:

Today is the 20th time that we are recording a podcast together, ergo, our 20th episode.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow.

Laura Dolan:

What do you think of that? Can you believe it?

Shelli Hawkins:

I think you guys, very much something to celebrate. And it’s just [wild] that this is number 20, and do you remember, pop quiz? When did we record our first episode like what, 2022?

Laura Dolan:

Nope, 2023, because I started in January 2023.

Shelli Hawkins:

That’s right.

Laura Dolan:

And I’m a savant when it comes to dates, but it was March 21st, 2023 is when we recorded our first podcast with Jeff Poquette and Brad McIntosh.

Shelli Hawkins:

That is right.

Laura Dolan:

And it took off from there. So, I just want to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has participated in our podcast, who has downloaded it, listened to it, become a fan of it. I actually had somebody come up to me in Florida said they recognized my voice that was trippy. He said, oh my gosh, you’re on the podcast. Are you Laura Dolan? I’m like, whoa, yeah.

Shelli Hawkins:

I love that for you.

Laura Dolan:

That’s what that feels like. But, no, in all seriousness, we couldn’t thank you all enough and appreciate all the support from internally at TRAXERO and externally from a lot of our customers, vendors, prospects, friends who have jumped on and helped make this a success. So, from the bottom of our hearts, and you as well, Shelli Hawkins, my co-partner in crime, my co-host-

Shelli Hawkins:

You bet.

Laura Dolan:

… this has been an amazing journey, and I’m looking forward to the next 20.

Shelli Hawkins:

I completely agree. I love seeing you learn. I love seeing you take this all in Laura, and just all of a sudden we’re in meetings and you just say it like you’ve been talking about rotators, heavies, light duty, heavy duty for your entire life. It’s amazing.

Laura Dolan:

50 ton rotator, where’d that come from?

Shelli Hawkins:

I’m like, if she says 1150, I am sending her in a package in the mail or something.

Laura Dolan:

But, it has been a great learning experience along the way and I use this as a tool to learn. So, I’m literally asking questions and they’re genuine questions, because a lot of times I don’t know, and this is how I learn. And I’m hoping that this is a thought leadership educational tool that you out there in podcast land are utilizing as well.

Shelli Hawkins:

I love it. I also learned just now that you are a master at dates, I had no idea.

Laura Dolan:

Oh yeah, I remember things from my childhood. I’ll be talking to my family, I’ll be like, oh yeah, that happened on July 5th, 1995. They’ll be like, how do you remember that?

Shelli Hawkins:

Hell no.

Laura Dolan:

And I think my mind just goes to where I lived at the time. What school was I in? Who was I friends with? My mind just, I make these rapid fire associations. It’s like, when you look at a board on a crime show and you’re seeing all these red lines pointing to dots, that’s my brain. So, I’m constantly making associations with this.

Shelli Hawkins:

I love that. Your power to remember, your skill and ability to remember numbers is my skill and ability to remember names, cities, and companies.

Laura Dolan:

Absolutely. I feel like you have the same, very similar type of gift. So, it definitely-

Shelli Hawkins:

100%.

Laura Dolan:

… comes handy for us here at TRAXERO.

Shelli Hawkins:

We could conquer America with these two skills together.

Laura Dolan:

Conquer the world. Let’s say globally.

Shelli Hawkins:

Yes, I shouldn’t limit us.

Laura Dolan:

Act locally.

Shelli Hawkins:

Yes, indeed. That is so amazing that somebody, people came up to you in the booth and asked you about being on the podcast. I only had one person come up to me in Florida. This man came straight to the booth and he said, are you Shelli Hawkins? I go, I am Shelli Hawkins. Shelli Hawkins, he puts his hand out he goes, I am Lynn Hurst. And I go, Mr. Lynn Hurst, it is fantastic to meet you. He’s from the city of Birmingham, Alabama.

Laura Dolan:

There you go. See, his name, his location. What’s the name of his towing company? Pop Quiz!

Shelli Hawkins:

Hurst Towing.

Laura Dolan:

Nice.

Shelli Hawkins:

I’m sure that we-

Laura Dolan:

Are you making that up?

Shelli Hawkins:

I’m sure when you bring our guests on today, they will let us know if I pass that test or not. It’s either Hurst Wrecker Service or Hurst Towing and Recovery.

Laura Dolan:

Well, that is a great segue. So, without further ado, Shelli, why don’t you bring them on?

Shelli Hawkins:

I would love to bring on our guests today, Laura Dolan. They are some fantastic people from the city of Birmingham, Alabama. And let’s go ahead and welcome Mr. Steven Weil, Jr. and Anne Weil from Weil Wrecker in Birmingham, Alabama.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

How are you all today?

Shelli Hawkins:

Hey, we are doing fantastic where we are today. It’s a Friday. It’s a beautiful day. How’s the weather in Birmingham?

Anne Weil:

Stormy.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Bad overcast.

Shelli Hawkins:

Is it?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Yeah.

Shelli Hawkins:

I saw some weather about some bad storms in Texas. Does that just push on over top of you all when that happens?

Anne Weil:

Pretty well follows 20.

Shelli Hawkins:

So, you pretty predictable. Well, I’m sure that you’ll make it through, but thank you so much for coming to the podcast. We are going to have a blast today. We’re going to learn a lot about what towing is like in Birmingham, Alabama. We want to talk a little bit about the history of the company and get into things. But, I’m going to start off by asking you guys both and we can go ahead and start with Steven Weil, Jr. Tell us a little bit about what you do on a weekly basis, on a daily basis. At the drop of a hat I know it can change, but what your overall responsibilities are in this business today.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

So, I’m responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company. I oversee dispatch directly, and then I’m over all the other supervisors.

Shelli Hawkins:

How many supervisors do you have?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Seven.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow. Can you break that down for us? I’m fascinated when there are fantastic processes in place in business.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

As far as, break it down as how many supervisors?

Shelli Hawkins:

Yeah, the supervisors.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Supervisors, we have five supervisors over drivers. We have Teddy and Doug are also supervisors here. Actually, we may have eight supervisors, I didn’t think about. We have got a supervisor directly over dispatch also.

Anne Weil:

Bookkeeping as well.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

And bookkeeping, so nine.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow, that’s a lot. And I love that you have that in place just for the communication sake of everything and the management. So, fantastic. Anne Weil, we’ll turn the mic over to you. I know you do a lot there, but could you summarize it for us?

Anne Weil:

My official title is Chief Compliance Officer, so I deal with a lot of the regulation side, and liability insurance, and getting all of the tags, and IRP, and IFTA reports and stuff like that for the fleet. So, I joke that I’m over the alphabet soups, so if it has an acronym and it’s related to the government, it’s probably my job.

Shelli Hawkins:

I love that.

Laura Dolan:

That’s hilarious.

Shelli Hawkins:

And anytime I’ve known you, I feel like that this is absolute just a natural skillset for you. You do this with ease. When we see these professional people doing their thing and I’m just like, this comes naturally to you.

Anne Weil:

Thanks.

Shelli Hawkins:

Do you feel that way?

Anne Weil:

I’ve always been, well, my nickname is Book Dork on Steven’s phone because I’ve always loved, it came from college. Somebody else named me that and he thought it was hilarious and it stuck around for what? 25 plus years now. But, for me, I love learning new things all the time, and so it’s pretty easy for my brain to assimilate what I’ve picked up and put it into practice somewhere. So, that’s the part I love about my job too, is always learning and being able to make it work for us and make our company better and the industry better when we can.

Shelli Hawkins:

That is fantastic. Thank you guys so much. That helps us to lay the foundation of all the things we’re going to talk about. But, again, we know that there is not one day that is the same to the next. There are certain regulations and certain things that you’ve got to comply with like you were about, on a timely basis. There’s deadlines and all these things that have to happen, but the world can flip upside down in a moment, right?

Anne Weil:

Absolutely.

Shelli Hawkins:

When it is all hands on deck for whatever the situation is, it may be something you just do not expect and that happens on a regular basis. Steven, tell us a little bit about the history of the company and, I guess, you can start with what year did it start? Was it your father, your grandfather, your great-grandfather?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

My dad started the company in 1977. He was in a partnership from 1970 to 1977, it was Weil O’Connor. And that partnership dissolved and he started Weil Wrecker. And it has grown to what it is now to the point we are now, we’re at 140 employees and about 95 trucks.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow.

Laura Dolan:

That’s fantastic. Do you have just the one location or are you in multiple locations in that area?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

We have three locations, but they’re within about 15 miles of each other.

Laura Dolan:

So, you just cover basically one tri-state area?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Well, we cover the Birmingham metro.

Shelli Hawkins:

And Birmingham is about, what is the population?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

City of Birmingham is about 250 to 300,000, kind of fluctuates, but the metro is a million plus.

Shelli Hawkins:

I was going to say it’s probably about a million. So, that’s a lot of folks, and a lot of cars, and a lot of streets to keep clean for sure, and that’s your job.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Yes, ma’am.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow. I wrote it down. You’ve got 140 employees and 95 trucks. Does that include all insured pieces of equipment in that 95 or is that just your-

Steven Weil, Jr.:

That’s just power units.

Shelli Hawkins:

Power units. Wow. That’s a lot to maintain for sure. So, kudos to you guys to keep it going.

Laura Dolan:

Can I ask a quick question? What constitutes a power unit?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

It has a tag.

Anne Weil:

Well, no, it has an engine. Trailer is not a power unit.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Well, that doesn’t include our skid-steers in that number.

Anne Weil:

But, it has a tag and it has a, it’s liability insurance, power unit, I guess is a good definition. It has a tag and it has an engine, it operates on its own power, but machinery doesn’t have a tag and it’s in the marine policy, so we don’t count it as power unit on the truck side.

Laura Dolan:

Interesting.

Anne Weil:

But, a trail vehicle is never a power unit, but it’s also insured and has a plate most of the time. So, anyway, that’s the-

Laura Dolan:

Thank you for clarifying.

Shelli Hawkins:

When you said power unit, immediately in my brain I thought that has got to, I’ve heard it before, but it to be some technical term that the insurance company will use to say, this unit is powered.

Anne Weil:

I think it’s more than just insurance too. I picked that up more from trucking than insurance in particular, as far as lingo goes.

Shelli Hawkins:

Absolutely. So, with 95 tow trucks, power units, 140 employees, how’s it going today? How’s your week been so far? Any [wild] things happened this week at all?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Nothing real [wild]. Nothing out of the norm.

Shelli Hawkins:

Which means it’s always, it’s always hopping and everything is happening. I guess, next the question I have would be, talk a little bit about, I guess, the different arms of the business and the different things that you guys do besides towing. I’m going to leave it there. I’m going to leave it like that and you can go for it. Unpack that for us.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

So, we do handle anything that goes up and down the road. Besides towing we do transport, so equipment transporting, the Landolls, lowboys. We also, we do full HazMat response, so any kind of chemical spill on the highway, we can handle it. We do underwater recovery. And so, basically anything that happens on the roadway, we’re a one call, one stop shop.

Shelli Hawkins:

I love that. So, that’s the towing side of things. I had the privilege of visiting you folks. Gosh, it’s probably been I would say a year ago, maybe a year and a half ago with a couple of the coworkers here to observe day-to-day operations there. And thank you so much for having us. That was a visit that I will not soon forget for sure. It was so eye-opening, but as we take a tour of the main location there, I noticed that there are just different types of buildings that really don’t pertain to towing. What do you use those for?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

So, one building is our mechanic shop. The other is some rental property. And then, another building is document storage and our training room.

Shelli Hawkins:

I love that you have a room dedicated to training, because that was going to be my very next question. With these operators I’m 100% for sure that you’re bringing on new employees, new operators, and those need to get trained up. Maybe they do have some training from a previous employer, but you certainly want to orientate them to how we do things here at Weil Wrecker. And then, you also have your operators that are perhaps in light duty or they’re in the medium duty and they want to take that next step into being the heavy operator, the rotator operator, however that looks, how do you accomplish that training? What does that look like for you guys?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

So, for us, it is when you first start, its onboard training is going to be a minimum of two weeks, most time three weeks of hands-on training with a current senior driver that has been through a WreckMaster course. And basically he’s doing a mini course with that driver over two to three weeks. And then, once they’ve been here six months, they usually end up in a WreckMaster course for that quarter. And then, when it’s time for you to move up from rollback to medium duty, we have our own CDL school here at Weil. And so, we will get you through our school, and then move you into another three weeks of training with a medium duty driver. And then, after that point, then when the next WreckMaster class comes here, we’ll put you in a WreckMaster four, five or medium duty WreckMaster course. And then, once you’re ready to move up to heavies, then you’ll spend another two weeks with somebody training on a heavy. And then, once the next six, seven, or heavy duty WreckMaster course comes through, you’ll go through that course.

Shelli Hawkins:

I love that.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

And we host a week long WreckMaster course at least once a year, most of the time, once in the fall and once in the spring.

Shelli Hawkins:

So amazing. I love that. Do you have folks that are 100% content to be in that rollback and they’re good to go, or do you always encourage them to keep moving up? How do you, base it on their desire?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

I have employees that have been in a rollback for 30 years and happy. And I got about three or four of them that are talking about that they’re going to retire in a rollback. They have no desire to move up to anything else. And then, I have drivers that as soon as they get hired on, they’re wanting to know when they can get into the rotator, into my truck.

Shelli Hawkins:

I love that. It’s just, we’re all in different seasons. We all have different drives in our personal life even, and not just in the business where we are highly motivated. Laura and I recorded a podcast a while back for the gentleman named Frank Hammond and he talked about the difference between motivation and discipline. And motivation is 100% and 5% and 10% and that’s what the motivation for us looks like. But, the discipline is this is what it’s going to be every single day and this is who I am kind of thing.

Anne Weil:

And I’d say our guys and girls that want to just stay in the rollback, most of them are extremely motivated. It’s not laziness that they want to stay in the rollback, it’s what they love doing, and they don’t want to do the next thing because they’re happy doing what they’re doing. And there are good operators that we trust to send on the [weird] vehicles that you don’t want anybody else to touch so they don’t mess them up, or handle difficult customers. They’re good at their job. It’s not a lack of motivation. It’s a desire to stay to be the best at what they’re doing where they are.

Laura Dolan:

Sure. And if you find something that you enjoy, it’s like why upset the apple cart? If you enjoy coming to work every day, that’s the piece of equipment that you’re familiar with that you enjoy using, nothing wrong with that.

Shelli Hawkins:

How do you guys think about or train on all of the new types of vehicles coming down the line? And I’m going to say it, I’m going to bring it up. And that is, for example, electric vehicles and how to handle them, and if they catch on fire? And did it not all start with just a simple thing called an electric parking break and we’re like, how do we put this thing in neutral? Kind of thing. How are you guys handling not just electric vehicles, but as these things evolve and become more complex, what do you do? How do you get that information to train?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

So, currently a lot of it I find on social media. And then, other than that, I am going out and seeking information on all the different stuff that is out there with the electric vehicles and the different things you have to be able to do to tow vehicles now, because it’s not like they make our job any simpler every year.

Shelli Hawkins:

No, not at all. But, I’m like, there is so much fantastic information out on social media for sure. So, good for you for having your ear to the ground and posting up some questions here and there. I see things that you folks are out there asking questions about, for sure.

Laura Dolan:

What do you do to pinpoint who you feel are the subject matter experts? There’s some people out there who are subject matter experts who have that kind of credibility and those who don’t. How do you differentiate between the two?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

So, for me it is, I know enough to be dangerous just about in every subject. So, if it doesn’t sound right, it’s not right.

Anne Weil:

Working with ESA and WreckMaster and the fire college here. So, it’s also working knowledge where we’re working with firefighters locally, learning what they know, teaching them what we know so that there’s a lot of back and forth at boots on the ground experience level that we’re picking up knowledge there too.

Laura Dolan:

That’s awesome.

Shelli Hawkins:

And Steven, I would say that from all the things that I’ve talked to you about in the past or seen on social media, you’re very much a subject matter expert about a lot of things. And there’s a lot of folks out there that go to you for how are you guys handling this, because you are certainly setting the standard in a lot of ways. So, we thank you for that.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

No problem. I don’t know if I consider myself a subject matter expert in a lot of things.

Shelli Hawkins:

I think you are though. We’ve got a lot of respect for you for sure.

Laura Dolan:

A jack of all trades and a master of all trades.

Shelli Hawkins:

And you are not going to be able to deal with this after. We’re just pumping up the ego more and more and more as we go on.

Laura Dolan:

Anne’s like…

Anne Weil:

No, he should have more compliments actually.

Shelli Hawkins:

Well, good. Well, thank you for letting us pour some of that on him. What in the world is it like to work at the same company together and be married? Do you ever say, I don’t want to see your face today at all? Do you ever say that?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

I’m not in the office much, so I don’t see her.

Shelli Hawkins:

There you go.

Anne Weil:

People [inaudible 00:21:15] that we are together all the time like, oh, you work together, you’re at home together, but we have different schedules a little bit. I have to be the morning person and day shifter, because I’ve got to get our daughter to school and handle those things. He tends to be mid-morning to the office and then stays over later, so home late. So, we have some different schedules. We’re not seeing each other nearly as much as you’d think since we work together.

Shelli Hawkins:

You’re not sitting there sharing the same office staring at each other?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

No, but my parents do.

Laura Dolan:

Oh wow. Are they back to back?

Anne Weil:

I’m not sure that we’ll ever do that.

Laura Dolan:

Are they back to back or are they next to each other? Do they look at each other directly?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

They’re across the office from each other. And mom can throw glares over at dad whenever he’s talking money about buying stuff.

Shelli Hawkins:

Oh, I bet. I’ve met her on many occasions and I bet she sets him straight real fast.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

She does.

Shelli Hawkins:

There’s no question in what she’s thinking. She’s going to let him know. They’ve been married for pop quiz how long?

Anne Weil:

56 years.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

56, 57 years.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow.

Laura Dolan:

Wow. Good for them.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow. My parents have been married for 52 years and my dad will always say the last couple of weeks have been pretty good. But, to work in the same place as your significant other, it takes a lot. But, good for you guys for figuring things out and the way that you’re doing the morning stuff, doing the later stuff, whatever the family needs is a priority, but also the business. So, congratulations on figuring that all out. I’m sure you have every single thing in life figured out as well too, right?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Yeah.

Shelli Hawkins:

I know we talked about different parts of the business and I want to share a little story a little bit about when I was down there, I got to actually witness your auction. And you guys have had an auction for several decades, I believe, right?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Yes.

Anne Weil:

Yeah. Well, for us it’s the only way in Alabama that you can get rid of unclaimed vehicles. So, when people don’t pick them up, that’s the process, and everything has to go through public auction. So, we’ve been doing the auction far longer than I’ve been around.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

I can remember being a kid playing while we were doing an auction.

Anne Weil:

So, I don’t remember when that became the Alabama code as far as the standard for getting rid of cars, but it’s forever as far as we go.

Shelli Hawkins:

I want to restate this so I make sure I understand it. The only way to get rid of an unclaimed vehicle taking up space in your impound in the state of Alabama is by auction. You cannot scrap, salvage or anything like that. Is that correct?

Anne Weil:

Technically, my reading of the law is you’re supposed to run it through the auction process before you can scrap it, so that you’ve notified owners and followed the code on that. There have been some companies who’ve just scrapped and won the legal precedent on that, but it makes me nervous honestly. I don’t feel comfortable with it.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

And usually in our auctions, the way we handle it, we get just as much as we would to scrap the car as we would to sell in our auction. So, for us, it’s easier for us to sell it in our auction than it is to deal with cutting converters, pulling aluminum wheels, getting cars ready to be crushed. It’s easier just to put it through the auction and let it go.

Shelli Hawkins:

That makes sense. We try to find that process where you’re taking care of what you have, whether you’re making a profit, breaking even, whatever the case may be, but doing what you need to do to alleviate that space in your impound yard. Do you just have one big impound yard for that auction or do you have several locations that you’re impounding into?

Anne Weil:

We have multiple locations where impounds will go, and then the actual auction is one yard. So, when it’s time for the actual sale, we move everything to that one lot so that it’s all in one location. And that way we have a live and simultaneously online auction. We’ve had such a good live auction for so many years that it wasn’t worth it for us to go to just only online, which a lot of people in Alabama have done that and very successfully. But, for us, we have some magic going with a live auction.

Shelli Hawkins:

You do, for sure. When I was there I got to witness this auction that we’re talking about, and let me start out by saying they have a school bus, not a full-sized school bus, but I guess a medium-sized or a smaller size school bus they have converted. So, pretty much the majority of all these school bus seats are out of them. And you have a desk type station for people to sit at their different points of what they’re doing. So, for example, like Anne mentioned, there is the live auction, then there’s also the online auction. Well, you have someone managing all the bidders looking at a computer screen online as they’re communicating with the live auctioneer and then what’s happening here. So, all of a sudden the price of the vehicle could go up, that needs to be communicated outside to the folks that are actually live bidding. Do I have all that correct?

Anne Weil:

Yeah. When we first started out period with the auction, Steve would run it and they would be down on the ground with the cars and Sharon would walk with him with a notepad, and he would call out all the prices and the cars and who bought them, and then they’d come back in and take all of that from the notepad and make it into individual bills per customer, which as we grew, that gets [out of control] to manage on paper. And so, when I first started working with the auction, I was like, can we just put it in a spreadsheet? And so I started doing that and made our own little access database to run the auction.

So, I had a customer list and I had the car list and I could run all of my reports and the ad and everything else through that system. But, then we decided it’s too much to be down on the ground and we need to be a little bit where we can see more of it. And at that point too, it was too big for just Steve to do by himself. So, he hired an auctioneer to come out. And so, we would get on the back of a rollback bed with a folding table and our folding chairs and sit on the bed and you’d to pull up. And so, whenever we had to turn around and stuff was a little bit [scary] because you had to hold on.

Laura Dolan:

I would think that’s a little dangerous.

Anne Weil:

And then, that evolved into a metal shed that they fabricated and made for us so that we had a roof so that you didn’t get sunburned or rained on. And because when it rained at that point, I would have to take my laptop and follow the entire procession in my truck or SUV at that point. So, I’d be sitting in there with the window rolled down just enough to hear it and be able to record everything. And then, we’ve always run a paper backup. So, somebody is always, even now, on the bus with a paper list, writing everything down in case everything blows up. And now we have the bus, which is, it’s amazing. When it started it was just folding tables in there too, but we’ve added stuff that’s built on now. And there’s a big awning with the TV under it so that the online auction is posted out for them, everyone to see it up against the bus too. So, it’s evolved as we’ve grown too.

Laura Dolan:

I love it. I’ve seen pictures of it. It’s a pretty elaborate setup. With your permission, can I please post those in the podcast notes so people can see and maybe learn by example how you guys have it all set up down there?

The Weil Wrecker AuctionThe Weil Wrecker AuctionThe Weil Wrecker AuctionThe Weil Wrecker AuctionThe Weil Wrecker AuctionThe Weil Wrecker Auction

Anne Weil:

Sure.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

That’d be fine.

Laura Dolan:

Awesome. This question is for Steve. Where’d you get the bus?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

One of my dad’s best friends is in Selma, Alabama, and he owns Al’s Towing down there. And he bought it at an auction at the city of Selma’s surplus when they surplussed out some school buses and bought it and told dad, hey, I bought you a bus.

Laura Dolan:

I love it.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Because, he’d been up here and seen our auction and thought it would be a great idea for that.

Laura Dolan:

It’s brilliant, because it sounds like it’s working beautifully.

Anne Weil:

It’s great. Well, the other great thing about the bus is that it can be air-conditioned and heated, and that was definitely not the case back in the olden days, even in the metal shed, we could put a space heater or a fan going, but it was so leaky it didn’t really matter. A lot of times you just had to bundle up.

Laura Dolan:

I know. Now, you’re not as much as at the mercy of the elements.

Shelli Hawkins:

For sure. When I witnessed that, the major takeaway for me was there are so many layers of communication going on at the same time within a variety of personalities, and all of it came together, and that in itself was complete. It was complete chaos that was organized. Is that possible?

Anne Weil:

Oh, that’s kind of our life, I think.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Yes.

Anne Weil:

Slightly chaos.

Shelli Hawkins:

Organized chaos, it was for sure.

Laura Dolan:

The perfect oxymoron.

Shelli Hawkins:

I love it. I’ll never forget also, so many memories. When the next piece is up for auction, what happens? They have a gigantically tall orange safety cone that goes on top of the vehicle or whatever is being auctioned so that everyone can see this is what’s being auctioned, whether they’re online or in person. This is what is on the auction block right now. This is where the focus should be. And something as simple as that, drawing attention to this is what we’re talking about. It is the whatever Hellcat when I was there that was getting auctioned for parts for, I don’t know, I think it went for a lot of money. I remember that we were all excited about that one.

Anne Weil:

Well, that engine, that’s what everybody was super excited about. But, the orange cone, a lot of things that we have added or adapted with, we learned it the hard way. What is it? The farmer’s commercial. We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two. The orange cone came because people would say, no, I was bidding on that other car. I didn’t want that one. And so, we had people who would say, I didn’t really buy that car when we get to the end of the auction. And so, we’re like, all right, we can fix that. So, Steve’s like, just get a cone. And so, Olin moves the cone to each car and that way everybody, there’s no question you couldn’t have thought you were bidding on the one next to it.

Laura Dolan:

That is brilliant. I love this.

Shelli Hawkins:

It is just like you said, it evolves and you learn and you do better and you get better. It was a day I’ll never forget and we still reminisce about it today. I talked to Andrea Leigh this morning. She is the manager for you folks for Auction Simplified, and she works with you guys, your team there that is responsible.

Anne Weil:

I talked to her today, actually.

Shelli Hawkins:

Did you?

Anne Weil:

Yes.

Shelli Hawkins:

We love Andrea Leigh here. She is a fantastic organizer of so many small different things in motion. So, the auctions is just her bread and butter. She does a fantastic job. We learn at WreckMaster that there are big chunkers and there are little chunkers. And Ms. Andrea Leigh certainly is that little chunker. And I fully put you into that bracket as well, because your ability to master and organize all this information, like your idea, let’s start using a spreadsheet, fantastic, and building out your own database to keep track of all this, brilliant. Love it.

Laura Dolan:

And I want to know how it evolved from you having the idea of using the spreadsheet to actually adopting Auction Simplified and auction software. What made you decide to go that direction?

Anne Weil:

Kind of a lot of things. Part of it was TRAXERO becoming a big company versus just being on Tracker, period. And then, as we looked, there were a lot of people who adapted to online auction far sooner than us in Alabama. And so, we were hearing from them how good that was going. And then, the ability to take the information from our system and have it port over without having to do a whole lot of extra steps. That kind of helped, because it translated, it just took what we were having to do manually in the database that I had created. It turned it into a more automated process and it brought more people in. So, as we looked at it, we decided it was worth it to get more customers involved and just broaden the base. And I think that’s helped us over, generally our auction will live or die by what’s happening with scrap prices. And I’d say since we’ve been on Auction Simplified, we haven’t seen that fluctuation hit us as hard. It’s [inaudible 00:34:32] that out.

Laura Dolan:

That’s great.

Anne Weil:

It’s also added a lot more customers who want to retitle vehicles, so it’s added some workload on that end. But, overall it’s allowed customers to see vehicles before they come in. They get really excited about the online auction, and it’s let some of our longtime customers be able to say, I’m not going to be able to be there in person today, but I can bid online. And that’s been great too because it’s kind of, where you’ve got a couple of heavy hitters who buy a bunch for scrapyards, when they’re not there, you feel it. And so, it’s helped them be part of it even when they can’t be there in person. But, it’s also insulated us from those ups and downs where if one person’s not there, we’re not suffering for it.

Laura Dolan:

That’s amazing. And how long have you been on the software?

Anne Weil:

Two or three years.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Well, we started looking at it during COVID, because Birmingham would not allow us to do our in-person auction. So, we actually ended up doing a phone in bid style auction, and then we adapted over to Auction Simplified right towards the end of all the lockdowns and all that, so we could have a better way to do that than a phone-in bid by this time, text this number with a bid and whoever was the highest bid won. And about two auctions, we had to do it that way. And then, Birmingham went to letting us as long as we have, I think it was 15 feet between each person, they would let us do our live auction again.

Anne Weil:

With customers being outside.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

With it being outside, because it was costing us so much money and they understood it.

Laura Dolan:

So, how often are you able to hold auctions now since getting on the software?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

So, even before we have an auction the first and third Wednesday of every month.

Laura Dolan:

Nice.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

We sell anywhere from 150 to 200 cars each auction.

Laura Dolan:

Wow, that’s good volume.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow, that’s a lot. So, I know you guys have the Birmingham City contract, correct? The city police contract. So, would you say that 50 to 60% of cars that get towed in actually get the owners come and pick them up or they’re in there for good?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

I would say it depends on what city it is, because we have about 10 different city contracts. And depending on which city it is to where the percentage that it gets picked up, but Birmingham’s running about 30%. We auction about 30% of them.

Shelli Hawkins:

And 70% get picked up?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Yeah. And other cities are in that same 70 to 80%.

Shelli Hawkins:

So, think about that Laura. He gave us the number of what is actually physically in the auction, and just know that 70% actually get towed in and picked up. That it’s just a massive amount of vehicles to process. Enter Anne Weil to process, enter Anne Weil and her alphabet soup. You are absolutely the master when it comes to the paperwork around these vehicles. I believe, and correct me if I’m wrong, that you told me that you actually teach a local course.

Anne Weil:

Yes, we have over the years done it some different ways, but I created a booklet a long time ago and taught a class for the state towing association. And then, over time that adapted because I didn’t really have the time to do all the publicity and registration. And when Michelle was still at Auto Data Direct, she came up one day and said, hey, could we sponsor it and I’ll do all the legwork on the publicity if you guys can host it? And she got Alabama Department of Revenue involved. And so, it turned into a combination class with me, and then ADOR, and then Auto Data Direct.

And that was really nice for us as towers, because it got the state there and they could see, hey, we’re trying to do it right, and then there are things that you guys have created that make it super hard for us to do it at all. But, them seeing we’re making a good faith effort and these are the good operators, let them realize if they’ve come to us when they’ve had big changes sometimes and ask could this work? And then, worked with our towing association people to come up with things that make more sense, but also protect consumers from predatory towers or people who are just doing paperwork to wipe a title. So, anyway, that’s been a good process for us. But, I teach that side of it for the towing association.

Shelli Hawkins:

[inaudible 00:39:35] How cool. Thank you so much for coming together like that for the greater good of the towing industry. We’re all in this together and we can either make it more difficult or we can make it more simple, and I love that that’s what you’re fighting for, you’re working toward.

Anne Weil:

I think anytime we can educate people to do things better and to work by the book where there is a book, or to make a book where there isn’t one, where we just all look more professional, it creates, I don’t know, just watching our state towing association grow over time and the operators inside it. It’s gotten more professional over the years, I think. Where it’s not, I don’t know, it’s not redneckery. It’s actually, this is a profession and we’re good at it, and we’re the professionals, and we look at doing it and we have nice trucks and equipment doing it, and the more that that’s elevated, the better off we all are.

Laura Dolan:

Absolutely.

Shelli Hawkins:

100% agree. It’s something the WreckMaster talks about. It’s something that we hear a lot at our trade shows. We are professionals. Let’s look like professionals. Let’s behave like professionals if we want to be respected as professionals. Come to the table when you are negotiating a contract with an entity, whether it’s a commercial client, a motor club, doesn’t matter, know your business, know your overhead and say, this is what it’s going to take for us to perform this contract and negotiate. And sometimes that can be a few rounds of negotiation before you 100% decide, but just know your business and come to the table prepared, such a key ingredient. Thank you so much for all you guys who do like that. I think you said that you’ve had the city contract for five years. What was that change like? I imagine it was a really big influx of jobs and impounds. Was it a big change for you?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Yes. So, we got the first contract in-

Anne Weil:

2012.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

… 2012. So, we’re on our 12th year of the contract. They just renewed with us.

Shelli Hawkins:

Congrats.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

We went from 40, 50 trucks in 2012 to where we are now at the 95. Went from probably 60, 70 employees to the 140.

Shelli Hawkins:

You doubled the business.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

But, that’s not the only thing that doubled our business.

Anne Weil:

I’d say what Birmingham did was it doubled our police call volume, but then because we had to scale up to meet that requirement, it allowed us to scale up and meet other customer needs too and expand that way. So, you have that point where once you get to a certain stage, you can’t do anymore work without expanding it or you have to say, no, this is where we’re going to stay and contain it there. And so, jumping up to meet the Birmingham contract jumped everything else up too.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

So, the people that have had the Birmingham contract in the past, there was two companies that competed over it. And what ended up happening is every three years it would flop between the other companies. Well, every three years they would basically swap customers. But, when you lost the contract then you go back after the customers you lost because you had the contract. I told my dad, I said, if we get the Birmingham contract, I want to get it at a point where our other customers don’t even realize we have the contract, because that’s not our sole focus. Our sole focus is taking care of everybody the same way we always have since he started the company.

Anne Weil:

I’d say that was a major stated goal at every point during the Birmingham bid process, and then after, and implementing, is that we didn’t want it to let any of our other customers suffer. Because, we recognized from watching other people do it badly as far as business management goes, that we didn’t want it to affect our regular customers so that we didn’t lose that base, because you can lose a contract in heartbeat. But, if you’ve lost everything else because you only focused on that contract, then you’re sucking wind when you lose it. And so, we even now recognize if something happened and we couldn’t keep the Birmingham contract, people are like, oh, would that put you out of business? No, we’d have to scale down again, but it wouldn’t kill us. It would just change our volume.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow. Was that just a switch that flipped and all of a sudden, boom, you have all of the volume immediately or did they give you time to scale the business up to handle it?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

We had four weeks from the time we were awarded the contract.

Anne Weil:

We had a certain amount of time from the time of the award notification to the actual implementation. I’d say what did scale for us for Birmingham too was that they had to learn to trust us and our ETA, because that had not been their experience really. Some anecdotal stories of officers waiting half a shift on a tow truck, so if they didn’t have to tow something, they weren’t going to do it, because who wants to waste their entire shift sitting somewhere? So, as they recognized that we were responsive and meeting their needs quickly and well within the contract ETAs, they started calling us more. And so, we started a little bit slow for Birmingham, I guess. If you compared our call volume at the very beginning for the first couple of months as they got used to it and realized that they were going to get service, then after the second month I’d say, they just shot off as far as how much they were calling us then. That accidentally gave us some buffer to get used to the contract work and build into it, and adjust our dispatch style and everything for it.

Shelli Hawkins:

So fascinating. Again, so many layers of communication, so may layers of complexity billing for it, and coming together as a city. At the end of the day this contract represents, keep our streets clean. That’s it at the core. And you guys said we can do it, and in the process we are absolutely not going to lose these commercial customers and our everyday customers that we built up. We are not going to sacrifice for this, and I love that. Wow. Way to just take a challenge and hit it head on and go for it. Congratulations. You’re an inspiration

Anne Weil:

We’re something.

Laura Dolan:

I love it. So, what does the future look like for Weil Wrecker?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Moving the same way we are now. I don’t want to get any bigger. We never wanted to be this size we are now.

Laura Dolan:

That’s fair.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

When customers call, we’re going to go, and we’re actively going after customers. But, I am not looking to grow 50 more trucks. I was happy when we were at 25 trucks, and I was happy when we were at 50 trucks, and now I’m happy when we’re at 95 trucks.

Shelli Hawkins:

Wow.

Laura Dolan:

It’s a solid amount that will keep you busy for sure.

Steven Weil, Jr.:

I’m not saying I’m content by any means. I always want to get better, but I’m not really looking to expand in other markets. Because, the way I feel, you start getting into other markets, you get outside the reach where I can’t be there in 20 minutes to handle a problem, 30 minutes. It gets out of where I can’t, even though I’ve got great management team, I can’t go physically to handle the problem that happens. And the way my dad built the business, the way I’m continuing to build the businesses is, we are extremely hands on and we want to take care of whatever happens.

Shelli Hawkins:

I love that.

Laura Dolan:

That’s admirable for sure.

Shelli Hawkins:

You know what you do. You know what you do well. You hone those skills and you make sure that you’re giving the customer support and service every single day, and just continuing the professionalism. I’ve seen brands out there that have tried to reach out of their scope of what they do, the core. So, pop quiz for Steve Weil, Jr. when I say the brand, Warn, what do you think of?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

Warn winches.

Shelli Hawkins:

100%. All of a sudden one day I opened up the AW Direct catalog. Here is a compressor from the Warn company. Have you ever used or purchased a compressor from the Warn company?

Steven Weil, Jr.:

No.

Shelli Hawkins:

There’s a reason, because that’s not what they did good at all. They were good at winches. They should have stuck with winches just like you guys are doing. Stick with your winches.

Laura Dolan:

Stick with what works. In this case, the winches. I love this. This has been great. Thank you both so much for coming on.

Shelli Hawkins:

You guys are awesome. We could probably chat for days telling stories about recoveries, telling stories about all of the alphabet soup, that fascinates me, Anne. I would love to someday just pick your brain about it. I know I introduced you to Jen Olide at the Florida show, and you guys were just two peas in a pod. I’m like, I’ve literally seen the same brains coming together. Did you not feel that way when you met Jen Olide?

Anne Weil:

Oh, yeah. We shortcut it. We scheduled a product demo after that on TowLien, but there wasn’t really anything that she needed to show me in particular because we could shortcut so much, because we were speaking the same language, pretty interesting.

Shelli Hawkins:

I turned my head and I looked over there and I saw you guys just like this. I’m like, they are best friends now forever.

Laura Dolan:

Jen is a gem. Everybody’s her best friend.

Shelli Hawkins:

Yes, indeed. Well, thank you guys for coming on the podcast.

Laura Dolan:

Yes. Thank you both so much for coming on, and thank you all for listening to this episode of Traxero On-The-Go. Tow-daloo!

Laura Dolan:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the TRAXERO On-The-Go podcast. For more episodes, go to traxero.com/podcast and to find out more about how we can hook your towing business up with our towing management software and impound yard solutions, please visit traxero.com or go to the contact page linked at the bottom of this podcast blog.

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