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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingAugust 23 - August 29, 2017

City, State
Bronx, NY
(Pop. 1,438,159)
Charlotte, NC
(Pop. 809,958)
Baltimore, MD
(Pop. 622,104)
San Jose, CA
(Pop. 1,015,785)
Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

The Urge to Splurge

howmuch eb25bBy DON ARCHER

I awoke without an alarm, sweating and confused; it was 2:14 a.m. And then the problem surfaced—my trucks are getting old.

On my journey to controlling costs, in order to make my business more profitable, my subconscious mind had, obviously, grasped, wrestled with and was now letting me in on a huge obstacle to the success I was seeking.

Lying there in bed I batted it back and forth.

"Newer trucks and less repair bills are worth going further into debt," I reasoned. "I'm spending a third of my monthly truck mortgage payments on repairs."

"Yeah, yeah ... I know repair bills are eating me up, but I can't justify the increase in expense right now," I countered.

"You need new trucks in order to keep up your business image and to ensure you can provide services. You don't want to be the one out there on the roads needing assistance," I badgered myself.

"But wouldn't it be nice to have no debt and more money every month instead of paying the bank?"

I jumped out of bed and headed to my computer.

Formerly, I banked at a huge national bank and was saddled with a commercial loan officer whom I didn't particularly like. It didn't feel like he understood, fully, the needs of my business. Now my loans are through a local bank and I've got a one-on-one relationship with the vice president. He's a pretty smart guy too.

2:21 a.m. I gave into the demands of my subconscious and banged out an email to Mr. VP. I explained the situation in detail stating both sides of the issue.

I told him I wasn't looking to increase the amount of money I pay every month and, certainly, wasn't interested in increasing the dollar amount I owe. I suggested maybe trading two older trucks for one new. If I did that, I could use my service truck more often to fill in where needed (we rarely use it now). I wanted to get his input and maybe see if he'd dealt with this issue with other business owners.

That was the first email.

2:45 a.m. I shot off another one to him. I told him trade-in values suck and buying used without a warranty, somewhat, defeats the purpose of trading up. I explained that you'll still incur out-of-pocket repair bills. I talked about the idea of buying a new chassis and doing a bed swap, but the costs there may not be much different than trading an old truck for a new one, and then you still have your old bed.

I then pulled out a 3x5 index card and wrote down the unit numbers of each truck and worked out what I could pare down to.

"I'd trade an older light-duty wrecker (that no one likes to drive) and the rollback with high miles for a new rollback. And an aged medium-duty wrecker could go with another light-duty wrecker for a new four-door wrecker with a Vulcan 894 ... this would allow me to tow almost anything the medium-duty could tow."

I thought about who would drive what and how that driver treated the truck they're in now. I worked out who would take what truck home when on-call, and how we could get by with two fewer wreckers. I had it all planned out—then my alarm went off.

It was 4 a.m. and time to get around for work. I had accepted my fate, believing that there was just no other way than to take on a little more debt, increasing my monthly payment.

Later that morning I received an email from Mr. VP. He said he'd do whatever he could to help, but reminded me that I didn't have too many more months left on my loan.

"I know you've been working hard on decreasing your expenses, but do you really want to go back into the fire?" he asked. This was a banker talking ... a guy who loans money for a living. Yes, he's a rarity.

The prospect of being without a payment struck me. I'd been carrying this weight so long it had become a part of me. I didn't really think I'd ever be without a payment. But now I could envision my business without debt.

Without debt, I could save and purchase used trucks with cash. Without debt, I could afford to pay repair bills. Without debt, I could compete with others without debt.

Of course there are disadvantages to not having a loan: My trucks aren't new and I can't depreciate as much, but I believe those costs will be offset by the absence of monthly payments.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Don Archer lives and works in Jefferson City, Mo., where he and his wife, Brenda, own and operate Broadway Wrecker, a 12-truck operation that's been in business since the 1950s. Email him at

Selling Your Services

EMD aceb4By Don G. Archer

Over the last two years I've had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of tow company owners looking for a way to grow their business. The one thing that stands out among many of these companies is a lack of attention given to making the sale.

The phone rings and it's a potential customer who is unsure if your company is a good fit. Their concerns are like a wide-open canyon separating what they need from what you provide. Your job as the call-taker/dispatcher is to be a friendly, helpful voice, empathetic to their situation. You want to narrow the gap and let them know that you are on their side.

However, many times this is not what comes across.

While you can't be everybody's best friend, regardless of how many sales opportunities you have each day, making some positive changes to how your phone is answered and how the information is delivered can dramatically affect your ability to close more deals.

Below are a few things you can incorporate into your business to get more sales:

1. Proper Greeting: Have you ever called your accountant or your attorney's office and been greeted with an abrupt phrase like, "accountant," or, "lawyer?" That's just lazy. When answering the phone speak with a genuine upbeat tone and say, "Thank you," then say the name of your towing company. "Good morning, thanks for calling ABC Towing, how can I help?" Some variation of this goes a long way and makes a great first impression.

2. Ask About the Situation: Motorists don't understand how towing works, and what we see as straightforward is foreign to them. Many times they're only concern is the cost, and if you just shoot them a price right off the bat, you might lose them. Asking about the situation lets the motorist know that you care about their plight; additionally, more information may come to light that is helpful, allowing you to make the sale. Learning that their car is at their place of business, but the keys are at another location entirely can lead to you offering to pick up the keys. "You'd do that?"

3. Provide A Solid Price: If they don't know you, chances are they start off not trusting you. Although myriad issues can arise once your tow operator arrives, providing a solid price for the services requested is a must; but don't make your customer do the work. Throwing out enroute mileage costs, tow miles, and hook fees is hard to digest over the phone. After you've gotten all their information and done the work, shoot them your best price and be done.

4. Create a Stranded-Motorist Avatar: Answering the phones all day can be mundane, and sometimes an otherwise happy dispatcher may become listless and uninterested. Creating an image or avatar of someone in need of your services can help them stay engaged for a longer period. How about a woman with a flat tire who's worried that her child might get home from school before she arrives? Or a young mother with a toddler locked inside a car on a hot day. Think about her feelings of shame, guilt and inadequacy.

5. Be Truthful and Follow-up: Always tell the truth and do what you say you are going to do. If you promised to have a tow truck to the customer within a certain timeframe and you can see that it's not going to happen, give them a heads-up prior to the expected arrival time. Explain what happened and provide an updated ETA. If you're telling the truth, most of the time they'll understand; but if you're being less than truthful, that's when problems can arise.

If you want to differentiate your business from the competition and make more sales, taking control of the front lines of communications is a must. It is said that 38 percent of the believability of face-to-face communication has to do with your tone of voice—how much do you suppose tone matters over the phone?

American Towman Field Editor-Midwest Don G. Archer is also a multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at Don and his wife, Brenda, formerly owned and operated Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, Mo. E-mail him direct at
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