Gary Coln always strives to learn more. Whether it’s figuring out how to improve sales numbers, employee relations or quality control at his Savannah, Tenn.-business, Raceway Auto & Truck Parts, Gary is never satisfied to just sit still. That’s one reason why he is the Locator UpFront’s 2014 Boss of the Year.
“He is very driven,” said Joe Yarber, production manager at Raceway Auto & Truck Parts. “He is always looking for a way to do things better than we have before and find new ways for us to grow as a business and as individuals.”
“My work ethic is strong,” Gary admitted. “I start work early and leave late. My employees are influenced by these work ethics. A leader says watch me, follow me, let’s help each other.”
“I have had many bosses over the span of my working career, and none of them compare to Gary Coln,” said Wade Deatherage, another Raceway Auto & Truck Parts employee. “Every morning when we come into work, Gary motivates us to be and do our best.”
Even as a strong leader, Gary didn’t expect his Boss of the Year nomination. “I was speechless,” he confessed after hearing he won. “I didn’t realize my employees had nominated me.”
His work ethic was just one of the reasons his employees nominated him. His employees also admire him for his selfless attitude. Gary has compassion for his employees that goes beyond work hours. His employees said that he cares about what’s happening with them outside of work as well.
“I was having some personal issues that were not affecting my job performance, but causing me a lot of stress in my personal life,” admitted Deatherage. “Gary stopped what he was doing and listened to my and shut everyone else out. He offered my solutions and even money if I need it. For a boss to take that kind of time for me during his busy day means a lot to me and my family.”
Gary didn’t realize just how much that meant to his employees, but it’s a value that he stands behind. “Being able to lead my employees at work and in their personal lives helps them to grow as people,” Gary explained. “Many times they just need someone to talk to or advice. Afterwards, they are appreciative of having the meeting and it tends to help them refocus or reset.”
Gary admitted that his management style is based on facts and figures. He is in charge of 13 employees at Raceway Auto & Truck Parts. “I am definitely a numbers guy,” he said. “Helping everyone account for what they do and keeping track of when they have done well and acknowledge the fact that they’ve done well.”
Three company meetings are held each week, two for sales and one for production. The meetings encourage teamwork plus, they are used to reward employees. If employees hit their numbers, they receive a cash bonus. There are also monthly sales incentives where employees have the opportunity to have lunch with Gary, and he buys. Gary has also treated his production team to new work boots and taken groups to hockey games and deep sea fishing in Destin, Fla.
“One of my strengths is being very persistent, not giving up, persevering,” Gary said. “Whatever you do, do your best.” He also admitted his weakness could be that he’s not as patient as he should be in times of adversity. But that didn’t seem to slow down his goals for the company.
Raceway Auto & Truck Parts is a full-service auto recycling facility that was started by Gary’s father, Bobby Coln, in 1986. The business began as a body shop and later sold used auto parts. Gary joined the company in 1988 and in 2012, became sole owner. Bobby stayed on part-time as a delivery driver, but spends a lot of time traveling to antique car shows, said Gary.
“After the acquisition of Raceway Auto & Truck Parts in January 2012, we have doubled our monthly sales, purchased an additional three acres of land to store more cars, added a shipping department and a new parts-cleaning wash bay, which has allowed us to keep our high-quality parts,” listed Gary. The company’s offices were also expanded and remodeled and a third salesperson was hired.
Gary credited a lot of his success to being a member of a Counts Consulting group. “We’ve been attending Counts Consulting group meetings for nearly 10 years,” said Gary. “Through quarterly meetings, we are able to stay on track with sales, buying and production by comparing our numbers with other yards. Counts Consulting has been a great asset to our company and very beneficial.”
The company is also a member of ARA and the United Recyclers Group (URG) and is URG 8000 certified.
Gary has no plans to slow down in the future. He has already set a goal to increase sales by 1.2 million, $600,000 a year, for the next two years. He wants to continue to take care of his customers by delivering high-quality parts, build relationships with new businesses and make friends in the industry.
“We love the recycling business and love the friends we have made through our travels to other yards,” said Gary. “We plan to grow and expand even more in the recycling industry.”
A third generation could be poised to take over the company. Gary and his wife, Amy, have two teenage boys, Parker and Sam. “We would love to train them as third-generation owners,” he said.
No matter what the future holds, Gary’s current efforts have not gone unnoticed. “He is deserving of this recognition for what he has done with his business over the past few years,” said Yarber. “We are growing at a consistent rate because of his attention to detail and leadership.”
Article by ERIN SANDAGE (Locator UpFront)