Providing reconditioned equipment can save your customers money when replacement is needed.

America has millions of homeowners and business owners who are struggling because of today’s high unemployment. They may need a new plumbing, heating or air-conditioning system but simply cannot afford to replace faulty equipment.

Those who lived through the Great Depression in the ’30s and into the ’40s can recall how America survived:

• We took diligent care of what we had. We oiled every moving part, tightened loose screws and bolts, replaced worn fan belts and filters, and repaired leaky faucets. We knew that constant maintenance would increase the efficiency and life of that equipment.

• When something broke down, we fixed it. We could not afford to call a service tech, so we depended on friends and neighbors who were also in the same boat. We saved every part - screws, motors, belts, gaskets, washers and electrical parts. Each person knew a little bit about repair and most equipment ended up with parts and pieces from five to 10 different manufacturers, but they did the job!

• If and when we had to replace something, we shopped at junkyards and mechanical contractors’ warehouses, searching for damaged or rebuilt equipment that we could install ourselves. 

Depression Tactics

Today’s society is different. Fortunately for service contractors, people depend on them to repair or replace anything that doesn’t work properly. All of that is feasible as long as the customer has enough money to pay for it.

What multiplies this misery is the lack of any kind of maintenance. Your service techs will tell you most customers never even look at their equipment until it stops performing. I hope we will not see another depression, but today’s economic situation already warrants some of the same tactics. You have a lot of profit-producing options that will assist some of those people who desperately need your services, but cannot afford to replace expensive equipment:

1. Start your own “Salvage Center.”

Do not discard whatever you replace. Bring it to your shop, warehouse or storage yard and put every part and piece in your inventory database. This keeps you aware of what you have in stock and makes it easy for a potential customer to find what he needs. Your service techs will love it.

Place a gold mentor or seasoned employee in charge. Include it in your advertising, especially on company vehicles. You will be pleased with the word-of-mouth repeat and new business created by satisfied customers. Remember that age-old saying: A friend in need is a friend indeed.

2. Repair or rebuild every item possible.

This provides a fantastic skill-training opportunity that will supplement your database skills inventory. You have seasoned craftsmen who have not repaired every piece of equipment and could gain expertise working after hours and sharing the profit when it sells.

Naturally, your interns (apprentices and green helpers) will jump at the chance to accomplish those skills. They will be very proud to show their fellow workers - and your customers - how well they can perform these complicated tasks.

I hope you are using retired or semi-retired craftsmen as gold mentors for your interns. This is a heaven-sent opportunity for them as well as for you and your employees. Most of them have already experienced salvaging, repairing and rebuilding damaged or worn equipment. They may not have the computer expertise for your database inventories, but your younger employees will be proud to help them.

If you are not using gold mentors, here are other potential recruiting sources:

• Ask your employees if they know someone who would be capable and interested. Most have relatives and friends who would be proud to assist you.

• Contact former employees who would appreciate your offer. If they are married, call their spouses; they would probably pay you to get them out of the house!

• Go to any restaurant that is open for breakfast. Retirees are accustomed to eating early and enjoy reminiscing with others.

• Discuss your plans and opportunities with local ministers or church groups. In addition to knowing potential retirees, they will spread the word to members or friends who are in need of salvaged or rebuilt parts. 

3. Make each repaired or rebuilt item look like new.

This may require nothing more than cleaning. You may even want to add a new coat of paint. This would certainly add to your customer’s satisfaction and your asking price.

4. Provide “do-it-yourself” workshops.

You can use a catchy phrase such as, “Together we can do it,” and use your experienced gold mentors to show your customers how to install rebuilt equipment. I’m sure you have visited or shopped at the DIY big-boxes where they use gold mentors to help customers find what they need and to install it. That’s a very worthwhile and appreciated service that has helped build The Home Depot, Lowes and many other outlets throughout the country. They are definitely your competitors, but they must buy new what they sell, as opposed to selling reconditioned equipment.

Another service is lending or renting your customers the proper tools. They probably do not own many tools and cannot afford to buy them for one job.

5. Research scrap metal prices.

If you are not repairing or rebuilding the equipment your service techs have replaced, you should look closely at the small amount of money you get for metals. You may even have to pay to get rid of some scrap. Compare that to what reasonable prices you could receive for rebuilt equipment, as well as accessories, parts and pieces. This will offset costs you may incur for storage space.

Keep in mind that while not all your customers are in desperate circumstances, they would still appreciate the savings involved in using rebuilt equipment. Your service techs should be using flat-rate pricing, which means giving customers an estimated fixed price before they begin a job. They can show customers what they could save by using salvaged parts, pieces and equipment.

You should also offer them a reasonable maintenance contract to prevent future expensive service calls.

When this economic crisis is over, your salvage center will be well-recognized and continue to provide savings for customers in your market area.

Don’t overlook these ongoing benefits for your company and your employees:

• More business and profits created by satisfied customers bragging to their friends.

• More work hours and money for your employees.

• An effective craft-upgrading, skill-training program to establish and maintain pride in your workmen and your gold mentors.

America needs you. Do it now!