The Week's Features
Manufacturers, tow bosses, industry leaders will converge Aug. 16-18
Unit’s got that “Executive” design
All that coal didn’t quite make it around the bend
System designed to reduce frivolous accident and damage claims
Organizations work together to improve repo efficiencies
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 13 - June 19, 2018

City, State
Sheridan, IN
(Pop. 2,665)
Eastsound, WA
(Pop. 4,500)
Blackwood, NJ
(Pop. 4,545)
Byron, GA
(Pop. 2,887)
Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

Running Down a Dream?

RunningShoe 815e0By DON ARCHER

I once was a runner. I loved to run and became so involved in the sport I decided to make it my vocation. Problem was I wasn't good enough to make it big. Whether on the roads or the track, I just couldn't keep up with the best of the best. These guys could put together more than a dozen 5-minute miles and still keep hammering.

I still wanted in. So to continue to participate in the sport that I loved, I put my other skills to work and created a regional running magazine. I could string a few words into a recognizable sentence and figured my love for the sport would carry me the rest of the way. What I didn't know, I could learn—and I learned quite a bit.

One thing I learned rather quickly was that publishing a magazine in the year 2000 was expensive (the Internet wasn't a viable option yet). After personally subsidizing the first three issues, I quickly pursued subscribers in order to cover the costs. But there weren't enough "paying" subscribers to foot the bill.

Next, I went to my local running shop and solicited advertising in the hopes that they'd cover a huge portion of my monthly expense. I walked away with, "Come and see me when you've got more issues under your belt."

Still undeterred, I went to another shop and another, and contacted running event coordinators. I went to the local running clubs in towns across the state. I hit up every retail establishment that might stand to gain from a display ad and all the while I was working on giving readers what they wanted.

What readers wanted out of a regional running magazine was local race results, upcoming events, and real-world ways to get better at their sport. I traveled the state and worked hard to build a publication that people would eagerly anticipate every month.

The ads began to trickle in and the subscriber base grew and then I received a call from an advertising clearing house. My hard work must have paid off because they said they could help me get ads—big ads.

A clearing house helps national advertisers get ads into regional magazines. By buying in bulk, at a discount, they get in at the grass roots level all across the nation. In a short time I had Nike, Reebok, or Asics on the back cover every month. It was great.

Those ads, combined with the ads I'd sold, paid the printing and postage bill every month. But I wasn't receiving any compensation for my efforts (other than the satisfaction that my magazine was a success). Every month I'd put hundreds of miles on my car and spend hours traveling to get photos and results from far-off events. I'd then come home, sit at my computer and configure the information into something desirable for the reader. All this while I was supposed to be taking care of my full-time business, the business that actually provided me with an income.

At the time, I didn't realize that I was allowing my arrogance to control my actions. I continued to publish the magazine knowing full well that it was costing me time and energy every month. I continued to do it because, to everyone around, it looked like my idea had been a success. But it wasn't.

I had allowed vanity and pride to guide my decision making. I didn't have a successful business; I had an expensive hobby.

Sometimes in the towing business we become involved in relationships and make buying decisions merely because of the supposed prestige and value they lend to our businesses. Rather than insisting on a win-win scenario, we give more than we should just to be seen as a success. Giving is necessary for a time, but sooner or later you're going to have to make a profit.

You can rationalize your desire for shiny trucks—bigger, heavier, newer—because it's all about image right? But they all come with strings attached and if those relationships aren't paying the freight, something's gotta go.

I had to let my magazine go, but I gained so much more in return. Besides a profitable business in the towing industry, I learned that the biggest obstacle we all face in business and in life is our selfish desire to be seen as more than we actually are.

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

Who's Going to Fill Our Shoes?

boots a056fBy Brian J. Riker

Who is going to replace us?

Few millennials, or especially Gen Z'ers, seem interested in our industry. With the lack of respect for vocational trades, recruiting young towers is increasingly difficult. Some of us have children that are interested in stepping up to the task. Others will simply close the business at retirement time.

Have you created a succession plan to assure your operation continues beyond your involvement?

I believe we can successfully recruit the next generation if we grab their attention early enough. I have bounced around the idea of recruiting from high school vo-tech programs for many years. There are insurance and regulatory hurdles to deal with, but they are not insurmountable.

Talk to your local vo-tech school and see if they have the ability to help. Trade schools have a responsibility to help provide employment for their graduates, and towing provides a diverse avenue for them to explore. Partner with a local school to provide job apprenticeship programs, trucks for them to learn how to drive, and more. Vocational education is not limited to just finding tow operators; their business students can become great dispatchers and clerks, even managers.

I suggest grooming the next generation of management through intern programs as well. This is a great way to grab hold of smart young individuals and shape them into great leaders. A word of caution here, they may not think like we do ... and that is a good thing! Be open to learn from them as they learn from you.

Technology is changing our industry and the next generation has a greater grasp on this then we ever will. I was watching my two-year-old grandson play with a smartphone recently and he didn't need any help and seemed to intuitively know what to do. He was able to open the phone app and call his grandma ... at two years old!

Business continuity should be a concern to all owners. Have you surrounded yourself with a team that can carry on without your guidance? Obviously good life insurance and diversified investments will provide income stability for your family, but what about the families that depend on your business to provide their living?

Now would be a good time to create an ICE file (In Case of Emergency). Write down all the key information that is required to keep your business running without you. Account numbers, passwords, key people, insurance information and more.

At least two trusted people, preferably within your business and separate from your immediate family, should know where this information is and be authorized to use it if the need arises. I suggest people outside your immediate family simply because it is less likely a tragedy will strike you and someone outside your family simultaneously.

The business continuity plan should not be a secret; your team deserves to know that you have a plan to take care of them. They also need to understand what will happen, who is responsible for what and any concerns that need to be addressed to prevent anarchy during a crisis.

In the May issue of American Towman Magazine, there is an excellent article written by George Metos about selling your company. If you have not read it yet, please do.

Many of his ideas to increase the value or ready a company for sale also apply to growing your company and transitioning it to the next generation of leadership.

Now is the time to review how much you do daily for your company and figure out who is going to do those tasks should you be incapable. Yes, most of us got into towing because we like being towers and love operating our trucks, however we need to groom our replacements. Prepare for the future and have someone at your company that can lead when you're no longer involved.

Brian J Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at .
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