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Operation: Return to Glory

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Hello All,


Guess I will jump right in with my story.   I am moving to Florida end of this year and scouting locations for an upstart towing  company specializing in “good guy” towing / roadside assistance.  


I have been out of the towing business almost 9 years. 


I have been living in the midwest in a major city for the better part of two decades.  I spent 18 years in business for myself doing non-consent and PPI towing.  I had nine self-loaders and a very solid business.  I had an operations and office manager. I owned three buy here pay here lots—pay by the week—filled with fixed up abandoned cars and cars I separated from poor people who didn’t know the law and didn’t have an army of office staff and attorneys.  I think the record was reselling one single car 8 or 9 times bc each time it was repoed again by my company bc of late payments.  I still drove fairly regularly and enjoyed the rush—it was as good as any drug.  Looking back I  hated the type of towing I did even though I didn’t know or admit it at the time.  Self evaluation......I was scumbag.   I enjoyed the money the company made and honestly I made piles of it.  It was a dangerous livelihood, always exciting but the money was the true addiction.   


About 9 years ago.....  It was a nasty night.  Lightly snowing and wet.  Cold.  Dark.  Around 1:20am.  All of my wreckers—all black, unmarked..except for my license number and DOT numb..., tinted windows gas powered F450s for stealth—were out and working a grid.  I had two camera cars out that night.  The way we ran was elegant and efficient.  Two camera cars roved a grid looking for repos.  When a plate pinged they called in one of the near by wreckers.  (My company was one of the first in the nation to use camera cars for repos and was the test company for the initial inventor of the concept.) I also had almost 400 ppl contracts many of which we were free to tow at will from for violations.  I had two spotter cars looking for parking violations in the same grid.  So we would haul vehicle after vehicle after vehicle...repos and ppi’s....for hours on end with all hands on deck.  


My camera car pinged a Honda Accord up for repo, the driver using a pen light verified the vin and sent a picture of the car parked parallel in a busy club / bar area on a residential street ...I happened to be the next up to get a car.  This would be an easy snatch and grab.  All I had to do was a hard 90 and grab the front wheels.  Emergency brake or not we didn’t care and would tow it away without stopping, strapping or lighting it.  We rarely if ever used straps or lights it was all about speed and the cops gave us a free pass. Even a ticket was cost effective as it was no points—just a fine—and much less that what I got for a ppi or repo.  Four-to-7 seconds is all I needed.  I drive up blacked out, lights off, boom down and execute a perfect snatch with my Dynamic 701.   Hooked it while backing up and extending the boom all at the same time.  Probably towed tens of thousands of cars this way.  I put the truck in drive and pull away.  A clean snatch albeit the car alarm and lights sounding.   A block down the road I turned on the head and tail lights and was headed to my yard which was close by.  I had to stop at a traffic light still close to where I grabbed the Accord with the bars and clubs all booming around me.  I’m tired. 


Next thing I know I hear a bang and am covered in glass.  The vehicle owner was a rough guy with a criminal record and a pension for violence.  He recognized his car on my hook with the alarm still going off.  He had grabbed a huge landscape stone and smashed the side window to my truck.  He’s punching me through the window and I’m trying to fight back.  I punched him twice in the face with no effect.  I’m not super strong but I’m not weak either having worked in this industry and kept in shape.  In my younger days I’ve won a bar fight or two. No effect from my punches. This is a big dude.  Much stronger than me.  He literally pulls me out of the cab of the F450 through the window onto the ground.  The tow truck is in drive w his car attached..no driver...has rolled across the intersection and smashed into two other cars at this point—both cars having occupants with serious injuries. I’m on the ground fighting for my life literally.  Where are the cops when you need them?? This guy is gonna kill me.  I’m fighting as hard as as I can and he’s beating the crap outta me. 


I’m tasting blood. Realize I’ve lost a tooth or teeth and am dizzy.  He’s much stronger than me.  He’s got his hands on my throat and slamming my head into the pavement repeatedly.  I can’t even see bc so much blood is in my eyes.  I have no choice.  Somehow I manage to get my legally concealed carry loose from the holder and fire 5 shots into him while he’s on top of me choking me.  


The attack stops.  I don’t know how long I lay there with him on me.  It seems like hours but I am told start to finish from the first 911 call by someone that saw him smash my window the police arrived right at 5mins.  


Long legal battles.  Long story.  I was charged with improper use of a weapon bc the law in this state was repo drivers could not carry during a repo.  My lawyers argued the repo part was over and I was merely driving at this point and had every legal right to use my weapon for self defense.  I had a concussion btw and spent 3 days in the hospital.   I needed plastic and cosmetic dental surgery to repair my face.  The jury found me not guilty.  To be clear the shooting was ruled self defense from the beginning.  The only charge I was fighting was improper use of a weapon due to the fact I was repoing a car.  


My company insurance paid out the full value of my policy totaling $3m.  No one would insure me.  I was effectively out of business. I sold the remaining parts of the business and contracts at fire-sale  prices. 


I took a job as a carpenter.   I had worked with my dad when I was younger.  It’s the family trade.  There have been some tough times emotionally and financially.  I lost everything I had to lawyers and settlements.  


Here I  am now.   I want to go back into the towing business.  I will never do ppl or repos again.  You might convince me to haul a junk car for you in exchange for a title and small amount of cash.  That’s as close as I’m getting back to that business!!!  


I have been out of the industry a decade.  Know very little about motor clubs.  Probably can still drive the heck out of a self loader but have never  even driven or operated a carrier.  


Im here to learn.  Need advice.  Thank you in advance. And thank you for reading.  




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I am sorry for the ordeal you went through, glad you have recovered. I also appreciate your honest self assessment, not many would have taken the hard look at their business and personal moral compass the way you did.


The public service side of the towing industry is much different from repo or PPI services. Perhaps you should work for a tower in your area to see if you really enjoy it and learn about how things are done in this part of the industry. Much has changed in the last 9 years. Truck prices are through the roof, insurance has tripled (if you can even get it) and the DOT enforcement is out of control in many states.


I would hate to see you invest $150,000 or more to start a new towing company only to find out the rates and costs have not increased in proportion to each other.


Motor clubs will not make you wealthy, although many do use them as a tool (myself included) to start, expand and grow a business. They can be an effective way to get your name known in an area, provided you do things right. There are also some great bulk purchasing power discounts that may be worth taking a look at, especially when you are starting over from scratch. There is so much more to club work than simply the rate for response and per mile. Many times that barely is break even but combined with the discounts as well as incentives for meeting or exceeding ETA and other customer service metrics you can make a decent return.


When I had my fleet my target return on investment was 20%. Did all my calls individually return 20, hell no, some were as low as a 5% margin while others were 30% or more. In the end I met my target ROI and growth marks each year until I got greedy and tried to expand too fast. Why is this important, because you were accustomed to making money hand over fist with your former tow company and I want to caution you against trying to grow too quickly in this side of the industry. Name, reputation and quality of service among the general public is paramount to success when you must deal with retail customers. In your former business the property owner or lender was your customer not the vehicle owner, on this side of the road it is the vehicle owner that you must please (except for law enforcement towing).

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