Lewis Goddard, a relative newcomer to the vehicle recycling sector, shares his journey behind establishing Goddard Vehicle Recycling (GVR). Fuelled by his lifelong passion for cars and a commitment to ethical recycling, he transformed a hobby into a thriving business. Lewis tells about GVR’s origins, current operations, and aspirations, delving into the challenges and importance of efficiency, addressing industry stereotypes, and outlining his vision for GVR’s growth in a dynamic and evolving field.
Motivation Behind Establishing a Vehicle Recycling Business
Although relatively new to running my own yard (permitted in November 2022, I have always had a keen interest in everything cars. If it wasn’t racing them, I was trying to fix or modify them, and I really just fell into the recycling side of things. The main push was racing bangers, buying these cars, stripping nearly everything out of them, building them into a banger, then throwing all the interior that had been stripped prior back into them to weigh them, but it never really sat right with me. From there, I started to post the cars I was racing into owner’s groups, and initially, I would sell minor bits and pieces, but people were so grateful for the opportunity to buy these parts for their cars, some of which were getting pretty scarce. I think the mixture of the money, the interactions I had with these people, coupled with the excitement of (sometimes) selling a vehicle part for the same amount of money I had paid for the whole vehicle, was one of the main drives to establishing what Goddard Vehicle Recycling is today.
As the venture has progressed, I would say the motivations have changed; in the earlier stages, I wasn’t really interested in running a brand; I was just Lewis, who would buy your old heap and give it its final send-off. As it progressed, I started to have more of an interest in being challenged to reuse as much of the vehicle as possible and ensure that every part possible was being recycled or reused. In all honesty, I think that challenge has been the main aspect of the growth that I have seen, as each vehicle poses a very different challenge in the way of price, availability and reusability of the parts.
Setting Up Goddard Vehicle Recycling
As cliché as it will sound, GVR came from a hobby. I had a recovery truck (3.5t Ford Transit) that I used to transport the bangers back and forth from the track. As that progressed and people began to see what I was doing, I became a middleman taking vehicles offered to me, which were no good for racing, to local ATFs. As it got busier, I decided that it was imperative that I looked at my options as to how to become the ATF and provide the start-to-finish process of recycling people’s vehicles.
The company’s growth has definitely been stunted by cash flow, or the lack of it! My ambitions have outweighed my abilities, and I think that is a good balance to have. I think the company will become stale if I become too complacent and confident of my “abilities”.
At the moment, we are a permitted yard; we are a team of three, and too give you an idea of size, we have one forklift in the yard and 3.5t and 7.5t recovery truck. We process a varied number of vehicles in a month; this can range from 30 to 50, but this will vary due to the level of dismantling the vehicles undergo and how easily they come apart! With regard to where we get the vehicles from, it is a mixture of people I know from the racing days, people I went to school with and, of course, now we have the permit, Copart. The great thing about what we do is we don’t specialise in any make or model, although some think it is the only way to go. I strongly believe that being able to buy anything and everything we are offered is the best way to grow this business. Being as it’s such a small operation, I think it would limit us massively to be so selective and turn away what are sometimes quite lucrative “quirky” vehicles.
Realisations About Managing a Vehicle Recycling Venture
Since quite early on in this venture, it’s been clear to me how important cash flow is. I can’t be sure if it is more prominent in this industry or whether it’s a new business thing, but getting the balance between buying everything you can and still having money to pay the bills. Making sure the yard is 100% compliant 24/7 is something I had really underestimated; it’s near enough a full-time job keeping up with the demands of a permit. That said, I feel it is easier once you have your processes and everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. Further to that, I think the biggest realisation I have had is the fact that I need to concentrate on what GVR is doing and not get disheartened by what yards established since the early 90s are doing. It is very easy to start comparing yourself to these yards when, realistically, we are worlds apart. Instead of comparing us to them, I have had to start holding these yards as a destination of sorts and start saying, “That’s what I want to be like!”.
Overall, I think it’s fair to say there are many intricacies to running a vehicle recycling centre, and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. The amusing thing about the vehicle recycling industry is that even in 2023, the stigma attached to ‘the scrap game’ is negative. Although, in reality, even in the time that I have been involved, the industry is full of knowledgeable and articulate people. As we all know, old stigmas are hard to shift, but the more exposure that the industry gets to show what good things these companies are doing, it will help to dissolve the stigmas. With regards to the people I know and their reactions when they find out what I do for a living, it normally sparks a good level of interest. It is still something that most people don’t really get involved in and don’t know the industry’s in-depth processes. People think this industry picks the vehicles up, runs them through a shredder or a crusher, and that’s the end of the process.
Regarding fellow recycling professionals, I hold a lot of them in high regard as I know that it’s not easy. Even at my level, and I’m well aware we are a tiny yard, it really isn’t easy to have it running as a well-oiled machine all the time. For this reason alone, it’s only right that all of the professionals in the industry get the respect they deserve; as I said earlier, this isn’t a profession for the faint-hearted, and to run a yard is something we should all be proud of. Furthermore, I have never seen an industry as supportive as this one. If there is a problem, a question, or you just need a bit of advice, most of the yards around the country seem to be open to helping you out, regardless of yard size or location; everyone just seems to want to see everyone get on and I must admit that has been a massive help to me on this venture.
Efficiency in Vehicle Recycling
Whether or not this is a popular opinion, I place massive importance on efficiency in this industry. This is a competitive market; we all want the same things, and we all near enough run the same process; the game changers are the ones that are running most efficiently and making the most of every vehicle. Whether that is how the vehicles are depolluted or how many cars are collected on a single route with a truck, these little tweaks to the efficiency of the process are what make or break a business.
For GVR, the purchase of the bigger lorry was not only to allow for the increasing weight of the vehicles we collect, but also to collect multiple cars on one trip. As I said earlier, route planning and maximising collections is a key concept for efficiency and something we endeavour to perfect as time goes on. As the old saying goes, “time is money”, and I think this is most important when trying to operate in this industry. I have spoken a lot about how being efficient is important, but this doesn’t mean I always get it right. The key to efficiency lies in effectively learning from your mistakes.. As we’re aware, mistakes hold significance, and by efficiently addressing these errors, we derive valuable lessons from them. Making a mistake is common, but repeating the same error is inefficient.
Expansion Plans for GVR
Currently, we are such a small yard, but I like to think that the sky is the limit with a venture like this. I am hungry to see GVR grow, and I wouldn’t like to put expectations or limitations on how that growth comes about. Having the right people in the right places and making the right connections in this industry are the key factors to success, and hopefully, as time goes on, we can secure these connections and grow to who knows what extent. I struggle to paint a picture of what I see GVR becoming; all I can say is that we want to be an influential player. I don’t want to be one of the unknown, but I must also be careful not to run away with my ambitions and forget why we are all doing what we are doing. This is a volatile industry at times, with price fluctuations and changing markets, plus a big change is coming with electric cars.
I think it’s important to stay humble and remember that any risks worth taking have to be calculated ones, and although fortune often favours the brave, it has also seen many fall on the sword.
I think the important thing for GVR in the coming years will be to cement the process, network wherever possible and strive to make the most of every opportunity given.