The goal of Arlington, Texas-based Greenleaf is to bring higher quality, increased professionalism, more "best practices," scalable systems and the enhanced use of technology to the auto recycling industry.
In 1999, Ford Motor Company Chairman Jack Nasser had a vision of "owning" the customer from the time a car was purchased until the consumer was done with the vehicle, related Sturgeon. As part of that vision, Ford acquired a group of recycling centers, forming Greenleaf.
Ford reached out to independent recyclers, coming to see their operations and making compelling purchase offers. Sturgeon was one of those independent recyclers approached. He saw this as an opportunity to turn his past hard work into a lucrative future. Not only did he sell his business, but went to work for Greenleaf as well.
"I believe my experience of selling to Ford was less difficult because I had already taken on shareholders and made the transition from the idea that 'this is my business and I can do whatever I want,' to becoming accountable to investors. This helped prepare me for my position in a large company where I had to work in a team framework with other professionals," Sturgeon explained.
Sturgeon continued to work for Greenleaf for 18 months, while serving on the CEO's Advisory Board and dealing with strategic, integration and best practices issues. In 2001, he left Ford and founded North Texas Insurance Auction, which he later sold to his largest competitor in the industry, Copart. In addition, Sturgeon is a founder of United Recyclers Group (URG) and co-author of "How To Salvage Millions From Your Small Business," a guide for all small business owners, not just the auto parts recycling business.
Management team has Ford background
About three years after forming Greenleaf, Ford Motor Company subsequently decided to refocus on what they did best - manufacturing new cars. Greenleaf and other non-core operations were put up for sale. Sturgeon was contacted by Dixon Thayer, who inquired as to whether he would be interested in joining with Gregory Winfield, Brian Nerney, and himself to discuss the viability of pursuing the opportunity to purchase Greenleaf from Ford.
Prior to joining Ford, he held successful leadership positions in several different industries and companies at critical times in their evolution. Thayer is the founding senior partner of ab3, parent company to Greenleaf.
Thayer brings a polished, diplomatic professionalism to the team. He manages all different kinds of personalities. He insists upon accountability and is goal-oriented. I've learned a lot from him about how to focus on the task and get results. It has been a very enriching experience for me to be part of this team."
Winfield controls the purse strings
Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Gregory Winfield also spent time working with Ford's various subsidiaries, including Greenleaf, developing profit improvement strategies. He also wrote and delivered a series of training programs (Managing for More®) for site, regional and corporate personnel to highlight how to implement action plans, which tied improved business performance to employee compensation.
Winfield has held line management leadership roles with profit and loss accountability for all aspects of a Fortune 200 consumer products firm in both the United States and Mexico. "Winfield is very intense about financial matters and profitability," asserted Sturgeon.
The high tech connection
The team is completed by Chairman Brian Nerney, who is founder and chairman of Sundial Capital Management, a stock hedge fund. Nerney was previously co-founder of Clearwire Technologies, a broadband wireless service provider and Vice President of Sierra Technologies, where he was responsible for corporate development.
Market is growing
The Greenleaf team is excited about the market opportunities. The insurance companies are clamoring for more recycled parts to lower severity rates, Sturgeon explained, and "collision repairers are skeptical but optimistic that our industry can provide those parts. [Body shops] realize that as the cost of repairing a vehicle rises, recycled parts may often make the difference as to whether a car is repaired or not.
As large as Greenleaf is, it is less than 5% of the industry. Growing just a few percentage points brings in a lot of business.
The Greenleaf procedure
When a vehicle arrives at Greenleaf, it is entered into the inventory management system. The VIN number and scrap title are verified to ensure the vehicle is branded for sale parts only, and the vehicle limited warranty is cancelled at the customer's request. All the fluids are drained and disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner. Every vehicle undergoes a detailed inspection after which experienced, trained technicians dismantle the vehicle.
Non-recyclable components are removed and destroyed. All salvageable parts are bar-coded with VIN, stock number, year, make and model. Parts are then uploaded to the computerized inventory and warehoused. Each saleable part is made available in the sales inventory system and the scrap vehicle hulk is crushed and recycled to ensure proper final disposition.
Seeking continued growth
Greenleaf aspires to become the world's leading automotive recycling organization by creating a business advantage for customers through "On Time - As Promised" delivery of quality recycled parts and outstanding customer service at a competitive price.
Larger repairers require a much higher level of service needs; they have through-put requirements and need to know with some degree of certainty that parts will be delivered on time and be exactly what they need.
"More and more people are acknowledging our presence and realizing what we do," said Sturgeon. "Years ago, a lot of do-it-yourself mechanics made use of salvage parts, but now most of our focus is on business to business clientele. In the 80s, 50% of the business was retail, which has dropped to a mere 10%.
"Greenleaf still has some growing to do. As large as our product base is, we still don't have the product 30% of the time. Because of our commitment to customer service, we attempt to find that part through other resources to keep our customers satisfied."
Concludes Sturgeon, "our goal is to achieve what Ford envisioned - to build a top-flight organization. It is a goal that is within reach."