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Since he was seven years old, Thomas Buechel has had some part in working at Rockaway Recycling. His first job was sweeping the floors, then he slowly graduated to writing receipts and once he became old enough, he was working alongside other employees learning all of the ropes.
Graduating from UCONN in 2007, Thomas took over the operations of Rockaway Recycling, while still working with his Dad for the initial year. Since the beginning of 2008 Thomas has been running the daily operations of Rockaway Recycling while establishing new customers, making more relationships, and expanding business.
Tom also developed iScrap App, an application for iPhone and Android phones as well as a website that connects users with local scrap yards and provides access to their pricing information. Scrap yard owners have advertised one way for many years and have become comfortable in their ways. I knew that if I was going to succeed at my own scrap yard that I had to change things. I developed the iScrap App which allows my customers to be in constant contact with me wherever they are.
MO: What was your inspiration for the iScrap App? How successful has it been so far?
Tom: When the market crashed in 2008, one of the only positive things you heard about was the iPhone and the app store. I wanted to make something for my scrap yard but quickly realized that it could be beneficial to yards across the US to stay in contact with their customers all of the time.
MO: Can you tell our readers how you changed your business model in 2008 after the sharp down turn in the economic market?
Tom: I started with the four walls around my shop and rededicated myself. Laying off seven people was incredibly hard, but I knew that I had to do it in order to stay in business. I took baby steps and listened to many people to see how to make small changes that would pay out over time.
MO: How challenging has it been to inform and educate your customers to help them maximize their returns? How dramatically has this level of customer service and care ensured increased repeat business?
Tom: Believe it or not it has been one of the quicker things that I have done to be so well received. Showing people how to make more money, and showing them things that other scrap yards would not has paid dividends. We teach the customer, we are upfront, and because of that we have been busier then ever. We get compliments daily on how we are not like anyone else and how our customer service is second to none.
MO: What technology investments have you made to help Rockaway Recycling attract and retain customers?
Tom: I created an easy-to-use website with updated prices are more. Many in the scrap business want to hide their prices from competitors, when in reality everyone knows them. So we show our customers our prices, videos on making more money, and send out newsletters to thousands of people every month giving them updates on scrap metal. More people are interested in recycling and making money then you would think, it is a very hidden business from many people who are in white collar scenarios.
MO: How have other businesses in the scrap metal industry responded to your tech savvy? Are people excited to see the advances you’re making or have you met a lot of resistance?
Tom: Some of my competitors have tried to duplicate what we have done, even copied our information word for word and my customers know that. We don’t try to copy anyone but just continue to be ourselves. With the iScrap App, many have resisted, but have become much more open to the idea of being connected with their customers. We have some of the largest scrap yards in the world signed up to the iScrap App. Companies that are traded on the stock exchange and have their hand in dozens of states and countries.
MO: Can you tell our readers a bit about the numerous fundraisers you’ve held at Rockaway Recycling to benefit St. Jude Children’s?
Tom: This tends to be what I am most proud of. My wife always puts herself before others and it has rubbed off on me. We have had several events and not asked customers for any donations, but to come and eat, and we donate a $1 for every item of food/drink that they consume. We have raised over $4,000 in our first two events, as well as making donations on our own to help out. Give customers free food, some music, and a good atmosphere and they will keep coming back.
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