Eastern Kentucky Recycling
Like many who are currently in the recycling business, Jeff King grew up in the industry. But unlike those who inherited the business or who gradually took over as the elder generation moved on, King took a different path to get to the same place.
King’s father had been in the recycling business for 30 years, and King had worked for him from the time he was old enough to work. Later, King went to college, but ended up quitting school to work for his father again. King said that over the years, there were times when he quit, and times when he got fired, but he always came back to his father’s business.
“About a year-and-a-half was the longest I was gone.” King said, “But mostly it was only two or three months.”
Then, about two years ago, King left for the last time. His father was talking about selling the business. King said, “He told me, ‘If I don’t sell, I’ll sell it to you.’” King knew that his father was looking for the best dollar for the business, and didn’t know how long he’d have to wait for his chance to buy.
King also knew that new owners might not want the son of the previous owner around. Instead of waiting for his father to make his move, King decided to open his own recycling business. He thought the market was right for starting a scrap business, but it might not be as good by the time his father was willing to sell to him.
“I started from scratch in a gravel parking lot,” he said. With loans from the bank and plenty of experience, King quickly got his new business off the ground. Eight months later, his father decided to sell, and King was ready to buy.
While King said that it was a good decision, there were some pitfalls. “I got left with a pile of tires and gas tanks,” he said. He’s still working on getting rid of them properly. “It’s a lot of hours, but I’ve been doing it for a long time.”
“Dad was a little old school,” King said. “He was all about the bottom line. I’ve had to update…try to modernize.” When it came to paperwork, “There were no computers; everything was done by hand.” Modernization includes a high-tech security system with the added benefit that he can be at one yard and see what’s happening at the other.
King said that one of the best things about owning his own business is that “It’s nice to be able to make the decisions…to say ‘I need this,’ get on the phone, be able to produce,” instead of having to get by with the existing equipment.
Now, King’s title is “president” and he has 30 employees and 2 yards with a car crusher and baler in each, along with a mobile shear and other equipment. While most of his scrap comes in from peddlers, he also has some industrial accounts. He is thinking about purchasing a shredder. “We’re still talking about that,” King said.
With the market as volatile as it is, King said that between the time he buys a shredder and it’s installed and running and shredding cars, prices of scrap could change significantly. But the market has always been a challenge, “guessing what it’s going to do, how it’s going to hold.”
King attributes part of his success to reputation. “We’ve got a good name; my father had a good name. They [the customers] trust us.” He added, “I look at it as a Christian-based company. That’s what I attribute my success to.”
When King first struck out on his own, there were those who told him that he’d never make it. But eight months later, he was able to buy his father’s business, and has been watching it grow ever since.
“It’s been a wild ride,” he said. “I’ve been around for the good and the bad and it’s taught me a lot.”