Class of 2010
Michael Meyer is the "M" in PAM's, a salvaged parts business that blossomed with innovative processes. He was named to the Class of 2010 in part because of his volunteer work with a local church and school.
What are you doing now?
Owner/president at PAM's Auto Inc., St. Cloud.
How did the 5 Under 40 award affect your life?
The 5 Under 40 award created several new network connections that developed into great business relationships. These relationships continue to support our business mission to this day.
Other big changes since you received the award?
We have had multiple property acquisitions and further development of business structures to support our core model. Healthy, continuous growth.
What will make the St. Cloud area greater in coming years?
Continued improvements regarding communication in the education sector will accelerate the community to a new level.
Originally ran: January 7, 2011
Mike Meyer is serious when he talks about revolutionizing the traditional automotive junkyard — a koi fishpond in the foyer of PAM's Auto in St. Cloud is testament to that.
But the ornamental Japanese fish are just a small sample of the bold vision Meyer is realizing with co-owner and fellow Apollo High School graduate Pat Huesers.
"We've taken it up a notch from the traditional junkyard," says Meyer, who at 15 developed his passion for giving old causes new life by teaching himself how to restore a 1945 John Deere farm tractor.
Gone are the rusting car parts strewn about the yard and workers in greasy overalls. In the new business model, neatly uniformed staff field calls using wireless headsets. They scan monitors to match Internet customer inquiries with parts that have been meticulously salvaged, cataloged and warehoused.
"In addition, they search a nationwide network of auto recyclers to source parts that are unavailable in our inventory," Meyer says.
PAM stands for Pat And Mike. The business began in 1991 as a side project, with the two then-20-year-old partners fixing and reselling wrecked cars at Huesers' St. Cloud house. At the time, Meyer was studying prelaw speech communication at St. Cloud State University. Huesers was a restaurant manager.
"The initial concept was rebuilding and reselling cars that had been in accidents," Meyer says. But that quickly expanded to repairing clients' cars and selling spare parts.
Sales for the first year totaled a modest $15,000, Meyer recalled. But the business rapidly outgrew Huesers' garage, and Meyer soon rejected law school offers as he and Huesers took PAM's Auto full-time.
By 1995, they bought the business' site between St. Joseph and Waite Park and built a $100,000 warehouse. A second warehouse was added in 2001, when Meyer and Huesers began focusing exclusively on selling salvaged parts from late-model cars.
It was a masterstroke. Sales, now stretching across international markets, have risen to an estimated $10 million this year. A $1.5 million expansion is also under way, including the addition of 10 acres to the 20-acre yard and a boost from 45 to 55 staff within the next year to meet demand.
Innovation is integral to PAM's success. Meyer and Huesers continually refine procedures to ensure the highest quality products are salvaged, sold and distributed in the shortest possible time.
But with efficiency, Meyer puts a premium on human capital. He wants PAM's Auto to be a fulfilling workplace.
"We have 45 families relying on us," he says, citing no staff turnover and full attendance at the annual staff Christmas party as equally laudable achievements to sales growth. "When customers or associates walk through, I know everyone's happy, everyone's smiling, and it's because they know that we really, really care about them and what they have going on," he says.
Good leaders help employees maximize their talents, Meyer says. He recently introduced personality profiles to help staff better understand themselves, their co-workers and the unique strengths that influence which roles would best suit them.
"He can definitely see down the road. He has great foresight into the future of the industry," says Bill Morrison, owner of Morrison's Auto Parts, south of Madison, Wis., and a member of the Great Lakes Quality Replacement Parts industry marketing association, of which Meyer is president.
"He's a very impressive person," says the Rev. Joseph Feders, Catholic parish priest of the Church of St. Joseph, where Meyer has attended since childhood and served in various volunteer capacities. "He's very generous with his time," Feders adds, noting Meyer has the ability to move projects along while listening to the input of others.
Meyer and his wife, Jeny, for six years have helped organize St. Joseph Lab School's annual Spring Spectacular fundraising event. He views volunteering — especially alongside his children, Tyler, 15; Josie, 8; and Max, 7 — as an important way to instill the values of giving back and connecting with others.
JOB: Co-founder and co-owner of PAM's Auto.
RESIDENCE: St. Joseph, which is also his hometown.
EDUCATION: Speech communication degree with prelaw emphasis from St. Cloud State University.
INVOLVEMENT: Financial consultant for Church of St. Joseph's "Making Room at Our Table" initiative; past church pastoral council committee chairman and program facilities evaluation team member; co-chairman this year and committee member for past six years of St. Joseph Lab School's Spring Spectacular fundraiser; president of Great Lakes Quality Replacement Parts association.
HOW HE LEADS: "I lead by creating a high-morale environment with high expectations. This requires focus and energy, but the results are honest, dedicated and happy employees. I try to make every employee feel important and valued every day. This is the most important part of my job."