“For 30 years, we’ve been doing things that make sense,” said Bob Henig, co-owner of Bob’s BMW in Jessup.
“There is economic sense for most of these things,” said Suzanne Henig, Bob’s wife and business partner.
Over the past three decades, the Henigs have followed what only recently has been described as sustainable business practices. Today, they have the largest and most successful BMW motorcycle dealership in the Mid-Atlantic region.
“So much of it is simple,” said Bob Henig. “My penchant for sustainability really started when I began accumulating parts that there was no demand for. Most dealers would toss them in a dumpster, but I started recycling the metal for scrap. This was essential to my business model in those early days."
Thirty years later, a good bit of the Henigs’ business involves shipping new and refurbished parts to loyal customers throughout the world.
“When we began shipping large volumes, we got every bit of free packing material we could get our hands on and reused it: peanuts, crumpled paper, gift wrapping paper, boxes, you name it,” said Bob Henig. “To this day we ship as much as possible in used boxes. Every once in a while, someone asks us why their parts arrive in a box marked with a food brand’s logo, but most people that we deal with know by now that we reuse shipping materials.”
The Henigs estimate that they pick up and reuse 40 to 50 percent of the boxes that a nearby organic grocery store receives. This is a win-win arrangement because it reduces the food market’s recycling costs. They also get foam peanuts from another nearby firm, and one of their UPS drivers years ago told them about end rolls of clean newsprint that they could get from a local printer.
“We pick up all of this stuff for free,” said Bob Henig. “Even when the man hours are taken into account, we still save money.”
“The cost of recycling is going up, but so is the cost of trash," said Suzanne Henig. "Recycling pays, but not as much as it should. Reuse is the most sustainable option. We save thousands of dollars each year by doing this.”
Bob’s BMW has undertaken numerous initiatives to save energy too. Extra roof and wall insulation was added when the company’s 12-year-old facility was first built, and the lighting has been optimized to save electricity.
In addition, the Henigs have long believed that treating their employees well—providing benefits and paying a living wage—makes them more successful over the long run.
“Some companies treat employees as a disposable commodity,” said Bob Henig. “Is Circuit City still around? They fired most of their knowledgeable employees to save money. It didn’t work out well for them.”
“There are costs related to turnover that exceed the costs of treating employees well," said Suzanne Henig.
"My gut tells me that we get a good ROI for doing those things,” she continued, while stealing a glance toward Bob, who gave an assuring nod.
“You can’t have long-term customers without long-term employees,” he said.
What is the primary driver for Suzanne and Bob Henig?
“It’s a value as well as the bottom line. That value came out of being a Boy Scout. We’re running out of resources. It’s a core value. It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“I am forever picking things out of the trash and recycling them,” she said. “Some people’s heads are full. They can’t think of one more thing. Throwing things away is the easiest way to get rid of them. Forget about the things that are broken; we as a society throw away perfectly good things.”
What would encourage more sustainable practices among business owners?
“No barter exists for reuse," said Bob Henig. "We need a cheap, large warehouse and a website dedicated to swapping trash to treasure. I’m not sure how much a community the size of our county could save with such a system, but if you do that analysis, we would love to see it.”