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We’ve all heard of the “American Dream,” an idea first defined by James Truslow Adams in 1931: “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. [1] America has always been a land of opportunity and a pillar of possibilities to the world. The optimistic irony of Adams’ statement was its timing—the Great Depression hit the United States in early September 1929 with the crash of the stock market. Regardless of any economic status, there’s always the opportunity to build anew.

Just thirty miles southeast of Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam is nestled right on the Nevada, Arizona border. The dam is an icon of exceptional architecture, even by today’s technological standards. Constructed from 1931 to 1936, the contract created thousands of jobs.

Tens of thousands of workers flooded to the scene. The Williamsville camp, located on the banks of the Colorado, quickly became dubbed “Ragtown.” The entire project was run lean and scrappy. No single contractor was able to meet the bids demands of a $5 million performance bond—it took six companies to join together to form Six Companies, Inc. to secure the project. [2] Their tenacity and determination led to completing the dam over two years ahead of schedule. It is a historic achievement that proved the value of collaboration and American grit.

Before the construction of the dam, Las Vegas was a tiny town of roughly 5,000 residents. Beginning with the Hoover Dam, Vegas began to transform into what it is today—a world-renowned travel destination. Just as Vegas and the dam were built, brick by brick and layer-by-layer, all things have their starting point. In like fashion, Las Vegas is also home to Fast Towing, a first generation tow operation that exemplifies the American Dream.

Dam Cool Facts:

  • Concrete gravity-arch construction becomes stronger with time
  • 726.4 feet high and 1,244 feet wide
  • 660 feet thick at the base, narrowing to 45 feet at the top
  • Nearly 4.5 million cubic yards of concrete were used in the dam and adjacent power plant [3]
  • More than 582 miles of cooling pipes were placed within the concrete [3]
  • $49 Million project cost ($775 Million in 2018, adjusting for inflation)
  • 112 live lost to construction casualties [4]

Interview

Driven: Tell us about how you got your start in the towing and recovery industry.

Yuron: Sure. My name is Yuron Cullen, I was born in Israel and served in the Army for 4 years as a Sergeant. I came to the US for a trip actually—I stopped in Houston to visit a cousin. I liked the U.S. and I wanted to stay so I found a way to get legal.

I started working for a couple of months selling ice cream. It was for a big ice cream company. You rented the truck from them and then drove around and sold ice creams. Doing that, I saved a little money which helped me get my feet on the ground.

After that, I started working for a friend of mine in his mechanic shop. He had one tow truck and he asked me, “Do you want to work a tow truck?” Back then there were no cell phones so he just told me to “drive around to find cars broken down and I’ll pay you per tow.”  I said, “Okay, I’ll start with that.”

I drove around and got people off the freeways. I started making some money, so, eventually, I bought my own tow truck. Within two years I had four tow trucks already. I found some people to work for me and basically just transfer cars. I got to know people because I was towing cars from the freeway to the mechanic shop. Eventually, those relationships evolved into clients and they gave me business. They’d called me for tows and stuff and then I started getting more and more customers. We were running calls all over Texas so I got a couple more three-car-carriers.  I was going from Houston to Corpus Christi to Dallas to Austin and back to Houston.

Every once in a while, my wife and I would take quick trips to Vegas. There were a lot of things we liked about the city. So I checked out what the towing industry was like there and saw a big opportunity. We made the jump and moved to Vegas.

I started out by working for a longtime company here in Vegas. After three months I felt like I needed to go out on my own. I realized Vegas was a good place for me to build a business. It’s also a good area for AAA. They said they’d guarantee 600 calls for this area. I started with a small yard and I work for AAA for like four years, and then I started getting into the police contracts. First, I got North Las Vegas PD, and then I got Metro right after that.

It was crazy. Within six years we had 54 tow trucks on the road. I had 130 employees. It was happening really fast.

Driven: What are some of those lessons that you learned throughout the rapid growth process?

Yuron: Well, first of all, you have to be patient. You may lose contracts. You may win contracts. It’s devastating, but you have to wait for your turn.

I also think that how you deal with people and employees goes a long way. Treat them right and they’ll treat you right back.

Driven: Losing contracts can be brutal, but we agree, the “golden rule” goes a long way to strengthen relationships.

Where do you see the future of the industry heading? What are you doing to prepare for any ups and the downs?

Yuron: Our busy season is in the summer. Cars can’t take the heat. During the winter we work to get our overhead low as possible so we can be ready to ramp up for the summer time.

Just like any smart investment, it’s about diversification. Towing is not my only income now. We have other revenues just in case as back up. We do scrap and sell cars—I even have a small restaurant and other stuff just in case.

I started with a small yard and now we have like 3,000 cars. That’s 13 acres full of cars. I love it. I’ve spent my life building this business. It’s taken a long time, but it’s been worth it.

Driven: Would you say the fluctuation between seasons is your biggest challenge?

Yuron: It used to be pretty difficult because you would have three companies rotating for contracts. So you would basically do nothing for two months and then the third month you would tow 3,000 cars. That’s hard because you have to keep employees for all three months but they might not be making any money two of the months if you do it on commission. I ended up just giving them a flat salary for all year so that it’s consistent for them.

Driven: That’s a solid solution for a difficult challenge. What are other ways that you’ve strived to make your operation unique?

Yuron: I try to keep my operation clean. Every insurance agent and adjuster that comes in are impressed. They say that it is the best, cleanest, and most organized yard they’ve seen. We have the whole thing paved and can see where every car is located in the computer. We can always find the cars right away.

Driven: Storing 3,000 cars is massive. How quickly does the yard cycle through?

Yuron: So, first the vehicle comes in and get dropped by the driver. Then the driver tells the dispatcher where it was dropped. After that, either the insurance or owner comes to pick it up and pay for it, or, if nobody picks it up, it starts a different process. If it isn’t picked up we send out certified letters after 4 days and 14 days, and then in 21 days, the car is ours.

After the cars belong to us, I go through them and mark some as junk. We throw those to the junkyard where we take them apart and sell the parts. Then the other cars get sold as is or I have my mechanics fix them up to sell them. We have a business for every part of the cycle. That way we make as much money on each part instead of just getting rid of the cars.

Driven: It’s been great catching up and learning more about your amazing business. To wrap up, if you could pass one lesson you’ve learned from all your years in life and in this business what would it be and why?

Yuron: Be patient. You have to wait for your turn, and you got to try. If you don’t try you won’t get anywhere. Also, it’s essential to look toward the future. With a little bit of luck and a lot of courage, you can find your way to success.

Closing

While there are several large towing operations in Vegas, Fast Towing has many unique qualities. Yuron is a self-made rags-to-riches story. Stories like his help to keep the American Dream alive. He’s a first generation immigrant that started off with little more than the clothes on his back. Yet, tucked away in the desert of Nevada, he’s been able to amass a mini towing empire. Much like the men and women who worked day in and day out on the Hoover Dam to leave their mark, Yuron has built a company that has stood strong through an ever-changing economic landscape.

In spite of all of his success, Yuron remains humble. While his daily driver may be a Rolls-Royce, it’s one of the few that has a car seat strapped in the back. He’s a down-to-earth family man that has learned the benefit of practicing patience. When looking at the challenges that lie ahead, he remains dam[n] strong with an attitude of “bring it on.”  

DRIVEN

1  Library of Congress. American Memory. “What is the American Dream?”, lesson plan.

2 Stevens, Joseph E. (1988). Hoover Dam: An American Adventure. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-2283-0. pp. 35–42.

“Lower Colorado Bureau of Reclamation: Hoover Dam, Facts and Figures”. FAQ. Bureau of Reclamation. Archived from the original on 2012-06-26. Retrieved 2010-07-04.

4 “Fatalities”. Essays. Bureau of Reclamation. Archived from the original on 2011-05-15. Retrieved 2011-02-07.