Forming a First-String Team
Roger Paim has a line of questioning for you: How many hours per week do you work? And how long is your commute? When all is said and done, how many hours do you have at home every night to spend with your family or play with your kids before they go to bed?
If you’re like many Americans, the answers to those questions boils down to the following: The workdays are long and the time spent at home is short. And that’s exactly why enjoying your work and the people who make up that workplace is so crucial, Paim says.
“If you can’t get along with others in your department and do your job, you’re in the wrong career,” he says. “That’s the atmosphere I’ve created with my staff. I treat everybody like they’re family.”
And that’s exactly what Paim has done throughout his entire career, including as fixed ops director at three of the locations of Grieco Automotive Group in Massachusetts, which work on roughly 1,500 cars per month. He’s cultivated the staff of his dreams, a team so tight that he’s brought more than half of them with him whenever he’s changed jobs over the past 30 years.
“It’s because they trust me and they want to go with me. I trust the people that I work for,” he says. “When you want employees that want to work for you, you’ll always prosper and do very well at it. If you sell candy or you sell gold, if you rule your company with an iron fist, every kingdom will crumble.”
Paim outlines his top tips for creating a culture where your staff is loyal to you at all costs.
1) Genuinely care about employees.
It sounds simple enough, but actually caring about your employees—and showing that—is crucial to forming a committed team.
“If one of my employees calls in sick, this is my honest thing: I call them,” Paim says. “I’ll ask, ‘How are you?’ ‘How are you feeling?’ I want to know why they’re sick and if there’s anything I can do for them. All of my people here are like family.”
Paim says he’s always had a gift of talking to people, and that’s become a crucial part of his leadership style. Your team needs to know that you have the department’s back––always.
“The trust and the experience that I bring to the table with all of my staff, I know that my staff rides with me,” he says. “Many times and a lot of businesses are compared to football teams. I’m the quarterback. One thing about quarterbacks and their teams is that they have to trust me and I have to trust me. If I have my team in front of me to protect me, I can face the other way on the field. They’ll protect me. Will your team back you the way that you back them? That’s the secret to my success.”
“You have to be truthful with them. It’s not a game; it’s not an act. You have to know that you care. They're not just numbers.” Paim adds. “Happy employees make money. We all want that little pat on the back. I always tell people when they’re doing well. That’s how you build trust and relationships.”
2) Consider where your weak points are.
Here’s what you need to remember about hiring, Paim says: Whenever a dealership goes out and looks for a new service manager or director, it’s not because they’re doing really well.
“If you’re good at what you do, I don’t need to look any further,” he says. “They’re looking to replace you and it’s usually because something has failed.”
Luckily for the dealerships that Paim has worked for, he considers himself a bit of a Bar Rescue for the dealership world.
“I come back in and fix them,” he says.
The reality is, Paim says, to recruit and keep top talent, your dealership needs to be top of the line and running smoothly. The good news, he says, is that the majority of problems he sees are basic fixed ops processes.
“If you have problems in your CSI, if you're not making enough gross profit, that’s basic fixed ops stuff,” he says. “Like anything, you have to address it the way you go in. HOw many cars are you writing up? How does the workflow work? There’s so many avenues that you need to consider.”
3) Meet the customer.
Despite overseeing fixed ops at multiple dealerships and 28 people just at one location, Paim still makes it a point to meet every single customer that comes through the dealership, thanks to his new owners event. Held every three months, he invites the owners of every car that was sold during that time period back to the dealership, usually 50–80 people. He provides a full meal and then has a big meeting with those customers to show them the service department, the advantages of going to the dealership and to answer questions.
“What that does is train the customers. What I do is teach them right from the beginning,” he says. “No one is hiding and I’ll give you the real answer that you want. I show them how it’s cheaper to go to a dealership. Time, energy, savings, that's what these people need nowadays. Show them the service department, teach them how to come in, show them that service is cheaper at a dealership. It’s been very successful and very high for retention. That’s one of the hardest things for any dealership, to retain the new ones that you’ve made.”
4) Hire correctly.
Finally, when it comes to hiring, Paim is a fellow believer in the adage of hiring for attitude, not experience.
“I like to meet with people and see what kind of a person they are. I like to see how they would clash with the rest of my staff,” he says. “If you're in customer service, anybody can work with customers. Can you work with me and your peers that work with you, as well? That’s all important. A lot of companies fail to realize that. How good is he going to sell for me? It’s personality, devotion, karma. It’s all the things that go together into a relationship.”
“If I was doing the job, I could teach you the job. But how well can you work with me? You’re going to spend more time with me than your own family. For the most part, you’re not thinking of dealing with this one’s attitude or that. It helps your health to like the people you work for and the atmosphere,” he adds. “The person that’s important is the person that’s sitting beside you. How well you’re going to do your job is because of the people you’re going to have to stand around and work with. It’s called not faking it. Be as true to yourself as you are to your employees.”