Although I am the dealer principal at three new car dealerships, a collision centre and an RV business, I dislike the word "boss" and I discourage others from using it, too.
The word boss is outdated and suggests an "us" versus "them" relationship between management and staff, which is not at all reflective of our organization. A more apt title would be manager or, as my business card says, "Sheriff," which implies the idea of a peacemaker rather than an overlord.
A dealership may have the most eye-popping showroom in the country and the most sophisticated technology this side of Silicon Valley.
But without a talented, dedicated team of experts working together, nothing gets done and business doesn't move forward. Employees don't grow and they're unhappy. The great Lee Iacocca once said, "People working together can move mountains" and it's the truth.
The point is, workplaces have changed in recent decades. Top down management styles have given way to more inclusive and less structured arrangements, where employee contributions are valued and teamwork is the new currency.
Not all work environments have evolved; some businesses still enforce rigid hierarchies, where work titles provide owners and managers with a sense of entitlement and ego gratification. In my opinion, this approach stifles creativity, productivity and innovation.
At our organization, sometimes the Sheriff has to make big decisions, but every day team members make important decisions that impact our business. We rely on input and feedback from everyone so that we can identify things we're doing well and where we need to improve.
I'm not one of those leaders who hide away in a corner office; I'm a hands-on Sheriff. On any given day, I'll speak with automotive technicians, service advisors, collision repair appraisers, salespeople, human resource staff and marketing personnel. I participate in meetings, I interact with customers and I solicit ideas, opinions and feedback from everyone.
In fact, I learn as much (if not more) from the men and women I have the privilege of working with than they learn from me. I never know where the next great idea will come from. I go to work each day with the attitude, What can I learn and how can I improve things for our teams? as opposed to, I'm in charge and it's my way or the highway.
Over the course of my career, I've gotten better at assembling and managing teams. It all boils down to hiring the right people, and providing them with the proper training and resources, and a supportive environment.
Hiring is not an exact science. Résumés are a necessary part of the hiring process, but they only provide a partial snapshot of someone's talents and abilities. My biggest hiring criteria isn't based on talent but attitude, for a winning attitude can supersede any gaps in a person's experience, talent or education.
I take pleasure in watching others develop professionally. In our organization, we have recognized the latent talent in many men and women, and with our encouragement (and their efforts), they have gone on to establish successful careers.
For me, it's all about creating a culture of excellence and shared values, a place where people enjoy coming to work and where they take pride in their careers. That's the role of any true leader in business today and that's the role to which I aspire every day.
The next time you visit a new car dealership, know that it's never a single individual who sells you a vehicle or performs scheduled maintenance. It's a dedicated team working together, a team whose combined skills and talents far outweigh those of the Sheriff.