2021 Best Workplaces: Grow With a Team-First Approach
SHOP STATS: Long Arm Mechanics Locations: Garden City, Idaho Operator: Levon Arnold Average Monthly Car Count: 66 Total Staff Size: 8 Shop Size: 3,800 sq. ft. Total Annual Revenue: $450,000
The location may have changed, but the vision hasn’t.
Ten years ago, when Levon Arnold started Long Arm Mechanics out of his home’s garage, his goal was always to do his best work to help his customers and community at large. Now, with a formidable Garden City, Idaho, shop and a team of five by his side, business is busier than ever but those homegrown values haven’t changed a bit.
“I honestly haven’t worked anywhere like this where culture is the business’ biggest driving force, not the bottom line,” says Jeanette Wright, Long Arm’s finance manager.
With mottos like “every car counts, not more cars count” and “slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” Arnold has built the shop’s culture around a team mentality and a focus on quality over quantity.
“For us, teamwork is everything,” he says. “Our focus is all about taking care of our customers, but working together is the best way we can achieve that and in my opinion, that’s the No. 1 thing a shop needs to succeed.”
In turn, as new customers have continued to pour in, Arnold has approached the business’s success as an opportunity to invest back into his team. Wright says it guides decisions.
“The first question is always, how can we make this or that better for the employees? How can we help get them where they want to be?” she says.
At Long Arm, individual growth is a major priority when it comes to working effectively as a team, so Arnold doesn’t hesitate to meet employees on a personal level.
When one person has an off day or is struggling—personally or professionally—it has the power to influence the entire team and impact the shop’s performance and overall goals, Arnold says.
“Think about it—with a team our size, that’s like 20 percent of our staff that isn’t reaching their full potential, so it has to be a priority,” he says.
As new staffers come on board, they identify their personal goals and a plan is put into action so they can reach them.
“Most guys, when they started, were shocked and said, ‘No one’s ever asked me that before,’” says Wright.
Arnold meets regularly with each employee to talk progress and, after taking emotional intelligence and leadership training and becoming a coach through the same program, he offers interested Long Arm staff support in the program as well.
“The biggest asset they bring in to work is themselves, so if we can help them get to a place where they feel more confident, more effective, where they’re embracing a vision for themselves and seeing how that connects to their day-to-day life, why wouldn’t we?” Arnold says. “It’s a win-win that only helps the team.”
Look Past Logistics
After working hard to cultivate an open-minded, tight-knit team, new employees aren’t picked just to fill a position. Team synergy is top of mind.
“I always look at hiring as a chance to ask, what’s my opportunity here? How will this person reinforce and bring new strengths to the culture we have?” Arnold says.
The ability to be a team player is a must—”that’s an absolute non-negotiable for me,” Arnold says—and an openness and ability to learn are high on his list.
“It’s not really about past experience,” he says. “We look for people that can learn and adapt and grow as the business does. Those are things you can’t really teach on the job.”
Long Arm works with each employee to offer the support needed to make the match sustainable—including health insurance. Companies with fewer than 50 employees aren’t required to provide health benefits, but knowing it’s a need for several of his employees, Arnold has worked with Wright to find individual solutions.
“Most [shops] stay away from it, because it’s such a tremendous expense for a small business, but there are alternatives out there and when it comes to putting in that sweat equity, it’s always worth it if it means you can build your best team. You can’t let logistics come in the way of that.”
Think Outside the Shop
With a mission centered on working together to help customers, helping the community at large is a natural extension of the shop’s culture.
As president of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce and the Boise Development Group, Arnold is an active community leader. Through the shop’s Green Light Outreach Program, a 501 C3 that helps those who can’t afford costly repairs (including frontline essential workers), the entire team pitches in.
At times, this can mean techs are working daily on repairs for those the community relies on most, giving the Long Arm team a chance to give back as a built-in part of the day, boosting team morale and pride in the work they do best.