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Moving Up and On

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SHOP STATS: Bradham Automotive  Location: Alexandria, Va.  Operator: John Crowder Average Monthly Car Count: 246  Staff Size: 11  Shop Size: 10,000 sq ft Annual Revenue: $2 million 

In 2011, John Crowder took over his father’s business, Bradham Automotive in Alexandria, Va. Since Crowder took over, he has been able to take the shop from $569,000 to on track to break $2 million for 2018. That’s pretty impressive, especially when you take into account he only comes into the shop one day per week.

The fact that Crowder has been able to remove himself from working in the business and looking at the bigger picture is to what he attributes his success. From the beginning, his ultimate goal was to be able to work himself out of the day-to-day operations of the facility, which he was able to do quickly after he found the perfect fit for his general manager in Josh Sadr in 2012.

Crowder stumbled across Sadr’s resume on a website and convinced Sadr, who had another offer on the table, to come work for him. The two went out to dinner, hit it off, and afterward, Sadr felt it was a good fit and made the decision to accept the position at Bradham Automotive. Soon after, Crowder began to phase himself out of the day to day in the shop and entrust Sadr with more responsibilities.

The transition was difficult for Crowder, who found himself not quite knowing what to do with himself when he transitioned the majority of the responsibility. Although it was difficult in the beginning to take a step back, Crowder has gotten more comfortable in his new role and says he’s now able to look at the bigger picture.

Moving forward, Crowder has a goal of getting to $3 million in annual revenue and wants to continue to work on the business. He’s currently taking college business classes and making a plan for what he’s going to do to get his business to that point.

As told to Tess Collins


As soon as I took over the business from my father, I quickly signed up with ATI and began working on creating processes in procedures to better the business. When I was able to hire a GM, he was able to focus on what was happening with customers and cars coming out and I was able to work on the business and streamlining processes so I didn’t have to be there at all.

Now, I only come into the shop once per week. It’s been this way since 2016. After Josh started, I started coming in less and less and eventually was able to take off a month at a time. Now, I usually come in on Wednesdays because that’s when we do payroll. I’ll talk to Josh to see where we’re at and see if there’s anything I can do to make his job easier. We talk about the numbers and what can be done to make those numbers better.  

I knew right away Josh was my guy. Him and I, we work really well together. I feel like what we lack personally, the other has. We play off of each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Josh is a driver more than a motivator; I’m more of a motivator. He has an ability to push guys beyond what they think they’re capable of. He’s no fuss, no muss. My problem is I can sugarcoat stuff too much—I want everything to be harmonious. He’s able to manage workflow better than me. Where I would say, “I think we have enough cars,” he’ll say, “We can do four more.” He can recognize the workflow and get cars in and get them done.  

I only have one person who is still here today from when I first took over, so I’ve had to do a lot of hiring—including Josh. When I hire new people, one of the things that I focus on is utilizing personality tests to see how that person might fit into our team. At the service desk, for example, we know we need a certain type of personality. So, by using the personality tests as part of the hiring process, we’re able to find who the best fit will be. Also, this makes it easier for Josh to manage them because he knows the type of person that will respond to a certain style of management.

Josh handles all of the hiring now. I trust him to make the selection that he knows is right. There are certain larger picture decisions that will still be left up to me but, for the most part, he has carte blanche when it comes to most stuff.

When I first hired Josh, we both knew what the ultimate goal was—for me not to be in the shop as much. We had a conversation at one of our morning meetings with the staff and I said to the staff, “We’re going to get to a point where I’m not here as much. If you need anything, you can go to Josh.” When I stopped coming in, I wasn’t getting phone calls or anything but as soon as I would come in, people would come up to me right away and want to talk about something. In order to make it work, we had to stick to the chain of command and I had to keep reiterating that Josh was the new go-to. That was hard for me, because I still want to talk to my guys and see what’s going on with them; I just have to make sure I say out of the day to day of the shop.

When you’re ready to make that transition out of working in the business, one of the things that I stress to people is to really be prepared. My objective was to work myself out of the business; the problem was that I had no real timeline for it and it got to the point where it just happened and I found myself not prepared for what came next. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt as though I didn’t have a purpose. I spent a year not very happy and not knowing what the next steps were.

I went back to school doing online business classes. I even took a class on yoga. I’ve been pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone and to be open to trying new things. I’m sure that my next step will reveal itself. There’s new stuff that I want to try in the business. I’ve been learning Excel; I’ve always used it but not to its true power and after learning more, there’s a bunch of stuff that I want to incorporate.

Hiring a great GM that can do his own thing has made all of the difference. When you’re ready to make the transition, don’t get in their way. Let them do what they need to do. If your goal is to move out of the day-to-day operations, make a plan for what you’re going to do. It’s not like there’s a calendar that has the day marked off that you’ll no longer come into the store—it’s just sort of the evolution. All of a sudden, you don’t need to come in. You need to have a plan and a course of action so that you’re not blindsided by it. People are focused on getting out of the business, but you need to make sure you know what you’re going to do with all of that time.  

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