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Improve Your Staff by Hiring Those in the Service

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Picture this: It’s one of those days at the shop where everyone gets his or her work done early. Without hesitation, one technician begins to work on the heater that breaks often, and once he’s finished, he gets out the cleaning supplies to tend to the shop’s dirty floors.

Others, well, they need to be reminded to keep busy.

There’s a distinct difference at work here, and lead technician Michael Havens would argue that it’s the difference between civilians and veterans.

His boss, Leon Anderson, owner of Integrity Auto Care in South Beloit, Ill., agrees.

“They’re always going above and beyond,” Anderson says. “They’ve very task oriented; you tell them [to do something] once and they got it.”

With the ability to cross-train, as well as exhibit a passion, dedication, and work efficiently throughout the day, those with military backgrounds make excellent hires, Anderson believes. As a former Marine who learned the ropes of the automotive industry during his time in the service, Anderson knows the work ethic veterans have to offer.

“I was involved in the military career, and I know that they have been trained in different ways,” he says.

Today, half of the staff has military roots, all of which came following the success hiring, Michael Havens, Anderson says.

“My first [veteran hire] one was 15 years ago,” he says. “He still works with me so it’s like, I could see the advantages of military and then I kind of just fell into it; you get one and you have a good experience and, pretty soon, I’m looking for them.”

Anderson shares how hiring veteran staff members has eased stress as their dedication to the business, ability to cross train, and their driven work ethic has allowed the shop floor team to grow stronger.

Hiring Military from the Start
Anderson’s lead technician, Havens, was the first veteran staff member hired at his shop, following the closing of the dealership that inspired the opening of Integrity Auto Care.

Havens stopped by Anderson’s shop, where Anderson learned that he recently got out of the military.
After speaking with him, Anderson found out that not only did the two attend the same training school, but his friend in the military was also his instructor.

“Any time you meet someone in the military, there’s always an unspoken bond and you always have something to talk about,” Anderson says.

As a lead technician at the shop 15 years later, Havens says there’s a clear difference to working alongside a veteran compared to a civilian.

“Being a lead technician in this shop, when you’re speaking with another veteran, they know what a chain of command is and how to follow it,” Havens says. “They don’t question it and they don’t need to be told what to do—they do what needs to be done; once you tell [veterans] to do a task, 99 percent of the time you know it’s getting done and you don’t need to micromanage.”

Although some shops might not have a military background staff member, Anderson says it’s important to be patient in the beginning.

“They learn a different language in the military,” he says.

Tracking Down Perfect Hires
After Havens joined, Anderson says when it came to looking for new hires, he found that success was often found in a veteran at his shop.
“I enjoy helping military members out,” Anderson says. “I’m a veteran myself, so four years ago, I started contacting the local reserves offices and got some ideas where I could contact [local veterans].”

When Anderson looks to hire new staff members, he says he typically uses military recruitment websites such as, which the following are able to use: a military veteran or spouse, employers, educational institution looking to recruit veterans as students, an agency in advertising opportunities or a government agency interested in advertising opportunities.

In addition, he’s found success seeking opportunity through the local reserves where Anderson says lists are available.

“I try to hire the best person,” he says. “To me, I know what is involved in a military career, and I know that they have been trained in different ways.”
There’s a misconception with veterans, both Anderson and Havens say, as civilians typically aren’t aware of the background a soldier brings.
“I think sometimes military guys are discounted a little bit because he or she speaks a different jargon than what a normal person would speak,” Anderson says. “They don’t realize that he or she probably has had 5-6 different jobs in his time [in the service].”


Adapting to Everyday Hustle
In Anderson’s shop, it’s not uncommon for others to work on different tasks throughout the day without being reminded.
Anderson notices an increase in productivity after assigning a staff member with projects.

“We take them right out of the military so just adapting to working on cars to big trucks, they may adapt really well, but also anytime they’ve got to do anything they’re usually far ahead,” he says. “A lot of times, you give someone a project and they say that they can’t do it or can’t really think outside of the box, whereas I give a military staff member a project and they just figure it out.

Being task oriented is common for those in the military, he says. During his military career his time was spent working on radiators and cooling systems.

“In the military, they train you for one thing and they put you on another. Military guys take to new jobs pretty well,” Anderson says.

After walking away from the military with a newfound skill set, Anderson knew that the ability to cross-train and adjust to a different work environment was common practice for those in the military.

“Most of the time, their learning curve is much better,” Anderson says. “They have an accelerated learning curve [and] almost all of them are nature leaders because they were taught to lead.

“They work well together and their teamwork really is good.”

Going Above and Beyond
Staff at Integrity Auto Care exemplify common values such as loyalty, respect, at the shop, and Anderson says examples of selfless service happen more often than not.

“Our shop is really clean, for the most part, for being in the automotive industry because we take pride in our areas,” Havens says.
In addition to staying later to get work done, Anderson says he’s seen staff members sacrifice the day off to help the shop out.

“A couple of months ago, we painted the shop, and they came in on a Saturday on their day off and volunteered,” Anderson says. “They’ve  re-painted the shop and we have a mezzanine [upstairs] and they put up walls and it's more appealing to the customers' eyes.”

In Anderson’s experience, hiring a veteran often means bringing on a staff member that is not only dedicated to doing the right thing, but is also willing to put themselves on the line for the business.

“When you hire someone from the military, not only is it someone that’s willing to take a bullet for you, it’s someone that works efficiently under pressure,” he says. “I find that people in the military have pretty good integrity.”


SHOP STATS: Integrity Auto Care  Location: South Beloit, Ill. Operator: Leon Anderson  Average Monthly Car Count: 300  Staff Size: 10  Shop Size: 5,000 sq ft; customer area is 3,000 sq ft  Annual Revenue: $1.2 million   


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