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Taking Charge of Your Roles

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SHOP STATS: Springdale Automotive, Stein Automotive  Location: 5 in Louisville, Ky. (3 Springdale, 2 Stein)  Operator: Chad Shelton and Lauren Dennison  Average Monthly Car Count: 800  Total Staff Size: 40  Annual Revenue: $5 million  

When their father wanted to take a step back from the family business, it was up to siblings Chad Shelton and Lauren Dennison to take over the operation. As new owners running Springdale Automotive and Stein Automotive—a total of five shops in the Louisville, Ky.-area—they needed to figure out a system that worked for them, their staff and their customers. Instead of working on the same tasks, they played to their strengths and past experience to define their roles and responsibilities as owners.

Defining Roles to Each Other

In 2007, Dennison and Shelton started working alongside their parents; Dennison worked with mom doing the office work, while Shelton started on the front end as a service advisor. Before both of them took over, Shelton thought he could run the business all on his own. What he didn’t realize was just how much work went into Dennison’s job alone. 

“I didn’t have all of the information that she had working on the backend and wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Shelton says. “My weakness is her strength.”

So, the two decided to take over together. 

When they took over in the beginning of 2019, it was clear that they should naturally transition into the same roles they have been working on; Dennison in charge of the financing and back-end work, while Shelton manned the front-end of the shop, along with advertising and marketing. 

“We have two pieces of the puzzle to run the business together successfully,” Dennison says. “There are no missing pieces.”

To make sure they’re on the same page, the two get together for lunch every day to discuss what’s going on with the business.

Defining Roles to Their Staff

One of the biggest challenges the siblings faced when taking over was finding the right people.

The siblings learned soon enough that all it took was moving staff around to different locations, letting go of people that didn’t fit, and getting people in that fit the culture they were looking for.

With their new defined roles, Dennison and Shelton wanted their staff to have a clear idea of what each of their roles were. Once they took over, they let the leadership team know that they were both in charge, explaining that Dennison took care of the back end and Shelton took care of the front end. Even though the roles have been clearly defined, the staff knows that they can still come to either Dennison or Shelton, there’s just one that will probably know more—depending on the issue.  

However, with multiple locations, it can be difficult to manage all of their employees, so the two rely heavily on the managers of each location to run more of the day-to-day operations and communication with employees. The staff has been instructed to go to their managers first with day-to-day issues, and the managers will come to Dennison and Shelton if they need their assistance solving something. 

“We lean a lot on our managers,” Dennison says. “We set a hierarchy on how things will go.”

With that being said, Dennison and Shelton still value relationships with their employees, so they make sure to set time aside with each one to check in. 

Defining Roles to Their Customers

For 24 years, Shelton and Dennison’s father was the face of the business. Now that he stepped down, the siblings needed to make a name for themselves.

“Customers don’t really know about Lauren and me,” Shelton says. “We are trying to have them recognize us and get our name out there more with our customers.”

With the business’s 25th anniversary coming up this year, this was their time to shine. Instead of their dad being on all of the marketing material this year, it’s Shelton and Dennison’s families taking the spotlight.

“This year is all about rebranding us as a second-generation shop,” Dennison says. “Our push is to get our faces and our names out there.”

See what each of Shelton and Dennison's days look like in the print edition of July's issue.

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