Stokes: The Life of the Party

Nov. 1, 2021

Recruiting and hiring the best talent relies on your ability to be self-aware about your biggest obstacles.

If you’ve met me before, you know that I have a big personality. If you came to the Christmas party I host for my team, man, you’d know who the host was and you’d have a great time. But it may surprise you that when I’m not comfortable, I’m actually very withdrawn—muted, even. I can come across as very quiet, unassuming, just sitting in the back of the room. 

Leave it to my wife to be the one to point this out to me. We got home from a family event one night and she said, “Why are you like this every time we go somewhere? You never go out and make friends.” 

I looked at her, confused, and said, “I don’t do that … Do I?” 

“You do, and I pick up your slack so no one ever notices.” 


Luckily, my marriage is strong enough and she’s encouraging enough that we have the relational capacity for us to actually hear each other without getting defensive. I feel strongly that this is the key to seeing yourself change and grow as a person, and I’ll tell you why. 

I personally think when you're recruiting and hiring, you have to notice your natural tendencies and overcome them—which can only be done through self-awareness. My wife tells me I suck at parties, well, all right, let’s start to change that. Learning how to become your best self when it comes to  interviewing and recruiting is so important because people don't want to work for a loser and so you really need to step up your personal game. You have to upgrade your environment and yourself—everything from hygiene to your clothes to the way your store looks—and the only way to do that is by upgrading the people around you. 

So, back to the interviewing: I’m meeting a technician at a Starbucks. It’s not my turf and I’m not inherently super comfortable because I don’t know him. Now’s the time where I can take what my wife talked to me about and I can apply it. I have to ask myself, how am I being perceived?

Here’s my trick: I think of him as a brother. How do I protect him and get him to do the right thing? This guy’s probably thinking, “All right, they’re just trying to get me to work for him because he wants my skill set. He doesn’t actually care about me or my success.” But if I lead with, “Hey, this may be the next great opportunity for you and I just want to have an open and honest discourse right now to see if it’s a good fit for you. If you don’t think this is the right move, that’s cool and we can keep in touch. Can we start with that? So, listen, this is what I’m looking for.” 

I'm not a big guy, right, so I have to appear strong and confident, while not selling too hard as I try to convince someone to work at my shop. Especially when meeting with technicians, they tend to see everything as broken or fixed. When they’re sitting in front of me, they’re quickly judging, weak leader or strong leader. If you’re sitting there mumbling and stuttering your way through the conversation, well, that makes their judgment pretty clear.

So then you’re in a position of being irritated that the tech turned you down when in reality, you weren’t a good interviewer, you didn’t come across as confident, you didn’t prove yourself as a leader, and that’s just the truth.

We need to master those skills and if we're not good at them, we need to be able to admit it to ourselves and ask our No. 2 to take that on. You need to see this. If your shop is blown out right now and you don't get that next person for six months, but your competitor down the street does, they're going to grow. Boom, now they're always going to be six months ahead of you. 

I personally think where I learned the most was in practice. I've interviewed a lot. Never stop recruiting. Learn to become comfortable around people. Find somebody that’s good at it and go copy them. A lot of us are shy and it may seem like the scariest thing going up to a group of people at a conference or wherever, but learn how to walk up and go, “Hey, I’m so-and-so, I don’t believe we’ve met.” You might be sweating profusely, scared out of your mind, but just do it. Don’t even think about it. You’re not even going to remember that feeling 30 minutes from now! This is a skill we’re talking about and you’ve got to practice. But I promise you, if you work at it, you will get better and you will see the impact,

About the Author

Aaron Stokes

A nearly 20-year veteran of the automotive repair industry, Aaron Stokes grew his business, AutoFix, from a one-car garage to a six-shop operation that is widely regarded as one of the top repair businesses in the country. Stokes, the founder of Shop Fix Academy, is an operational guru with a unique business and leadership philosophy that has led his business to great heights.

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