Marconi: Making an Exception for Character

Dec. 7, 2023
You can't always define an employee’s value by their individual performance.

Have you ever known someone who from the moment you meet this person, you instantly form a connection? As if you have known this person for a lifetime? I had such an employee, we’ll call him Hap, short for happy. Now, on paper, it didn’t appear as if he was a top-performing technician, but his positive influence on shop morale was unquestionable. 

I found out about Hap from an existing employee, who knew him from high school. Hap was unhappy at the new car dealership he was working at and was looking to make a move. I reached out to Hap and scheduled a meeting. With our plans for company growth, I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to create another pipeline contact.  

I remember the day Hap walked into my office for our casual meeting. He had a big smile on his face that lit up the room. His voice and tonality instantly drew me in, and we engaged in conversation as if we were old friends. Hap started the conversation by saying, “Joe, it’s nice to see you. I was so excited about this meeting. So, how is everything with you?” It took a moment to process his words because I thought to myself, “Did I meet this guy before?”  

We spent two hours talking about everything from his job at the dealership, why he wanted to leave and his high school wrestling experience. Somehow, he knew that my son, about the same age as Hap, was also a high school wrestler. Talk about making a connection!  

At the end of the meeting, I told Hap that we are in the process of expanding our company and will be needing technicians soon. I asked him if he would be interested in joining our team and with a big smile, he said, “Absolutely!”  

Four months later Hap was hired. From his first day, the mood of the shop was different. Everyone appeared happier and more energized. Hap talked to everyone, told jokes and told funny stories about his childhood. Even shop production went up. But there was one thing that puzzled me. Hap’s production was good, but not great. I told myself to give him time to acclimate, but months later there wasn’t any improvement. I sat down with Hap a few times to discuss his performance, and he told me that he would do all he could to improve his billable hours.  

About nine months later, Hap hurt his back pruning trees at his home and needed a few weeks off. His presence was missed immediately. While the mood of the shop wasn’t bad, it was nothing like it was when Hap was there. I then noticed something a little unusual. When a technician is out, overall labor hours may decrease, but individual technician production usually goes up due to the extra available work and the sense of urgency. With Hap gone, Individual tech production didn’t increase to what I expected. I didn’t pay too much attention to it, assuming it was just an anomaly.  

Hap returned three weeks later. And when he did, his magic elevated the shop once again. He walked in on his first day back with a big smile on his face, giving everyone high fives! Hap told everyone that he missed the team and was happy to be back. That was a Monday. By Friday, technician production was back to normal. Hap’s influence on the team was undeniable. This shows that the value of an employee cannot always be measured by their individual performance numbers. Simply put, Hap made everyone around him better, and that’s all that mattered.  

About the Author

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi has more than four decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He is the owner of Osceola Garage in Baldwin Place, N.Y., a business development coach for Elite Worldwide, and co-founder of autoshopowner.com.

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