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How to Hire for Success

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In the short span of a year and a half, the Stonewall Group, a Maaco MSO group that has acquired 10 Maaco locations across three different states (Maryland, Michigan and Ohio), has quickly established itself as one of the franchises most successful operators. Although the Stonewall Group has acquired many locations in a short time frame, it’s been so successful because it’s picky about which stores to acquire and more specifically, the people that they’ve chosen to manage these locations.

“The biggest challenge in our industry is people—and that’s even more true with MSOs,” says Doug Engle, president of the Stonewall Group.

With Maaco in particular, Engle says that getting the general manager position is the key ingredient in whether or not a shop will be successful because of its unique business model. Engle says that even with decades of experience, it’s difficult for many to make the transition to the Maaco model.

Engle says that the Stonewall Group has been fortunate enough to stumble across its “dream team” of leaders—Taso Bournousouzis, senior vice president of operations; Mark Seifert, VP and general manager of the Garden City, Mich. location; and Chad Slabaugh, general manager of the Troy, Mich. location. Bournousouzis, who was running two locations prior to becoming a Maaco franchisees, runs all four of the Maryland locations and will run any future locations in the region and Engle is in charge of the five Michigan shops and the Ohio location. Slabaugh has 21 years of experience and his location is consistently ranked in the top three out of all Maaco locations. Seifert has 39 years of experience.

Engle says that one thing that Bournousouzis, Slabaugh and Seifert all have in common is their ability to develop others—an attribute the Stonewall Group really values. Stonewall's leadership group shares their tips for running a successful operation by finding the right people—from upper management finding GMs to those GMs hiring shop employees.


Find a Strong Operator

The Stonewall Group’s geographic setup may not make much sense, but that’s because they didn’t approach the shops that they acquired based on location—they based it on the people at the shop.

“Most MSOs would say, ‘Let’s find a target market and scale it up,’” Engle says. “We’re more opportunistic. Taso, Chad and Mark—you need one of those guys in every market. The way we’ve done it, the market has been more independent. That’s how we’ve been able to grow. If we find another Chad, Mark or Taso, we can build around that guy.”


Look for People Who Are Self-Sufficient

With Maaco, its GMs don’t operate like employees—they operate like owners. The managers are in charge of everything on the shop level, from staffing to P&L sheets. Being so spread out, having GMs that are self-sufficient has been key for the Stonewall Group.

“They’re not standing right next to me,” Slabaugh says. “It’s a little different in that aspect—it gives me more ownership.”  

Not only are the GMs able to operate independently, they also make sure to find employees in their respective shops that don’t need to be micromanaged.

 “My guys don’t need to be micromanaged,” Slabaugh says. “Pick guys like that. Those are the guys you bend over backward to keep.”


Emphasize Training

According to Engle, hiring is secondary to training.

“We don’t hire them and then say, ‘Go get ‘em, tiger,’” Engle says.

For any new manager that comes into the mix, he or she is sent to Maaco headquarter for a week and then he or she spends a week with Slabaugh and a week with Seifert. The Stonewall Group requires three intense weeks of training before he or she is ready to lead one of its Maaco shop.

Grow from Within

A large part of the reason that Bournousouzis, Seifert and Slabaugh run such successful operations is because they grow their own employees, something that the Stonewall Group promotes.

“Promotion from within has been a key ingredient for us,” Seifert says. “We have a hard time finding body techs, so we grow our own.”   

Engle likens it to a farm team system in baseball.

“Instead of overpaying free agents, we take a grow your own approach,” Engle says. “They’re taking an active role in developing future general managers.”

pearljamcrewLead by Example

Seifert says that doing things like detailing a car or cleaning overspray goes a long way in getting staff to respect you. Demonstrating that you’re not above getting your hands dirty is a big part of getting employees to stick with you.

Treat Employees Right

Retaining employees is easier said than done, says Bournousouzis.

“Why would an employee stay with you if you don’t treat them right?” Bournousouzis says.

 In the midst of an industry-wide talent shortage, hanging on to quality employees is more important than ever. Bournousouzis has been doing this for 21 years and he says many of his employees have been with him for 15 years.

Seifert says that becoming a Maaco shop has allowed him to offer his employees more perks—like health insurance and incentives.  


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