Hiring to Take a Step Back

Jan. 30, 2020
To delegate tasks, a leader must hire the right person to take over.

It’s time to take a step back.

You may have heard other leaders do it. You might be sitting there, thinking, “how can I do it myself?” After all, with most shop operators saying they start work before the doors open and stay until after close, who wouldn’t want to take a step back from some of the day-to-day responsibilities to look at the big picture?

But, in order to take that step back and deep breath, shop operators need to develop strong team players around him or her, says Doug Engle, president of the Stonewall Group, a Maaco MSO group. 

“My first year or two as a leader, I couldn’t step back,” he says. “I think the key to accomplishing that is hiring the right person to take over your responsibility.”

Engle leads the MSO group that has acquired 10 Maaco locations across different states, namely Maryland, Michigan and Ohio.  Before operating the shop, he spent time at Maaco training other operators on how to lead their stores. Three years ago, Engle was asked to step up and take over his own store, putting all of his knowledge to the test. 

Within those three years, he’s not only raised the shop’s value to about $14.5 million, he’s learned that the way to accomplish working on the business is by surrounding oneself with a strong team. Below, Engle outlines how to hire in order to assemble that type of team.

As told to Melissa Steinken

Tip No. 1: Stop delegating the process to other coworkers.

In order to make sure every team member is working according to their individual strengths, the owner or operator should personally take a role in the hiring and onboarding process. One way to get involved in the onboarding process is to take over the task of pre-screening candidates and sitting in on the interviews. 

I take on the hiring process because I want my other managers to be able to focus on sales, production and quality.

Tip No. 2: Take time to personally vet the candidate.

When I pre-screen a candidate, the calls typically last 15 to 30 minutes. But, by about 15 minutes, I know that if I’m still on the phone with the candidate, I have a good idea that I’m going to be inviting them in for a second interview. 

During this conversation, I have one goal in mind. I’m looking for someone to not fill the position he or she is applying for but someone who has the skills and qualities to qualify for the next position in the pipeline. I want to hire someone excited by a dream or a goal that doesn’t simply rely within the four walls of the body shop. I don’t want someone who is going to only come in, want to work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and then cash out at the end of the week.

Tip No. 3: Ask the right questions.

During the call, I make sure to ask questions that will showcase whether the candidate wants to grow in a career. I also inquire into the candidate’s skill level for the job. I look to see if they’re philosophically compatible with the software and operating procedures.

One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What is your approach to profitability?”

When it comes to asking about growth, don’t just say, “Hey, Melissa, are you looking to grow?” Anyone can answer yes. Instead, ask an open-ended question that needs an answer indicating if the interviewee is ready for the next career step.

Tip. No. 4: Bring in another opinion.

While I take on the responsibility of sourcing and pre-screening candidates, I don’t make that final decision. I want my team of managers to feel empowered by their staff so at the end of the process, they make the decision. Managers make the final hire.

We follow the operating philosophy of “hire, train and empower the right people with responsibility, resources and effective incentives to create a culture of ownership and accountability.”

Tip. No.5: Continue the growth mindset of hiring into the training.

The process isn’t finished once the candidate is hired. After the new employee starts, it’s important to focus on the training in the shop. We like to promote the idea of helping each other continuously learn by participating in a mentorship program. 

We participate in the Collision, Refinishing & Repair Advisory Committee for a local school system. A high school student comes into the shop and works with us for four days out of the week. The student is paired with another technician or worker in the shop to help him or her improve upon the skills for a career they’ve chosen.