Team effort Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009
Mike Pruitt, Owner, President and CEO, Mike Pruitt Honda Mike Pruitt, Owner, President and CEO, Mike Pruitt Honda

Mike Pruitt has translated his success as a Cleveland Browns running back to success as the owner, president and CEO of Mike Pruitt Honda.

Pruitt says he learned the basics of business — and how to interact with employees — by watching former Browns coach

Sam Rutigliano interact with his players on the sidelines.

“He had a personal relationship with just about all the players on the team,” he says. “Players could come to him if they had a personal problem.”

Pruitt now emulates his former coach as he interacts with his staff of 75 at his dealership, encouraging open communication by making himself visible and approachable.

Football also taught Pruitt how to set the table for the team’s success.

“You also have to have a game plan at work, what you’re going to do for the month and how you’re going to get there,” Pruitt says.

To do that, he invites strategic ideas from employees and measures progress by meeting frequently with managers at the dealership, which posted 2007 revenue of $42 million.

Smart Business spoke with Pruitt about how to gather input from your employees.

Set a game plan with managers. One of the keys to being a good leader is to make sure that you’re on top of everything that’s going on in all the departments. Every month, we take forecasts of where we

need to be for that month.

I get a weekly report on how we’re trending [during] managers’ meetings. Managers tell me what’s going on in their department, what’s going on with their employees and some of the things they’re

doing to increase sales.

Managers should have meetings with their people at least once a week to let (employees) know where we’re tracking so they can be a part of that, as well.

During our managers’ meeting, I’ll ask them if there’s anything that came out of those meetings that we should go over. Most of them will say, ‘Yes, so-and-so had a good idea. We’re going to try this.’ We’ll try

their idea, and they’ll get recognition for that (on our) Good Idea board. The Good Idea of the Month will be one of the employees’ [ideas], like we have an Employee of the Month.

Check the progress. The CEO always has to inspect what he expects of his managers to make sure that they have the best interest of the company at heart. You give them opportunities to make decisions or to implement ideas, but you always follow up to make sure that those ideas are working or you’re getting the kind of result that you had anticipated.

If they’re not, then you’ve got to go back to the drawing board and make some new decisions. We monitor where we are on a weekly basis, if we’re trending toward the forecast that we were supposed to hit.

Make yourself accessible to employees. We take a person from each department to sit on a committee. That committee gets to (say) what’s going on in their departments. They get to go over it with me and not with their manager, so we can put down anything that they feel is a hindrance to their department, including the manager.

It gives them the opportunity to open up, whereas before they wouldn’t have opened up because they don’t want to offend anybody.

It all boils down to communication. You’ve got to have communication with your managers and the people in the different departments. You have to have an open-door policy. The process is to, if there’s a real concern, go to your manager first and see if he’s handled it. If not, they can go to the general manager. If that’s not (enough), then they can come to me.

Make yourself visible. You have to manage by walking around. We have 75 people, and I know everybody by name and a little bit about them. You have to know your people. They have to see you.

You can’t just be in an office behind a desk. They’ve got to know that you’re there. They’ve got to know that you’re accessible, even if they just see you to say hi.

By walking around, people get a chance to see you, they get to talk to you. And once people feel that you’re an everyday human being, not just the guy running the company, they’ll feel a heck of a lot

more comfortable.

People should know that, whether they can write you or they can call you, they can get a message to you some kind of way. It may not get taken care of by you, but at least they know it got there and it got

somebody’s attention.

You should get back to that individual and let them know that that suggestion was heard, it was taken into consideration and whether anything was done with it.

Take it outside of the office. We have these little get-togethers twice a year. We have our annual year-end party, then we take a bus trip somewhere, like last year we went to Whiskey Island.

Those kinds of things create camaraderie. When you do that stuff on a personal basis, you take it outside of the business realm. You get to know people better when it’s not in a business setting all the time.

Now you know something about that person. If that person is starting to slip, you can talk to that person and give them a warning, whereas if you don’t know that person, you may just release them. People do have personal problems. Sometimes personal problems do come to work.

If a person feels that you have their interest at heart, they’ll do a better job for you.

HOW TO REACH: Mike Pruitt Honda, (800) 323-2945 or