Get out of the office

If you’re a manager at Village
Ford Inc., Jim Seavitt wants >your cell phone number.

The president and owner of
Village Ford Inc., an auto dealership that earned $95 million
in 2007 revenue, says the cell
phone should be his primary
way of contacting his managers. And if you are a manager
and he rings your desk, you
had better not be there to

“If I call your office and you’re
in it all the time, that means
you’re not walking around,”
Seavitt says. “So give me your
cell number so I can call your
cell while you’re walking around
and you can get out of that

Seavitt says an effective
leader is a visible leader who
keeps employees in the information loop and values their

Smart Business spoke with
Seavitt about how he builds
bridges between management
and employees and why doing
so is critical to the success of
any business.

Stand up and get out. You want to
be out there; you want to be
sure that you’re visible to your
employees. It’s so easy to get
into that comfort zone, to get on
that damn Internet and just be
content with phone and e-mail.

Sometimes, it’s a struggle to
keep yourself visible. We’re
spread out here in three different buildings, and sometimes
getting across the street can
be like trying to get to a whole
other state. You really have to
force yourself to get up and
get around.

People need to know you’re
there, that you’re just not up in
your office or playing golf, that
you are actively involved. Every
day, I make it a point to walk
through the entire dealership
and stop and talk to people.
It’s the touch point.

If you were to walk in and
take a tour of my dealership
with me, I’d venture to say that
80 percent of the people
would ask me, ‘Jim, how’s it
going?’ and know that I’d
know them and they’d know
me pretty well. That leads to
my whole philosophy, that if
your employees like what they
do, if they like where they are,
like the people they work for,
more than likely, you’re going
to have great employee
morale, which will translate
into customer satisfaction.

There have been a number of
surveys I’ve seen where people always think pay is at the
top of the employee satisfaction list, but it’s not. At the top
of the list is being in on things.
How do you let employees be
in on things? I have a lunch
once a month with 15 to 18
employees, so that by the end
of the year, I’ve had lunch with
every employee.

I call it ‘Lunch with Jim.’
They all come upstairs, go to a
meeting room, we buy them
lunch, they ask questions, and
I give them a state of the
nation where I give them an
update on the economy of the
nation, because a lot of them
don’t keep up with that.

I tell them what is going on
with Ford Motor Co. and what
is going on with Village Ford.
That way, they feel like they’re
in on things.