Seven years later, none of them have looked back. Plus, over time, Germain has noticed his decisions, goals and perspective have changed. For example, his company is moving away from the name Germain Motor Co., which he owns, toward Germain Automotive Group, which is the corporate name for the next generation of shareholders.
“I make decisions every day that I believe will have an impact in the years to come (so that) when I’m no longer around, my kids are going to look back and they’re going to say, ‘Boy, Dad knew what he was doing,’ or ‘Dad really took care of us or was smarter than I thought he was,’” he says. “That’s the legacy I want to leave.”
But they may not realize it until after he’s gone, because Germain says he didn’t always see it until after his father died.
It’s also important to have a career path for each family member that can be tailored to their experience and interests. He says it shouldn’t be a cut and dried model, but something that’s unique to that individual. It can be challenging to balance and manage that, especially with factors like the other parent who doesn’t work in the business, but loves the children and wants to make sure they’re all treated equally.
“It doesn’t get any easier, but you have a purpose and it makes the days go by very quickly,” Germain says.
Leaving room for growth
In order to leave a strong company for his children — in an industry where transparency and online research play a bigger role, and there’s always challenges with recruiting and retaining customers and employees — Germain knows growth is important.
One way to encourage growth is to retain as many of its 1,100 employees as it can. Germain Automotive Group has an average tenure of 4.7 years. While that doesn’t seem like much and there’s certainly room for improvement, he says the national average is only 2.4 years.
In any company, your culture plays a part in why employees stay.
“Every business has a culture, whether you like it or not,” Germain says. “It could be a good culture. It could be a bad culture. But cultures are part of the business DNA.”
A few years ago, Germain Automotive Group developed core values and a mission statement to help clarify that culture. It also spends time educating its employees about them.
“The culture determines the behaviors which determine the results,” Germain says. “We focus on behaviors and not on the results. The results will come.”
In addition, once you hire the right people, you have to provide them with an environment where they feel respected and comfortable, Germain says. You have to give them opportunities to grow with the business and find ways to promote the people who have been identified as the next leaders.
Germain finds that the best way he can help with this — and one of his greatest strengths as a leader — is to expresses his gratitude to those employees, while staying out of their way.
“A third of all employees, a third of everybody in the world, has something going on in their lives that makes it difficult for them to do the job that they’re asked to do,” he says. “They’ve got personal issues. They’ve got financial issues. They’ve got legal issues. One in three has something going on in their lives that is not a positive, but yet they show up every morning and they provide exceptional service. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
It helps that Germain understands he was given an opportunity he might not have gotten otherwise through his family business. He wants to pass it on to the next generation of owners and managers better than he found it.
“The expression of gratitude is a value, but something that not everybody does. They can be grateful, but they don’t always necessarily express it,” Germain says.
However, this only works if your gratitude is genuine and appropriate, he says.
Creating a supportive environment is also easier when you have a long-term outlook and motivations that go beyond looking to make more money.