Employee focus at Express Oil Change Featured

10:56am EDT March 1, 2011
Adam Fuller, owner, Express Oil Change & Service Center Adam Fuller, owner, Express Oil Change & Service Center

Since 2000, Adam Fuller has seen his business grow about 11 percent a year — in an industry that grows about 5 percent a year. Fuller, along with his partner, operates 26 Express Oil Change & Service Center locations with 235 employees. So with that kind of growth, he’s come to realize that people are his most important asset. As such, he used to spend about 60 percent of his time focused on the employee component, but now that’s at about 95 percent.

“Given the fact that we’re in the automotive services business, I still think we’re absolutely in the people business at the end of the day,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Fuller about how he manages his greatest asset — people.

How do you manage your employees?

We look at four areas in particular on our people — their mindset, discipline, teamwork and composure.

When I say mindset, what’s their critical-thinking like? What’s their effective judgment like, and are they willing to continuously improve, and are they pushing to be better tomorrow than they are today?

As for discipline, how customer-focused are they? Will they plan and execute to that plan? Will they hold their standards as high as they possibly can and try to bring everybody up to their standards?

On the teamwork side, how are we treating other team members? How are we communicating with each other? Are we coaching the individuals that work for us?

On the composure side, do our employees know what their strengths and weaknesses are? Are we delivering trust? Do we need to be acting more technically? Are we sharing information? Are we remaining calm in adverse situations? Where are we on conflict resolution? Are we fair-minded? Are we open-minded?

How did you decide on those four things specifically?

So much today, we operate in an environment of, ‘Where are we today; where are we this week?’ The hardest thing is trying to link those short-term actions to long-term strategy, so we try to look at all the issues that we have on a long-term basis and break it down into what should we be doing in the short term to hit what our long-term strategy is.

The biggest thing is, we’re trying to optimize, not maximize, our employees. In other words, what is the best niche for them or the best role in our company for them where they can reach their highest potential, not where we’re just trying to maximize their potential in a particular role. That’s different. Everyone looks at trying to just maximize the individual instead of optimizing the individual.

How can leaders figure out what to focus on with employees?

The biggest thing is determining what your critical success factors are, and then how you can determine what things to measure that will ensure that you hit those critical success factors. Understand that things change, you change and people change, and if we don’t embrace change, it’s very difficult to perform at the highest level year in and year out.

The big thing is to not have people getting stuck in ruts and being open and willing to change and to grow and develop. The day that stops, we’re in trouble. If we’re not changing and challenging and growing our people, it’s going to hurt our business.

With that, do our current people have the ability to take us to the next level? If not, then we need to change and find new roles for the existing people. We have found that people respond better to the challenges of growth and development if we’re open and clear in our communication.

So much of it depends on developing trust and being willing to share more than you typically would otherwise. If I’m continuing to do something that bothers you and you don’t tell me, then you’re not being fair to me. If we’re not treating our people with the absolute utmost respect, it’s not fair to them. If they’re doing something they shouldn’t be doing, to be fair to them, we have to be open and honest with them. Those are very hard conversations, and sometimes they don’t go well but we have to at least try to every day.

How to reach: Express Oil Change & Service Center, (770) 752-0932 or www.expressoil.com