Marty Betagole loves a challenge, and that’s exactly what she got when she assumed her role as president of Mike Albert Leasing Inc. Mike Albert is one of the top 12 vehicle fleet managers in the country, with more than 20,000 vehicles leased throughout the United States and Canada and more than 8,000 vehicles sold each year in the used car market.
Betagole’s great-uncle, Mike Albert, started the company in the 1920s as a used car lot, and in the 1950s, her father, Robert Betagole the current CEO of Mike Albert Leasing suggested the company begin leasing vehicles as a way to generate used cars to sell. “If you look up entrepreneur in the dictionary, my father’s picture could be there,” Betagole says.
And while she says her father’s management style is directive, she herself uses a highly collaborative approach.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” she says. “Being collaborative means you gather more ideas. However, it takes more time and patience to execute.”
Smart Business spoke with Betagole about why patience, confidence and an ability to listen are critical to growing a company.
Q: How do you manage change?
Change and leadership are unavoidably linked. If you do not change to meet the times, you disappear. Likewise, if you change too much and you lose sight of what you are all about, you may also disappear.
This quote sums it up nicely: ‘Preserve order amid change and preserve change amid order.’ That is what I try to do.
My change management style is to take a collaborative approach. There are two ways to listen, and each is equally important. You must listen internally and remember that good ideas abound in your organization.
Do you want an engaged staff who embraces change? Pay attention to their thoughts. You must also listen externally to what your customers are saying and what your competitors are offering.
Change is scary. You may feel the fear, but as a leader, it is essential to maintain your composure and reassure the troops, especially during uncertain times of change.
Q: How do you communicate your vision and message to staff?
I don’t, really, because they are part of building it. People more naturally support that which they create.
One tactic I use is to plant seeds of ideas. I sometimes perceive when we need to shift directions or change our approach. I may subtly suggest ideas in conversations with staff, so that they gradually adopt them.
This is not meant to be manipulative; it is a smart strategy for building buy-in and support.
Q: What are the key skills of a great leader?
There are many skills needed, but these three come to mind immediately.
Confidence. You must stand by your convictions and trust your intuition. You are in a position of visibility and scrutiny. All of your decisions won’t be popular. Great leaders cannot be oversensitive.
Patience. While I don’t have patience with myself, I try to be tolerant and understanding of others ... to a point.
Ability to listen. The most effective leaders know it is more important to listen than to roar.
Effective leaders are also not afraid to break the mold and be daring.
Q: How do you grow your company?
By investing in it, employing quality people and identifying customer needs, then filling them.
We have invested significantly in our company so that we are prepared for the future. This is an easy area to neglect, and we have been guilty of this.
Keeping up with technology is essential, especially in a mature industry like ours. It is one way to differentiate yourself in the market. Moving forward, we will strive to stay ahead of the curve.
I’ve learned some lessons about employing quality people over the years. For example, we used to hire sales professionals with a background in the leasing business. The logic was they could bring customers with them.
Now, we focus more on evaluating the skills the individual brings to the table. The best person is not necessarily one with a background in leasing.
When it comes to serving customers, flexibility is the name of the game. I have my personal opinions as to which type of lease arrangement makes the most sense. But the more important priority is to consult with your customer or prospect and suggest the best arrangement for their particular situation.
HOW TO REACH: Mike Albert Leasing Inc., (800) 98LEASE or www.mikealbert.com