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No big secret Featured

10:50am EDT October 23, 2001

When it comes to building a successful business, Jeg Coughlin Jr. says hiring good employees is key.

While that may sound like simple advice, the Jeg's Automotive vice president knows finding and keeping such workers can be a challenge -- especially in times of low unemployment.

"We've been fortunate to retain quite a few key associates over the years," he notes.

Close to 20 percent of the company's current work force of 307 has been employed at Jeg's for at least 10 years.

That's about 60 people, including five who have reached the 20-year mark, six who have made it to 25 and one who's been a Jeg's employee for more than 30 years.

Coughlin says the 41-year-old Columbus-based business follows three basic rules to attract good employees:

  • Offer a great benefits package, he says.

  • Provide a clean, safe and secure working environment, which includes maintaining a comfortable temperature level year-round.

  • Offer "very competitive" wages.

"This company is built on the success of our associates," Coughlin says.

And what may be surprising to some outsiders is that numerous associates at the automotive-based business are women.

Nearly one in three Jeg's employees is female. Companywide, Jeg's employs 93 women and 214 men. In its distribution center, there are 42 women and 69 men. That's fine with Jeg's since, according to local attorney Miles Gibson, industry research shows female workers in warehouse operations tend to have fewer accidents, are more careful and are less likely to steal merchandise than their male counterparts.

Gibson, with the law office of Gibson & Robbins-Penniman, is an attorney for Jeg's. No such comparisons of workers at Jeg's Automotive have been done, Gibson and Coughlin say.

Still, Coughlin says his female associates "can speak intelligently on different aspects of our market," which is especially important since catalog sales account for about 80 percent of Jeg's business.

What might be seen as a large percentage of female laborers in a largely male-dominated field may be a result of Jeg's history. As a family business, women might see the company as offering a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, Coughlin says.

Started in 1960 by Jeg Coughlin Sr., the business has grown from an automotive parts store on 11th Avenue in Columbus to three Central Ohio retail stores, four calling centers, a chassis division, two distribution centers and a corporate office, as well as racing teams.

Coughlin Jr. and his brothers -- John, Troy and Mike -- now run the business.

In late 1999, Jeg's opened a state-of-the-art distribution center in southern Delaware County. The $24 million facility requires less lifting than traditional centers -- a perk for employees.

Another perk, Coughlin says, is the company's world-renowned race team, a source of pride for employees. Many Jeg's workers enjoy motor sports, he says.

"It's a candy store for the adults, almost," he says.

And having fun can help keep workers happy.

>"We try to have a nice, casual, fun atmosphere," Coughlin says. "We're here to do work -- that's for sure -- but if we can have fun doing it, that's a benefit." How to reach: Jeg Coughlin Jr., Jeg's Automotive, 294-5050 or www.jegs.com

C.J. Cross (CrossRoberts@aol.com) is a free-lance writer for SBN Magazine.