You probably wouldn’t envy Mike Riehl’s situation. The president and owner of Mike Riehl’s Roseville Chrysler Jeep even admits that the auto industry isn’t an easy place to be right now.
“If it was, lots of people would have the job that I have,” says Riehl, who also runs neighboring Roseville Powersports and Roseville Collision Center under his name for total 2008 revenue of $73 million. “But if we have the proper balance, then we can survive in these very tough times.”
For Riehl, who has been in the family-run business for 38 of its 42 years, that balance comes from depending on his 85 employees to lighten his load.
Refusing to cower behind bad news, Riehl stays visible and approachable. But he isn’t afraid to admit that he struggles with the stress. He encourages his employees to follow his example for coping, taking breaks and asking for help when they need it.
Smart Business spoke with Riehl about keeping yourself and your employees positive in trying times.
Stay visible. You have to be visible. You have to try to keep positive. … I’m here almost every day. I start at around 7 a.m., and I work through the whole day. I walk all the different departments and shops. I say hi to the employees and visit with them from time to time.
Being here and being visible and working through the day-to-day challenges enforces that I’m here with them and we’re pulling [in the] same direction.
Go to work. Get out of the office. Visit your employees or say, ‘Hello, good morning,’ to them, or, ‘Good evening.’ Or from time to time, ask them how they’re doing, how’s their family, ‘How was your weekend?’ It doesn’t seem too hard.
Try to keep your spirits up. That’s the hard part, trying to stay positive, trying to be educated on the world and the national issues and then trying to stay engaged in Michigan and Detroit metro issues. There’s a lot of negative.
Just think, it could be a lot worse. We’ve had many ups, and we have many downs, and hopefully this too shall pass sooner [rather] than later.
Always be as positive as possible in a group. If you have to reprimand or if you have to be firm with an employee, do it behind closed doors.
Take a break. You have to maintain your health and a proper diet and [limit] your consumption of alcohol. I think those basic things could probably help you in challenging times. If you keep yourself healthy, you’ll be able to handle more grief.
If you’re at a point in the day that you’re stressed out, put a coat on and take a long walk outside. Get some fresh air into your lungs and think about something different for a few minutes, and then go back in refreshed and start over. It works.
I ask [employees] from time to time, ‘If you feel yourself frustrated, if you feel yourself stressed out and you’re on the showroom floor, if you’re in the eyes of a customer, please take a break. Please go take a long walk. Take an early, long lunch to try to refocus yourself.’
Admit your struggles. You can’t stay positive all the time. And if you know you’re very stressed out and you’re very upset, sometimes you have to ask for their forgiveness because you are stressed out and going through a tough time. So just hang in there and apologize before you start. And just say, ‘I have to get this off my chest. It’s important that you people share some of this stress.’
And then once I get it out and it’s off my chest, then we have to work with the group. But the manager has to deliver the message. And sometimes if you say it, it’ll go in one ear and [out] the other. But if you have a lot of emotion, if you’re very upset and they see that, then they know it’s a real issue that people have to figure out how to get behind and solve the problem.
They’ll see that the leader is serious and they’ll see that the leader is upset and stressed out, and then they put the afterburners on to try to take some of the burden off of that one person: ‘How can I help you?’ and, ‘Let me get involved.’
Ask for help. They have to use each other. They have to use me, and I have to use them to get through these day-to-day extreme challenges. That’s why they call it a team.
I think you have to [tell] them how important it is to take care of each other: ‘Use each other’s talents and skills. If a manager’s not available right at that point, ask your buddy — have like a buddy system — to review something, or [ask], “Does this look like it’s doing the right thing?”’ And they help each other out.
You just have to keep instilling it into the group that we’re all into this together, nobody’s better than the other person, we’re all equal.
There are small teams within the large teams. There might be two or three salespeople that kind of work together; they try to help each other out. There are parts people that help out and pick up the phones when they’re ringing, greet customers. They automatically help each other with the phones and meeting and greeting the customers. If one person’s at lunch and a customer comes in, they will [say], ‘Hey, let me start with you, and I know he’ll be back in 15 minutes.’ It’s a team within a team.
How to reach: Mike Riehl’s Roseville Chrysler Jeep, (586) 859-2500 or www.mikeriehls.com