A little grime won’t stop Bill Perkins from shaking your hand; he’s more concerned with making a connection with you than he is with the dirt on your hands.
As founder and president of Bill Perkins Automotive Group, he has to get through grease to reach some of his 160 employees — namely, the mechanics, who often hesitate to shake his clean hands.
“It means a lot to them,” says Perkins, whose company reported 2008 revenue of $110.7 million. “It shows them that I’m interested in not only what they’re doing but I’m interested in them if I think enough of them to shake their hand when it’s all oily and dirty.”
Little gestures can go a long way toward showing employees that they all have a part to play in a company’s success. To communicate that, Perkins builds relationships to learn employees’ personal goals so he can tie their achievements to the business.
Smart Business spoke with Perkins about how to tie your employees’ goals to those of your company and how to find the best people for your company.
When interviewing prospective employees, learn their goals. You have to get people to talk. You’re supposed to be conducting the interview, but in today’s environment, a lot of people, they’re interviewing you. They try to turn it around, and they’re busy asking me, ‘Well, how did you do this? How did you accomplish that?’
I’m not the one applying for the job, you are. So I have to make sure that I keep it in perspective, and I keep control of the interview. You don’t want to ask yes or no questions. You want to ask questions they have to discuss. They have to have a conversation with you.
I ask them, ‘What’s your long-term goal? What do you want to do? You’re coming to work for me as a salesman, but ultimately, is that all you want? Do you like selling? Are you just applying for this job to get your foot in the door, or is it a job that you really want? Where do you want this job to take you?’
When you are hiring people, you have to find out what their goals and objectives are. If they are somewhat similar [to yours] — they don’t have to be the same, but if they’re similar — then it’s a little easier to get next to that person, to motivate that person, to inspire that person to want the same thing that you want. You have to be able to identify with people.
Find where prospective employees’ goals match yours. I always explain to them what I’m trying to accomplish. I let them know the goals and objectives that I have for the company, and then I come up with ways for them to get involved. They tend to somewhat buy in to it because I try to make sure that vision includes them.
I usually like to know [their personal goals] upfront, and then give them a goal that ties into that. One of my employees said to me that he wanted to do certain things for his kids at Christmas. He said, ‘My goal is, I need to make this amount of money.’
What I said to the employee is, ‘We need to finish strong. In the first part of the month, if you can sell this number of cars, there’s an extra bonus in it for you.’
When he did that, it provided me the opportunity to be able to do that for the entire sales force.
Check your employees’ progress. My responsibility as an employer is to assist, guide and encourage a person to accomplish what they want to in life. You have to make sure that when you are delegating to a person, No. 1, you give them the freedom to do the job, and then you have to monitor it. You have to offer them pointers along the way.
I ask them. Not only do I ask them, [but] if I want to generate so much revenue in a month, I can monitor that through our computer system; I can [get the] report as to how the used car manager’s doing this month.
A lot of times, I may not let the used car manager know that I’m asking for that report. If I look at the report and it looks like he’s on track, then I will go to him and say, ‘It looks like you’re doing a pretty good job. Keep up the good work.’
If he’s behind, I’ll find a way to say to him, ‘How you doing this month?’ If he doesn’t say anything, then I’ll say to him, ‘Well, I was looking at the reports this morning, and it looks like you’re having some problems. You want to talk about them? Is there something you need? What do we need to do to get you back on track?’
A lot of times, employees are afraid to admit that they can’t get something done. I try to remove that fear — in other words, ‘Let’s talk about this. Let’s discuss it and see what we can do.’
Reward employees. There has to be opportunity for them. If you’re growing and you’re making all the money and they’re not growing and they’re not making any money, they’re not going to continue to be happy people. They have to grow along with you.
And it’s not just all about money; it’s about the job, the status and things of that nature. Some people are motivated with things other than money. Some people can be motivated with time off. Some people can be motivated by receiving a plaque or recognition. Money’s a big part of it, but there are other ways to motivate people.
How to reach: Bill Perkins Automotive Group, (586) 775-8300 or www.merollischevycars.com