Larry Wind Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2007
Teamwork is important to Larry Wind, and it’s something he stresses at Woltz & Wind Ford and Washington Ford. He thinks of himself as a team leader instead of the car dealership’s president and has worked hard to establish the right team to help him lead the company. He says that knowing that they are a part of a team makes all employees feel that their input is valuable and that they can influence the direction and vision of the company. It also creates a sense of loyalty, Wind says. This emphasis on teamwork has allowed Wind to grow the business over the past 28 years from a small dealership into two large car dealerships with 140 employees and 2006 revenue of $84 million. Smart Business spoke with Wind about how following the Golden Rule and nurturing and empowering employees help create a good leadership team.

Look for ambition, honesty and integrity. I don’t know anybody who gets ahead in this world by working 40 hours a week. So if you sense that a person is a 40-hour-a-week person, I would say that person is not ambitious. You need someone who is more interested in doing the job and making a good living than watching the clock.

You want people who are competitive, ambitious, take pride in where they work and want to participate with a winner.

Build a successful team. You don’t start from Day One with the team you have in place today. It takes years of hiring and nurturing and mentoring and terminating to get the right team.

Surrounding yourself with good people and building that good team is a challenge. I like to grow the employees from within when possible, and that’s the best way to get loyalty.

You have to learn to delegate, and you have to learn to trust, and you have to inspect what you expect. So if you’ve delegated something, you have to watch it to make sure that it meets your expectation.

Play by the Golden Rule. Our mission statement is the Golden Rule. We want to treat our customers and each other as we would want to be treated.

It’s running your business for the long haul, wanting the repeat and referral business, treating your employees as team members and important parts, no matter what their job. If you didn’t need them, if they weren’t important, they wouldn’t be on staff.

Make sure they understand the mission statement. We have the statement posted, employees sign it, they understand it, and we turn around and treat them well.

Be attuned to your employees. I don’t make myself a best friend of my employees, but I’m a concerned employer. When you nurture the employee, it’s the entire environment that they work in and making them feel valuable. You don’t necessarily have to be the highest-paying company in your market, but you have to be good in all those areas.

Don’t lose focus. It’s easy to lose your focus, particularly as you become more successful. You have to have a passion for what you do. You’ve got to like getting up in the morning and going to work. So if you’re doing it just to make a living, you’re probably not going to stay focused.

You have to stay humble and remember where you came from because no one starts out a success. You have to be a student of the business. You’ve got to read the industry publications, attend the yearly meetings and participate when you can in associations.

Be wise with your money. You have to have a little bit of marketing savvy because it takes money to make money, and if you’re undercapitalized, that’s a problem. But if you’re properly capitalized, you’ve got to take the risk at putting the message out there.

Businesses fail because they are not properly capitalized when going in. Not everyone’s going to pay you in 30 days, not every check is going to be a good check, and if you can’t market, you can’t get your message out there, and people won’t know you’re open.

You have to borrow money and take the risk. No money is made without risk capital.

Once you are successful, you’ve got to make sure you leave enough money in the business and you don’t go getting foolish and spending it. You can buy the toy as long as you are leaving enough money in the business.

Park your ego. Partnerships are as difficult, if not more difficult, than marriages. So you have to work at the partnership. And that comes from treating him or her as you want to be treated. And not taking advantage of your position.

Don’t get too involved in your ego where you think you’re smarter than him or her. When I had a partner and I had what I thought was a good idea, I got him on board and to buy in. It would have been real easy to just go do it, but that wouldn’t have nurtured the partnership.

Communicate. Communication is important with your employees, your partner, your customers. You’ve got to put yourself out there and be a good listener, you’ve got to listen before you put your mouth in gear. You have to pick your words so that you’re honest in your communication.

Honesty is the best policy. Any time you sugarcoat something or mislead somebody, it will bite you.

Don’t settle. I follow the saying of, ‘What you tolerate becomes acceptable.’ So we work hard at not tolerating behavior in any employee that is not acceptable. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t stop that type of behavior, you’re the one that’s at fault, not the employee.

If you have a situation where it’s a high-ranking manager on your team and his behavior in some ways was not acceptable, it’s a lot easier to tolerate it than to terminate him. But in the long haul, you have to terminate that employee because if not, you’re just tolerating it and making it acceptable behavior.

HOW TO REACH: Woltz & Wind Ford and Washington Ford, (412) 279-4551 or