Skip to content

Life is Good

I’ve been reading the book Life is Good: How to Live with Purpose and Enjoy the Ride, by the brothers who started the Life is Good apparel company. The authors Bert Jacobs and John Jacobs share how they struggled for years with the fledgling t-shirt company until they stumbled upon a personal mission to share the power of optimism. Their simple message that life is, in fact, filled with goodness, resonated with a diverse audience, people who were hungry for positive energy in times of turmoil. The brothers knew they were on to something when they sold out of the first 48 Life is Good t-shirts in one hour- to customers ranging from bikers to librarians. They even sold the t-shirts they were wearing, and went home elated, inspired and shirtless. From that moment forward, they focused on their new vision, and watched the business grow from double digit revenues to six figures, while providing a work environment where others could match their talents to an organization with broader goals than sales alone.

This story reminds me of Jim Hudson Lexus team member Colby McKnight, our Technology Specialist, product knowledge trainer, in-house video maestro and overall guru. In responding to his blog questionnaire, Colby’s replies sound like those shared by the Life is Good founders. When asked who inspires him, he describes a pastor and author who “lives what he preaches”, espousing an authentic lifestyle based on his beliefs. He also talks about his best friend Chris, with whom he has “built a friendship around constantly trying to make each other better spiritually, professionally, and emotionally”. For Colby, as for the Jacobs brothers, work must have a profound motivation tied to living faithfully to one’s conscience. It is also clear that this commitment is a recipe for success.

Building a career in a company which in sync with individual principles is not something everyone ponders, but those who aspire to live authentically find this pairing essential. When asked what he likes about working at Jim Hudson Lexus, Colby’s own words say it best: “Finding a job you enjoy has a lot to do with fit.  Fitting in with the culture, the tasks assigned to me, and the people has a lot to do with why I love working here.” He goes on to explain that he takes pride in the fact that the dealership is driven by a passion for customer service, compatible with his beliefs about how people should be treated. In his role as Lexus Technology Specialist, Colby fixes problems and answers questions for guests getting to know their new cars. He tells us that every day is different, and he leverages his degree in teaching when he explains complicated technology to guests and coworkers in a way that makes it easier to absorb.

In addition to ongoing learning, another one of Colby’s values is family, and he considers his wife Adrienne an integral part of his career decisions. Over three years ago, they talked extensively about the possibility of Colby’s giant leap from teaching Spanish to selling cars, not realizing at the time that he would eventually serve the dealership in a training capacity. Colby bounces work ideas off his wife, who is an entrepreneur herself, and finds that her perspective helps him to make sound decisions within the framework of living deliberately. Colby and Adrienne have 2 adorable children, Cayden Michael, who at 4 years of age loves to wrestle with his dad at the end of the work day, and Penelope Kathryn, 2, the family fashionista who is passionate about wearing bows in her hair and looking pretty.

In addition to his varied days at work and time with family, Colby enjoys reading non-fiction books, dabbling in photography and being outdoors for walks or picnics. He tells us that when he is at home, he tries to take pictures of mundane things that are interesting in a new perspective. Closeup pictures are a favorite because they “show a level of detail that people rarely get to see every day.” That fascination with knowledge and new perspectives is what makes Colby such a genius at his job, and such a delightful human being. How fortunate we are to have Colby in our Lexus family, and what an inspiration he is to each of us, challenging us to find our “perfect fit” with our work and our life values. What he brings to his job and our dealership is a dedication to a perpetual state of learning and helping others, one that radiates out to the rest of the team in a positive way. Life is good, indeed.

JJ the Inspiration

jonathan myers

Current and former Jim Hudson Lexus team members flocked to the Augusta Boxing Club this past Saturday evening to witness a competitive match between two of our Lexus family members, Robert Dunn and Jonathan Myers. My Mother-in-law Judy asked me who was our favorite in the fight, and I assured her that both of the boxers are awesome guys, so we were happy with any outcome. After two rounds and a resurfacing ankle injury, Jonathan (aka “JJ the Punisher”) was declared the winner, amidst cheers from the crowd.

It was the 3rd event for the fledgling boxing group First Match, which puts amateur local fighters in the ring for the purpose of bringing the sport to a broader audience in the community. This was the second such match for JJ, who considers himself to be very active and enjoys any competitive sport. He has been in great spirits today, not just because of the recent victory, but because of the tremendous support he received at the fight from his family, friends and team-mates.

His co-workers tell me they were happy to attend the fight to enjoy some fellowship and to cheer on Robert and JJ. They are both well-liked in the dealership, and loyal to the company. JJ works in our detail department and has been a part of the Jim Hudson Lexus family for 4 years. When not at work or boxing, he enjoys playing basketball, creating rap music and spending time with his family, including his girlfriend of 5 years (Kristen) and his four children: Jr and Janah’ (twins, age 8), Malasia (age 6) and Carter (age 2). A devoted father, JJ tells me his goals for the future mirror the quintessential American dream: own a nice house for his family and perhaps run his own business one day.

Today I asked JJ, an Augusta native, how his friends would describe him, and he was quick to share adjectives which match exactly how I see him as a person: loyal, ambitious, fun to be around, possessing great integrity. As I started walking away, he drove up to me to add one more descriptor, one that I thought was a perfect fit because of his positive attitude, his commitment to his kids and his willingness to take on new challenges: inspiring. I know that JJ the Inspiration doesn’t sound as intimidating as JJ the Punisher, but he definitely is an inspiration to me. We are glad to have him on Team Lexus and congratulate him on his big win!

 

Hugs for Everyone

martha

The expression “never met a stranger” might have been invented to describe Martha Spooner, who is warm and approachable to everyone she encounters. A part-time dealership employee for the past 3 years, she has been a full-time Lexus family member since 2001: her husband Warren has been our Parts Manager since the dealership opened. She has an endearing personality, quick to hug a co-worker or pick up a baby to adore. In addition to being a dedicated employee, she is a kind human being, outgoing and always interested in getting to know our team and guests.

Each holiday, no matter which project I undertake for the community, you can be assured Martha will be there to participate. If I gift-wrap for charity, she will buy paper and bows to donate. If I set up a list of items to give to non-profits, she will purchase every need on the list. If the dealership has a bake sale for breast cancer, she will send in some fresh cookies. She is the type of person who truly wants to contribute. If you are having a bad day, she is generous with her support. She tells us she enjoys “knowing that I am helping in a small way.”

In addition to always being there for team Lexus, she is a proud mom and grandmother who cares for her family. “Family means everything,” she says, and lights up when talking about one of her kids. In her free time, she enjoys arts and crafts with the grandchildren. When asked who inspires her, she tells us that is her husband. “Warren has taught me that for every problem there is a simple answer,” she explains, noting that his practical side is a good balance for her creative one.

I asked Warren once how he met Martha, and he told me the story of how they were at the same party, and she was feeling under the weather. His kindness during that first meeting, bringing her some aspirin and taking care of her, made a strong first impression. “We’ve been together ever since,” he said. That was in 1990; they were married a year later.

I had a customer ask me last week how we find such amazing people to work for us. In many cases, I believe our employees are attracted to the positive, supportive work environment we work hard to cultivate. Sometimes, they are family, friends, customers and neighbors, referred by our existing team. We carefully guard our atmosphere, wanting to make sure that anyone who joins will be someone who is committed to excellence, someone who is helpful, caring and dedicated. That is why we are so blessed to have Martha in our midst. She has all of these qualities and more, and can be counted on to encourage others and offer a quick hug. We appreciate her kindness and consider her a valued member of TeamLexus!

 

 

Walking to Excellence

873S1394

In a brief flirtation with physical fitness, I joined Christy Dean a couple of times on her laps around the dealership parking lot. Looking back, I think it may have been less about the exercise and more about the fellowship. We walked and talked at a quick clip, going around the property in a quest for extra FitBit steps. Outside of work conversation, it was the first time I had an opportunity to get to know her. We talked about many things, and I found her to be candid and delightful company.

As with most healthy activities in my life, walking at work with Christy was short-lived, but I am glad that the brief experience afforded me the opportunity to get a sense of who she is. I agree with how she is described by family and friends: quiet, loving and easy-going, a private person but one who will share openly if she trusts you. She is also impressively good with numbers, a skill she has honed over 25 years.

Christy started in automotive accounting while still in high school. Early in her career, she was mentored by a manager who was “very strong and smart”, someone with whom she is still friends today. That early inspiration provided the framework for a work ethic and dedication to excellence that makes Christy such as asset at Jim Hudson Lexus. She delights in the silent satisfaction of reconciling numbers and is averse to leaving any project unfinished on her desk. She drops what she is doing to help co-workers in need of assistance, and interruptions are common due to her role as assistant HR team leader. When asked what she likes best about working here, she explains that the people are like family, and in her 7-year tenure with the company, she has become quite fond of the team.

One member of that lovable Lexus team is Ashley Grates, featured previously on this blog. See Ashley’s profile here. Ashley’s boyfriend of 6 years is James Dean (JD), son of Christy and her husband Brian. Christy and Brian were neighbors in high school and have been together ever since, married for 27 years! Ashley tells us that although she was nervous to meet her boyfriend’s mom for the first time, Christy lightened the air with her approachable and personable nature, and the conversation made the young Ashley feel instantly more at ease.

Christy has a big heart and takes great care with all that is important to her. When not keeping us straight at the dealership, she enjoys reading, gardening and free time with her family and her bull terrier, Lady. She also loves her grand-dog Marley! A fan of country music, Christy and Brian enjoy attending local concerts.

 

 

When I hear Ashley describe Christy as “nurturing, caring and highly respected”, I think that in some ways Christy has blossomed into the mentor she met in her early career. While I may have abandoned my hopes for FitBit accomplishments, Christy has been tenacious in her pursuit of a healthy life, one filled with books, walking and gardens. Most of all, it is a life filled with family, friends, pets and coworkers who love her very much.

 

Winners are Coachable

 

1V7K8156

Each time I interview a candidate for a position at the dealership, I have an ulterior motive behind my questions. Yes, I want to learn if the person has a strong character, is qualified for the job and is a good fit the company, but my ultimate goal is a quest to discover: is this person coachable?

We all make mistakes, and always will. My experience over the past few decades has told me that leading a team comprised of people who take ownership of their mistakes is much easier than managing individuals who shift the blame to external sources. This is what I mean by coachability. The team member who is open to hearing how they can perform better receives feedback in a positive manner because they understand the intention behind it is to help them to be more successful. The ones who are defensive or make excuses can never improve because they refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Somehow they feel that coaching is a negative conversation instead of a constructive one.

Cameron is one of those awesome coachable team members who gets it. He welcomes the chance to learn, and truly wants to be the best at what he does. He tells us that in his job as Service Advisor, there are new things to learn every day, and it is vital you are a good listener. He understands that “the little things add up”, and that by striving each day to be better than the day before, the incremental improvements will lead to significant success. Although he has been in the position for less than a year, he is a natural in the role because he is very outgoing, driven and enthusiastic. His guests tell us that they can tell he truly cares.

Perhaps he learned these attributes from his dad, who always told Cameron that “anything worth doing is worth doing right”. Cameron takes this advice to heart in every activity. His office is impeccably organized, he is helpful to his guests and coworkers, and he arrives early to work each morning. A self-described “perfectionist”, Cameron says that he is passionate about everything he does. “Even if I am only making a sandwich, I’m going to put my heart and soul into that sandwich.”

I sensed these things about Cameron during our interview last fall, when he was transitioning from the technical side to the people side of the business. It was a fairly quick conversation, because I soon realized that he has true intentions for greatness.  He tells us that he is inspired by everyone, always looking at “both sides of the equation”.

When not at work, Cameron enjoys spending time with his girlfriend of four years, Shadai, whom he met while studying business management at Augusta University. An outdoor enthusiast, he can be found golfing or fishing when his schedule allows. Originally from Elberton, Georgia, Cameron says that he enjoys living in Augusta and working in the car business: “it has been the greatest ever”! We are pleased to hear that he enjoys the town and the dealership, because we are truly happy to have him in our family. He has definitely been an inspiration to our organization, where a promising future is shining brightly in front of him as a charming, coachable and ambitious winner.

Rise and Shine

judy

Picture a canvas filled with everything that makes you happy: scenes of breathtaking nature, trees congregating in a forest of fog, forgotten feathers resting in a garden’s splendor, or flowers on the cusp of brilliance. When you pause to observe the painting, it feels like an inspiration of loveliness, with depth of color and waves of iridescence.  Now imagine being able to create this art anytime you liked, and to share your gifts with others.

Such is the life of local artist Judy Avrett, who sells her work at local galleries, teaches aspiring artists and creates masterpieces commissioned specifically for homes and businesses. Make no mistake; this is not a hobby. Judy is a professional artist whose works have been featured at such esteemed institutions as University Hospital and the Augusta National, as well as sought after by local designers who understand her aesthetic and her mission, to “express the beauty we sometimes miss in our daily lives.”

So how does a local Lexus dealership become blessed with a talent of this caliber on their team? In the end, it came down to balance. Judy saw a Facebook posting for a part-time Guest Services position and thought it would be a good way to mix a new kind of work with her art, yoga, friends and family. She held upper level customer service positions before she retired, so joining the Lexus team allowed her to meet people and bring her experience to a different setting.

Judy tells us that she enjoys the employees and customers at Jim Hudson Lexus, where she calls service guests to make sure they are happy with their experience. She is a natural for the work, which makes the most of her kind and patient ways. She is also a natural for the team, who shout her name when she arrives for work in the afternoon. “Judy’s here!” They offer hugs and laughs with her before she starts her calls. Judy finds the values of the organization are compatible with her own.

Although originally from Macon, Georgia, Judy has lived in Augusta for most of her adult life, and has been an active part of the community for many years. She is a past board member of the Family Y and Jud Hickey Center for Alzheimer’s care and current supporter of the University Hospital Foundation and Morris Museum of Art. She also supports all of the Jim Hudson Lexus charitable activities, including Miracle Mile Walk for Breast Cancer, Halloween with a Heart, and 15 Gifts of Christmas. She is hoping to get her new dog Lexi involved in giving back, perhaps as a service dog to visit the Veteran’s Hospital or local nursing homes. In her free time, Judy enjoys gardening, reading, walking and spending time with her family. Her son Jay is 48 and daughter Rebecca is 42. Judy has two grandkids: Emily, 21 and Truitt, 18.

IMG_8048

Lexi sporting a Jim Hudson Lexus bandana

As a child, Judy’s dad used to wake her up every morning with a cheery “Rise and Shine!” The habit of starting her day with that optimistic message has stayed with her all of her life, and she wakes up each day with “a grateful heart and an attitude to shine.” She certainly is a bright spot in our days here at Jim Hudson Lexus.  I consider Judy (the person) to be a true work of art, one painted with a quest for excellence, kindness towards others and attention to detail. Her presence at our dealership brightens to our culture of service and brings joy to customers and co-workers alike. I ask her often if she is currently painting a masterpiece of nature, but I should be telling her what a masterpiece she is to us. She is an inspiration of loveliness to the entire Lexus family!

 

Wired for Success

jimmyb

Jimmy with his wife of 9 years, April, and their dogs Rosie, Charlotte and Peep.

I know very few people my age who are in the job they have always wanted. Through random luck or keen strategy or fortuitous contacts, they have attained a career which they didn’t necessarily pursue, but which turned out well. I include myself in this category, having landed in the car business as randomly as the time I found myself in the cosmetics business: a job was available and I thought it sounded neat.

Jimmy Bronstein is the exception to this trend. His entire life, he has always wanted to be around cars. After working on them in high school, he pursued an automotive degree from Augusta Tech and never looked back. Today he is a Master Certified Lexus technician, our shop foreman, and an inspiration to many at Jim Hudson Lexus.

The reason Jimmy is such an inspiration to his dealership coworkers is clear after one conversation with him: he cares. His knowledge, skill and work ethic are evident, but what sets him apart from others is his dedication. The Jim Hudson Lexus culture of helpfulness is rooted in people like Jimmy, with his willingness to serve wherever he is needed.

Like many strong leaders, Jimmy has very high expectations of himself and his team. When asked about who inspires him, he mentions Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda, whose passion for the driving experience has propelled Lexus into the performance arena in a way we’ve not seen in our 29 year history. Jimmy says that he is impressed with Toyoda’s high standards and personal time on the racetrack, driving the vehicles and sending them back for continuous improvements.

Autoweek article about Akio Toyoda being a true car guy

That quest for ongoing refinement, or “kaizen”, as it is known in the world of Lexus, is another value Jimmy embraces. He declares that he strives to “make every day better than the last, while constantly improving.” He notes that Jim Hudson Lexus is the ideal environment for this pursuit, because he is given the tools for success and is blessed with a “management team that truly cares.”

Every day before he leaves, he sends an email to key team members with a “Jimmy report”. In it, he outlines the successes and challenges of his department, and what he expects for the following day. This sometimes blunt but always honest communication, often after working for a 13-hour stressful shift, is a component of Jimmy’s well-earned regard among his peers. He is willing to assume responsibility for issues, and makes no efforts to boast on himself or sugar-coat legitimate concerns.

Jimmy’s raw honesty is as much a part of his character as his heart of gold. In addition to his love of cars, he has a genuine concern for people and animals, enjoys mountain biking with friends and attending concerts with his wife April. He says that he is wired to work hard and be around cars; he accepts these aspects of his nature with the confidence of a man who has inner peace about his life. We are glad that cars are a part of Jimmy’s DNA, because Jim Hudson Lexus is truly a better place because he is on our team.