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Citizen of the World

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Mike knows I want to write a blog about him. I enjoy bragging about the talented and diverse team members at Jim Hudson Lexus, so it was only a matter of time before he became my next victim. “So, you are here to gather intel,” he says. Most employees reluctantly agree to this process, offering perfunctory replies to the questionnaire, forcing me to chase them down, like a journalist, to get a broader picture. Not so with Mike. He casually gives me all of the “intel” I need, letting me in on fun facts, and advising me regarding what I can and cannot share about his story.

It is an interesting story, indeed. A self-described “citizen of the world”, he moved to America in 1990 from Jamaica by way of a job on a cruise ship. The “washbelly” child in a family of six kids (I learn that washbelly means the youngest kid in a Jamaican family, like washing a pot when you are done with it), his other siblings are spread out from California to Russia to England. He will not allow me to disclose the full size of his own family, but stresses that raising his two young kids Maci and “Bossbaby” is the focus for him right now.

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When I inquire if he is going to have more children, he comments on the cost of parenting. Traveling the world and raising children requires a commitment to hard work, and it is in this aspect of his life in which Mike shows his true character. In addition to his full time position in our dealership cafe, he also works as a server at the Augusta Country Club. Mike is a stalwart creature of meticulous habits which makes him a valued team member for any employer. He is methodical in his work routine, reliable in the processes essential in the world of food, and keeps a steady composure in the face of stress.

Mike’s unflappable nature is never more evident than in a reality TV appearance, an episode of the Jamie Kennedy show in which he is enmeshed in a prank about an enormous rat.  Mike remains calm throughout the entire episode, playing along with antics which would rattle even the most insouciant of personalities. The whole time I am watching the Youtube video, I am thinking, he is the perfect person for this hoax. He is a cool cat who plays along despite suspecting that something was amiss, and keeps a poker face until the dramatic surprise.

Mike on the Jamie Kennedy TV show

The Jamie Kennedy show is not the only time that Mike appears in a national google search. In addition to googling “rat exterminator Jamie Kennedy”, he goes to his phone and enters a search of golf.com articles from 2014 about Billy Payne wanting to grow the game. In the opening to this engaging article, author Michael Bamberger references a server who is hooked on the sport and dreams of one day playing the Augusta National. That waiter is Mike, and his inclusion in this article for an esteemed publication is a source of tremendous pride. If you know Mike, you can easily imagine him having casual banter while serving drinks or a meal at the club. Mike’s easygoing charm and global citizenship would be just the thing that a senior writer of Sports Illustrated would observe.

Mike is the server referenced in this article

In addition to his gifts as a father, golfer and world traveler, Mike is also an excellent cook. At home, he makes an amazing oxtail stew, and at the dealership he assists Chef Sharon with many of her signature dishes in the At Your Service Cafe repertoire. His polite demeanor makes him the ideal fit for both a cafe within a Lexus dealership, as well as the dining halls of a prestigious club. Between these two jobs and his passion for golf, he knows much of Augusta’s golf community by name, and is well-respected for his courtesy, work ethic and passion for the sport. If you have not yet met Mike Smith, stop by for a sandwich and some chat about golf, or food, or any of the 79 countries he has visited. He’s happy to converse about any topic, even a surprise over-sized rat.

Sounds of Laughter

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I asked my co-workers to share their favorite “Frank Story”, and many of them say that his tale of almost setting a restaurant on fire as a youth ranks right at the top. As with any story he relays, Frank’s face lights up as he describes a disastrous first day at work in the food industry, giving his audience visions of grease fireworks splashing through a brand new building, with fire truck sirens wailing in the background. Nobody tells a story like Frank, and it always means laughter for his audience of coworkers or customers.

Frank has many stories, so if you are visiting our 56,000 square foot dealership and hear the sound of merriment, look for the crowd of happy people and chances are good that you will find Frank Gibbs smack in the middle of it. A natural charmer, Frank’s gift for making people feel comfortable and earning their trust has been his forte for over 37 years in the industry. His guests enjoy the experience of buying a car from Frank, because his warm rapport and relaxed confidence puts them at ease.

Selling cars may not have been the original plan, but it has always been a fit. He started after his freshman year at West Georgia College for a little spending money, and realized he had a gift. In addition to his people skills, Frank’s commitment to customer service and willingness to work hard were always an advantage. He has been on the Jim Hudson Lexus sales team for over 12 years, and in that time he has blessed us with his sense of humor and his passion for making an impact on other people’s lives.

Beyond the dealership walls, Frank has also had an impact on the community.  A life-long resident of Augusta, he has given his time and talents to organizations such as the Augusta Exchange Club, Augusta Sports Council (past President), Brynwood Swim Club (past President), Knights of Columbus (3rd degree) and Richmond County Port Authority (Board Member). His daily goal for himself is to be the best businessman he can be, and hopefully inspire his family to work just as hard as he does.

Frank’s home is filled with laughter, as well. Teenagers Caroline, Banks, Jack and Frank III join Frank and his wife Andrea in an atmosphere of supportive encouragement and shared stories. Lab dogs Flirt and Skeet add to the happy environment. Frank says that he hopes his friends and family describe him as “a lot of fun”, and makes it a point to play as hard as he works. Time away from the dealership means travelling, running, cooking and golfing for him and his family, who all enjoy staying active and experiencing new adventures.

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We are blessed to have Frank Gibbs, Jr. in our Lexus family, for the joy he brings as well as for the dedication to his customers and community. If you haven’t yet met him, or heard his jovial voice on the radio, stop by soon to meet him. Listen for the sound of laughter and prepare to be entertained!

May the Force be with Your Playlist

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Music Aficionado and Jim Hudson Lexus Internet Coordinator Jim Dupree

 

Recently I have been curating my Apple music playlists, choosing favorite instrumental works (such as Adah’s theme, composed by Mikhail Baryshnikov), 80’s music (Rock me Amadeus), and of course, the quintessential “Desert Island” playlist, featuring songs I could enjoy endlessly if I were stuck on a desert island, (The Show Must Go On by Queen, Life is Beautiful by Sixx A.M). A disclaimer: I don’t know anything about music. I cannot read sheet music, I cannot play an instrument, and nobody wants to hear me sing (trust me). So, all of this attention to playlists triggered a question in my mind: What music would an actual aficionado put on their favorites list? What songs appeal to someone who understands composition, melody, and other technical components to the artform? What do they hear that is different from what I hear?

Fortunately, I work with someone at Jim Hudson Lexus who is a music guru, so I sought him out to inquire about his desert island playlist. Jim Dupree is our dealership’s Internet Sales Coordinator, but his previous profession was Music Director. He can play almost any instrument, most notably the drums, trumpet, French horn and piano. He and his wife both have their Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in the field. In addition to his faith and his family, music is one of his greatest passions. In college at Georgia Southern, he was a member of their brass quintet, jazz band, marching band and symphony. Suffice it to say, the guy knows his stuff. I wanted to know, what is Jim listening to, what does it sound like to him, and why does he like it so much?

Like most fans of music, he admits that he enjoys many genres (I didn’t ask him about the 80’s music though. I don’t imagine that he shares my affection for Wham!). He told me that he enjoys soundtrack music the most, and listed John Williams as a favorite composer. When cornered to choose something to listen to on a desert island, he said that the songs from the movie Star Wars would be a safe bet. While I am familiar with the powerfully majestic opening score, I was curious about the soundtrack overall, and did a little listening and a little research.

It turns out, there was a strategy at work that fostered the mutual success of the film and the soundtrack. Writer Dan Neilan explains why the movie and the score are associated so strongly together in our brain, a technique used in the days of opera: leitmotif. “a leitmotif is an identifying “musical tag” or “melodic moment” that’s reprised every time the composer wants the audience to realize or remember something”. Perhaps a leitmotif is to music what a hashtag is for social media: a snippet attached so often to a morsel of information that the two become inexorably connected.

Dan Neilan’s explanation of leitmotif in Star Wars music

Neilan offers a link to another interesting article on the subject by New Yorker writer Alex Ross, who explains that “Lucas liked the idea of a sci-fi saga unfolding against a Romantic, swashbuckling musical backdrop, and Williams responded artfully.” My colleague Jim Dupree, while stating that listening to music is soothing and relaxing, surely also appreciates the genius of this approach. While Jim states that he likes simple or complex compositions, he concedes that he “hears things that others don’t hear”, compared to a neophyte like myself: I know what I like but might not fully understand the reasons.

The intelligence and attention to detail that informed his music career have also translated into a successful foray into his work at the dealership. Jim is charged with managing a vast field of data to ensure that guest relationships are cultivated with care. His values of perseverance and integrity mesh well with our culture; his amiable and helpful approach is appreciated by customers and fellow team members. Despite being a new member to the Jim Hudson family, he is an integral part of the sales team and tells us that he appreciates the positive environment and opportunity to leverage his skills for the organization as a whole.

When not at work, Jim enjoys time with his wife Debra and their son Ryan, playing music or sports. He tells us that his daily goals for himself include living true to his faith and supporting his family. When the Duprees travel, they enjoy the acoustic brilliance of the Mark Levinson sound system in the Lexus ES, shining the light on the nuances of the music that enriches their lives. In the final analysis, that is ultimately what our playlists do for each of us; like all art, each piece of music resonates for enigmatic reasons. For some, it may be treasured memories of happy life moments; for others, a powerful soundtrack that appeals to a more cerebral appreciation of the craft. Either way, it is nice to have a music expert in the Lexus family to turn to as we curate our own personal playlists.

Joyful Superstar

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We have many impressive team members at Jim Hudson Lexus, which is why writing this blog is such a pleasure for me. I once had a customer ask me, “How do you find so many incredibly nice people to work at the dealership?” I wonder the exact same thing; it’s sometimes hard to believe that we can have so many truly good people under one roof-and here I use the word “good” in the deepest sense of the word.

I don’t recall how I responded to the customer’s question-perhaps something about how nice people attract other nice people, or that we have built a reputation for taking excellent care of our employees. All I know for sure is that I am blessed to work with each of them. They inspire me to be my personal best, and the stressful aspects of the car business are ameliorated by the honor of serving alongside individuals of such high character. I guess that is why I run around calling everyone “Superstar”.  I am completely sincere when I refer to my Lexus family members that way.

Although I cannot take credit for why so many kind people work at Jim Hudson Lexus, I can take credit for one Superstar in particular. When I met Raven at a competitor’s dealership, I knew instantly that she was special. Although the interaction was brief-I was just there to bring my husband Kevin his lunch-Raven greeted me with such warm sincerity that I knew she was the real deal. You can tell when people genuinely want to help, and her bright smile endeared me on the spot. I normally don’t recruit from my competitors, and in this case I refrained because Kevin was her boss, but the moment it became clear that Kevin was leaving his employer, one of my first questions to him was: “so can I try to steal Raven now?”

I reached out to Raven and asked if we could talk, one of those interview situations where you are more interested in selling your company to the candidate than having them sell themselves to you. Our conversation confirmed all of my initial impressions, and fortunately we were able to recruit her to join us. She impressed us all immediately with her quest for excellence and desire to learn. When asked how she thinks her fellow team members would describe her, she opines that they likely would call her “bubbly, opinionated and talkative”, which is true, but only on the surface. Beyond her carbonated personality is an authentic, caring individual who is so passionate about serving that she becomes her own worst critic. She gets upset if she makes any kind of mistake, and is quick to take responsibility for situations that goes awry, even if they are not completely her fault. She tells us that she learned about high standards and setting goals from her father, who is no longer living but serves as an ongoing source of motivation for her. “He will always be my biggest inspiration in the way he had high values and morals for himself and his family.” She explained that he always made his family a priority and went above and beyond to ensure they had every want and need.

Another driving force behind Raven’s quest for success is her husband Shawn and  2 year-old daughter Nyla. Raven wants to be an “individual who loves and encourages, as well as being the best mom and wife I can be to my family”. Her daily goal is to smile and find one thing for which she can be thankful. How that passion translates into action is evident in the way she relates to Lexus guests in her role as Service Advisor. She focuses on building relationships through helpfulness and sharing experiences. Comments from clients about service from Raven include such words as sweet, hardworking, professional, kind, personable. Raven says that her family would describe her as “respectable, loyal and loving”, so it is clear that she stays true to her nature both at work and at home.

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In her free time, Raven enjoys reading, movies, playing with Nyla, and planning trips to take with her family. She carries her infectiously bright personality wherever she goes: she tells us that there is not one day when she does not smile or laugh. That warmth radiates from her and makes her a pleasure to be around, and I suspect it was that joyfulness that I sensed when I first met her. If you are ever having a tough day and are near the dealership, stop by and say hello to Raven Green Harris. I promise that her infectious smile will brighten your day. We are thankful to have her on our team, and I know that her Dad would be proud of the joy that this Superstar is bringing to others every single day.

Meet Ted Baker

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A cursory glance at Ted Baker’s Facebook page, and it is easy to get a sense of what is important to him. Football, family and faith seem to dominate the posts, with a healthy dose of Lexus news permeating his world. A member of the Jim Hudson Augusta team for less than a year, Ted has integrated easily into our culture, and not just because he is a UGA Bulldog fan. In his role as Delivery Specialist, Ted guides guests through the technology in their vehicles, introducing them to the new features so that they can feel more at ease. His calm demeanor and accessible intelligence are the perfect attributes for the job. At our dealership, Ted has found a company in sync with his moral compass. Jim Hudson Lexus is an automotive dealership with a focus on doing business with the highest level of integrity, and empowers team members like Ted to approach their work with a passion for being honorable. Ted appreciates those values, and looks forward to the opportunities to grow his career within that positive environment. He says that he is a fit because the job requires “patience, motivation to learn new things, and a servant’s heart.”

 

We first met Ted through another member of our Lexus family, Colby McKnight, who has known him for years and vouches for his work ethic. “Ted is driven to succeed,” Colby explains. “He is willing to take on additional responsibility and wants to do all he can to ensure a superb guest experience.” Ted became intrigued about the dealership after observing Colby’s journey in a company that believes in promoting from within. Prior to his transition to the car business, Ted spent some time at Augusta Tech and in property management. An Augusta native and graduate of Curtis Baptist, he and his wife Mary Elizabeth have 3 dogs, and enjoy fixing up their home with antiques, memorabilia and furniture Ted repurposes from quality wood found during their travels. When not at work, Ted can sometimes be found at the Pine Ridge or The River Country Clubs, pursuing his love of golf and the outdoors, or watching SEC football.

 

Which brings me back to Ted’s Facebook page. To me, the post that sums up who Ted is as a person is an interview with Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney. Following an impressive year for the team, the Coach explains that in addition to the persistence of hard work, the triumph of the team is ultimately all a result of the “grace of the good Lord…to allow us to experience” the blessing of success. “For me personally, joy comes from focusing on Jesus, others and yourself,” says Swinney, who is known for taking any opportunity to share his faith with others. Ted is likewise passionate about living true to his values, and there is little doubt that he will be vigilant in his pursuit of honoring his faith and family. We are proud to have him on our team and look forward to watching his career blossom at Jim Hudson Lexus.

 

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

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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!