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Walking to Excellence

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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

 

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

Fan Favorite

Early in my career at Jim Hudson Lexus, our dealership team had a service advisor who was a particular “fan favorite”. Customers loved Alex with a loyalty that had defied explanation. At Christmas, his office filled with gifts.  He had a sincere helpfulness which always felt authentic. People sensed his character, and trusted whatever he advised for their cars. We always knew he would be successful, and it was unfortunate that we did not have a management position available when he was ready to take his career to the next level. We had guests lamenting his departure for years after he resigned.

In those years, as I listened to customers tell me why they missed Alex, I pined for the day when we would have an advisor who could inspire that level of loyalty again. I wanted a superstar who earned trust and built relationships for the long-term. As it turns out, we had just that someone on the team already, someone who has even surpassed that level of success. He was just getting started as Alex was leaving, possessing a similar easy confidence and dedication to his guests. That someone is Kris Norman.

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Kris has now been an integral part of the service department for the past 11 years, and we couldn’t imagine our team without him. Over the past decade, he has been diligently building loyalty one day at a time, one guest at a time. His dedication to his guests is impeccable, respecting the trust they place in him to help care for their vehicles. These guests are adamant that they will work with no one else, and if he is with another guest when they arrive, they will wait as long as they have to in order to put their vehicle in his care. He receives more phone calls than any other employee in the building. He is an inspiration to his coworkers, who cite his steady perseverance and quest for excellence as a source of inspiration. Kris, like Alex before him, keeps a calm demeanor in the face of incredible stress, and has earned the level of respect he receives from all who know him because of his positive attitude.

Kris is originally from Lincolnton, a quick 50-minute drive from Augusta. I often tell people that we should hold all of our job fairs in Lincolnton, since many of our best employees have come from there, including Kenyelle Norman, wife of Kris, who works in accounting. My theory is that the small-town values and strong sense of community help build the kind of character which Kris and Kenyelle both possess. They each have a tremendous work ethic, attention to detail and quest for excellence which far exceeds expectation, to the delight of customers and fellow team members. You know that if you leave a task in their care, that it will be done, and done well. You know that if you ask them a question, they will be honest in their reply.

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In addition to their amazing work success, Kris and Kenyelle are also proud and dedicated parents to Keegan and Kessler. Balancing the pressures of work life and parenthood, Kris also makes sure to find time for physical fitness, working out almost every day. In his free time, he says that he enjoys golf, fishing, ATV riding and softball. (He was our pitcher for the Jim Hudson Lexus softball team for charity a few years ago). Everyone who knows Kris enjoys talking sports with him, as he is an enthusiastic fan and very knowledgeable on everything from football to golf, to baseball and basketball and NASCAR. He is a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs and Dallas Cowboys, so expect to see him on Saturday game days at work in the appropriate team colors!

I have worked with Kris all of these years and have tremendous admiration for his quiet pursuit of being the best. He doesn’t reach the top by pushing anyone else to the side, and you will never hear him promoting his own greatness. He knows that if he does the right thing by his customers and co-workers in every moment, paying attention to the details, conducting himself with professionalism and integrity, that he will earn a good living and reputation. Even though I had my own theories about his success, I was curious about his viewpoints on the subject, so I pressed him to tell me some of his secrets. Why are your customers so loyal? What drives you to be your personal best every day? He finally broke it down for me, and it made perfect sense. Some of what he said, I already knew, and have already mentioned. Then he told me something that hit home. He said, “Angela, I smile at people. Most people are having a tough day and they want to be recognized, they want to be heard.” What Kris offers is a rare but valuable gift: he gives them his full attention, he listens, and he gives them a genuine smile. They may arrive to the dealership filled with the worries of the day, but they leave knowing that Kris will watch out for them and cheer them up. I thought back over the time he has been working here, and realize that he always has a a big smile for others. It’s no wonder that he became the ultimate “fan favorite”, and we sure are proud to have him on our team.

Blessings and Inspirations

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Little Huey is just 17 months old, but already he has a curious and precocious personality. He likes to play with remotes, and has a particular talent for taking meticulously folded clothes from the couch and tossing them about the room. To his mother, he is a tremendous inspiration. Chelsea knows that she must absolutely set a good example for him. No matter how good or bad her day might be, Huey is the one who keeps her going.

Chelsea is something of an inspiration, herself. She has endured a few struggles in her young life, but remains steadfast in pursuit of her goals. Her coworkers would never know of her challenges, as she puts on a brave face every day and shares her bright smile with everyone. A new addition to the Jim Hudson Lexus family, her friendly nature and polite demeanor make her a good fit for the Guest Services Team, where she serves as a receptionist. She cites a “great sense of humor, tough skin and proper telephone etiquette skills” as important characteristics needed for her job.

Chelsea indeed possesses these skills, my favorite of which is her sense of humor. She has a great laugh and is generous with sharing it when I am being silly. She tells us that her co-workers are “hilarious and caring”, an important mix for a stressful environment like the car business. Chelsea also observes that “everyone communicates in a respectful manner”, which lends to a positive environment and a high chance for success.

When not at work, Chelsea enjoys baking, dancing, DIY projects and designing custom clothes. We can vouch for these skills, since she has brought in some of her home-baked cookies to share at work! She tells us that she prayed to God to  bless her with a rewarding opportunity with loving employees and room to grow, and feels that He has answered her prayers with the new job at our dealership. We certainly feel that the blessing is mutual, for we are happy to have such a delightful and helpful young lady on our team. We know that she will be an asset and friend for years to come.

The Leland Charm

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When I meet a young adult with a strong sense of self, invariably I learn that there was a mentor who helped guide them during their formative years. It was no surprise, then, to discover that this was the case with Leland, a delightful young man who helps us with Roadside Assistance cases. Leland learned about cars and the value of a work ethic from his Uncle Donnie, who had a contagious enthusiasm for helping others. Leland said his positive attitude is also inspired by the example of his grandparents, “Nana and Pop-pop”, who faced tremendous obstacles and continue to live their lives with great determination.

Although I’ve never met Uncle Donnie or Nana and Pop-pop, I can imagine that they are very impressive individuals, based on how well Leland turned out. He has been a part of the Jim Hudson Lexus service team for over a year, and has always been a beacon of light in that department. He accurately describes himself as having the “Leland Charm”,  a preternaturally smiling disposition and warmth which endears him to others immediately. This charm makes him a good fit for the dealership, where our customer service culture is reliant upon such outgoing personalities and helpfulness.

Leland’s considerate ways have inspired us to transition him away from working on cars in the shop and encourage him to spend more time helping guests in the service drive.  The move has been well-received by guests and co-workers, who tell us that Leland is a caring individual who makes the environment more pleasant. Leland tells us he is happy with the move, since he truly enjoys helping others and strives to be the best at whatever he is doing.

When he is not at work, Leland has many hobbies, including  riding four-wheelers, singing, landscaping, building things and drawing. He shared a couple of his recent sketches with us, and we think there is some real potential there! Whether he has art or cars in his future, we know that he will do well in life, because he has something that nobody else has: The Leland Charm!

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