Bill Coniom is the smiling guy. Of course it’s easy to smile when you run one of the top shops in the Phoenix, Ariz., area, but he has also always looked at the brighter side of things. Co-owner of 25th Street Automotive, Coniom likes to, as he puts it, work at solutions backwards.
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“From my early days,” he recounts, “it was never about sales objectives, that employees have to do this or sell that to keep their jobs; I believe everyone ought to be on performance-based pay, but there ought to be ethical ways for them to make a respectable paycheck. It was about understanding needs and presenting them to the customer. We didn’t sell things to people, we let them know what their car needed.”
To help accomplish this, Coniom and staff formulated a 25-year plan. “We looked at modest goals: how the gross sales would change over the years, even if only to keep up with inflation, and how long various employees intended to work here,” he explains. “Then we worked backwards from there. If someone retires in 2019, am I going to have to hire somebody years in advance to train them? Now we’re looking 5-10 years ahead for a key employee to figure out when I have to recruit and train a replacement, and transition when they’re ready to go.”
Coniom champions the concept of servant leadership. An ancient philosophy putting “the needs of others first and helping people develop and perform as highly as possible,” it was codified for modern business by Robert K. Greenleaf in a series of essays back in the 1970s. (Source: Wikipedia)
“One of my goals when I became a manager was ‘can I make a difference?’” Coniom explains. “What can I do for my employees, what can I do for the community?; that’s the way I run my life. I owe it both to the motoring public and the staff at my shop to remain profitable so that I can be here to honor our 24-month warranty, to hire the next generation of technicians, and to serve their children — for we’ve now been here long enough to serve multiple generations.”
The second of two shops, the first was founded by Coniom’s business partner Tony Guido. A former gas station, this facility grew until it couldn’t anymore, at which point Guido decided to expand. “You either get bigger or you go multiple,” says Coniom, “and it wasn’t our business model to get bigger.”