No one steers a ship alone.
That adage also is true in business, as leaders depend on employees – their crew – to achieve success.
“First and foremost, I have to assemble a great team of people,” said Robert Bennett, owner and president of Bennett Automotive Group in Allentown. “The team is the one I rely on.”
Bennett and the dozen other leaders interviewed for our annual Top 100 Private Companies special edition also know that employees look to them for guidance and inspiration.
Leaders need to be mindful that they are the captains and must take the helm of their company every day.
“One thing I bring to the table is the entrepreneurial spirit, the passion for wanting to be the best at what I do,” said Bennett, whose automotive group has five locations in the Greater Lehigh Valley.
UPS AND DOWNS
Many businesses have busy and slow cycles. But they can get wind in their sails by keeping challenges in perspective, reflecting on past accomplishments and remembering obstacles overcome in the past.
They see that many of the struggles can be viewed as temporary.
“Everyone knows the auto industry is a cyclical business that will have its ups and downs,” said Gregg Ciocca Jr., manager of Ciocca Subaru in Lower Macungie Township.
“We try to instill a [lifestyle] that will get them through the rougher times and make the better times that much more enjoyable.”
Since the crew depends on the captain, he or she takes that responsibility and runs with it.
Captains are confident in their abilities and show assuredness in daily interactions while emphasizing the importance of communication and listening.
One can’t steer a ship in a vacuum. Captains, just like leaders, need input and cooperation from others.
And if a change in course is needed, communicate that directly to the crew and keep it informed of the new route and what it means for the company.
Be firm but approachable. Employees must be comfortable enough to communicate directly with their boss.
If workers feel they cannot approach their leader, communication begins to break down and problems and issues arise.
“You must also be effective in your communication with your employees to be a great leader,” Ciocca said. “If a message is not being carried out in the correct manner, it is usually because it was not communicated properly.”
When mistakes are made or outcomes are unsuccessful, leaders acknowledge what happened, discuss what went wrong with the crew and focus on what to do differently next time.
Successful leaders have the ability to adjust as needed while maintaining a positive outlook and leading with fervor. The passion will show and become a natural extension of their management style.
“You have to know when to push, when to pull back, when to go or when to adjust,” said Drew Snyder, chief development officer for Pocono ProFoods in Stroud Township.
APPRECIATE IDEAS OF OTHERS
Bennett said there are many talented people in the automotive industry and that he learns something new from those he encounters. Many have been in the business as long as he has, he said.
“I see a great value in a strong team,” said Bennett, who oversees more than 200 employees. “I really rely on and value the opinions of others.
“I think a good leader is someone who’s always available. The only thing I ask is to be kept in the loop because it gives me the opportunity to learn from others.”
VALUED, RESPECTED CREW
A successful voyage for a company can mean different things to the captain: increased orders, revenues, profits, additional hires and happy clients or customers.
But these things don’t occur without a positive culture where every crew member feels valued, is treated with respect and is provided opportunities to advance, take on new responsibilities and contribute ideas.
It’s a journey the captain may lead, but is shared by everyone.
“The crew is always a part of steering the ship, whether they know it or not,” said Anthony Scarcia, president and chief operating officer of Allied Building Corp. of Bethlehem. “They can help steer the ship in so many ways.
“Encouraging the team to be a part of steering the ship is important and something that needs to be reinforced on a daily basis.”