More Than Cars Moments

Leading The Way With Jeremy Stephens

This week we chatted with Jeremy Stephens, the Fixed Operations Director at the Hiester Automotive Group in North Carolina. Jeremy’s years in the industry give him a unique perspective on leadership, relationships, and what it means to love people more than you love cars.
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Leading The Way With Jeremy Stephens

Thanks for talking with me Jeremy! Let’s start at the beginning, how did you join the industry? 

I first got a taste of it back in high school. I was 17 and working at the only full-service gas station in my hometown. To be honest, the traditional classroom wasn't really my scene. I needed something more tactile so I enjoyed the work and followed it into new things over time.

You said before you’ve been in the industry for nearly 30 years. What kept you going?

It’s a blend of passion, the people, and a series of fortunate events. I started as a technician at Bobby Murray Chevrolet. Later, at another dealership, I met John Hester, the used car manager at the time. We clicked instantly. When John opened his store, I was the first technician he brought on board.

As the Fixed Ops Director, how do you foster a genuine relationship with your team? What’s your secret ingredient?

Relationships. I won’t sugarcoat it - I stumbled at the beginning. But then, I found these old VHS tapes of John Maxwell's “21 Laws of Leadership” at the bottom of a messy closet I was cleaning up. It was like the universe guiding me. It propelled me into understanding leadership at a deeper level.

Walking into my shop, I don’t discuss cars or hours. I focus on the lives of the technicians. In fact, my goal this year is to learn the names of all my employees' kids. But the thing is, once people know you genuinely care, everything falls into place.

Cool! So more than a boss- employee relationship, but a mentorship? 

That's one way to see it. I root for the underdog. Some don’t realize their full potential, but I see it. I like to lend them my belief until they believe in themselves.

The key is being approachable. I want my team to feel they can speak to me without barriers. I believe in hiring intelligent people so they can advise me as well. Ultimately, relationships strengthen when we overcome confrontations and misunderstandings together.

Do you still find the time to work on cars? 

I oversee seven locations, including four dealerships. Not every location thrives in the same manner; I've had to give special attention to one in particular. But instead of pointing out their shortcomings, I ask, "How can I assist you?" 

Recently, I've delved back into the world of car mechanics. I've been fixing cars for the past four weeks, particularly those with wiring issues – an area I absolutely loved as a technician. It's brought back old memories, especially working with an old colleague from 26 years ago who’s an expert in electrical issues. I find myself drawn back to my roots and it’s incredibly rewarding.

Delving into the concept of "loving people more than cars," can you share any experiences where this made a significant impact?

Sure! There was once a cashier who struggled financially so she asked if she could use me as a reference to get a part-time job. I worked with her on a growth plan. Over time, she transitioned from being a cashier to a service advisor. It was incredible to watch her journey. For me, it's not just about getting results but about valuing the people behind those numbers.

I'm committed to helping each individual grow, even if it means having difficult conversations. My philosophy is simple: as I grow as a leader, everyone around me grows too. When I see that growth extending beyond the workplace, touching the lives of their families, it’s deeply fulfilling.

As we close, I'd like to know what's next for you?

I've always dreamed of owning a dealership, to influence and connect with even more people. However, my immediate focus remains on nurturing the growth of those around me. I'm dedicated to coaching and supporting others using the knowledge I've gained over the years. Right now, I'm making the most of where I am and eagerly waiting to see where life takes me.

It's inspiring to hear your story. In these uncertain times, it's heartening to know that leaders like you prioritize people over the noise. Thank you for trusting us to share part of your story.

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