The melting pot

The melting pot

The VP of Sonny's CarWash College discusses welcoming new employees post-acquisition.

I’ve been around Sonny’s for quite a while. In my time here, I’ve seen some pretty cool innovations: the birth of CarWash College, the purchase and implementation of robotic welders and CNC machines, the explosion in the express carwash market, and too many others to mention.

I’ve also seen Sonny’s go from a company of about 75 people when I arrived to 1,700 people around the country today. A lot of these employees were in place at companies we’ve purchased. I’m fortunate in that my position allows me to travel around the country to spend some time with the new “acquired” members of our Sonny’s family.  In the beginning, I didn’t know what to expect, would it be awkward?  Would they be standoffish? Would they be nervous speaking to someone from “corporate headquarters?” I guess I couldn’t blame them if they were. A change in ownership always brings a degree of uncertainty.

So, how have these visits been received? Incredibly well and better than expected! I guess that should come as no surprise as Paul often says we didn’t just buy companies, we bought the families that built them. I have met some of the most welcoming, hardest working people in our industry.

I appreciate the ones who’ve leveled with me and told me that they didn’t really know what to expect at first. They’ve confessed to being nervous initially but as time passed, they are feeling much more comfortable as a part of the team. I see the passion they must have to take our company and their brands or solutions to the next level.

This is fun for me!

It also brings to mind the consolidation going on in the operations side of the business. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that not a day goes by without another announcement along the lines of “carwash company A has purchased carwash company B’s 7 locations bringing them to 60 locations total.” I’m sure the employees of the company being purchased are feeling some anxiety as the new group of ownership takes over.

Here’s what I suggest — if you are on the “purchaser” side of a transaction, get to know the people that you are folding into your organization. Understand there may be apprehension on their part at first, but if you can show you truly care for them as a person, you will have the rapport needed to eventually build the trust it takes to bring a company to the next level of success.

If you are on the “purchasee” side of the transaction, being nervous is a natural reaction. After all, this is your paycheck and your career. Ask to sit down early on with the person, or persons, you will be reporting to. Ask them questions about your current role and where it could lead.  Communicate and be engaged. Change is often difficult but you have to be willing to assume there is positive intent for the new management’s way of doing things. Being open minded is key. Saying, “that’s not the way the other guy did it” or getting angry is not going to win you any favor.

As we’ve all seen, employees are really the key to a site’s success. If you get to know your staff as individuals first and then employees, a reduction in turnover will result. Happy employees make for happy customers. When you get right down to it, isn’t that what business is all about?

All the best!

Bob Fox is VP of Sonny’s CarWash College and an industry veteran of 37 years. You can reach Bob at [email protected].

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