Balancing Leadership and Life Smarts

Dec. 1, 2023
Adopting helpful shop management habits.

Marlos Chenault’s business experience in the automotive industry could best be described as all-terrain, and his personal approach as a smooth ride.

“Automotive has always been in my background,” he says. “And quick lube is something I’d thought about for years.”

While he has owned and managed a successful auto glass shop for the past 20 years, he says adding a Grease Monkey franchise into the mix was like an answer to a prayer, one that unfolded comfortably, like most things that are meant to be.

“November (2023) makes five years and everything has been pretty smooth so far,” Chenault says. “I mean, business has been decent and there’s really nothing that’s a negative.”

At his Grease Monkey shop as well as in his auto glass business, quality of workmanship is the first thing he’ll say he consistently offers and fosters as a manager. Another hallmark of his work that he pays special attention to is customer service.

When you press him for a personal description of himself and what it takes to be a successful manager in quick lube, he says: “I’m well-rounded (in technical skill) and a people person. And I get along with the majority of people.”

While his self-assessment may seem simple at face value, navigating people todaywhether employees or customerscan be touch-and-go, as every human knows.

“It’s a balancing act,” Chenault admits. “There’s a thin line to balance (on) between the management side and having a good rapport with everyone, including employees, as an owner and manager.”

Experience and Perspective  

Something he has learned in life is that a strong manager must be both an encourager and an enforcer. And at the end of the day, he finds, “You can’t be the bad person all the time.”

A kind expression is as impactful and necessary as the stern countenance that each day can etch upon a person’s face.

“The unknown is the hardest thing. Will all my employees show up? Are we going to have a problem with a car today? These can be a manager’s worst fears,” Chenault says.

On the flip side, as a seasoned business owner/manager, he has gained the perspective through the years that no problem lasts forever – and in fact, most are probably fleeting in the grand scheme of things.

“The best thing about being in management is that every day is a different experience,” he states.

One may be tempted to think that Chenault’s laid-back business vibe comes easily for a small-town business owner in the South.

While Chenault’s Grease Monkey location is in small Griffin, Georgia, a one-time railroad boom town of just 23,000, it’s nevertheless a microcosm of life in all the markets where quick lube shops sit today—one that rests in the midst of enormous metropolitan Atlanta, the eighth largest metro area in the country, and just minutes off the non-stop nationwide traffic of I-75.

“It’s actually a small town, but our business sees a lot of (those) people,” Chenault describes. “And (in Griffin) everyone knows everyone. It has an old-time hometown feeling, a small-town feel, but all the amenities—the shopping and the restaurants—of the city.”

Everybody Talks

Consider, too, that in a little town where everyone knows everyone, everybody talks to everybody else. And with word-of-mouth (whether face-to-face or through social media) being so important to business success, it’s critically important that customers leave a quick lube with something good to say.

At Chenault’s Grease Monkey, he does everything in his power to make sure their words are positive.

In his dealings with employees, too, whose business attitudes can often be a mirror of the management’s, he minds that thin line he mentioned – the one between being a good business manager and being a good person, in general.

“You must have good rapport,” he emphasizes.

For Chenault, the old expression “easy does it” seems to be part of his successful business approach. No need to unduly stress.

If something goes wrongwhich will on certain days because that’s inevitableChenault has the experience of knowing that tomorrow is a brand-new day. In quick lube as in life. 

About the Author

Carol Badaracco Padgett

Carol Badaracco Padgett is an Atlanta-based writer who covers the automotive industry, film and television, architectural design, and other topics for media outlets nationwide. A FOLIO: Eddie Award-winning editor, writer, and copywriter, she is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and holds a Master of Arts in communication from Mizzou’s College of Arts & Science. 

Courtesy of Aleisha Hendricks
Illustration 158502469 © Mykola Nisolovskyi |
Photo 159601790 © Andrii Yalanskyi |
Courtesy of Justin Krizman