Defining Development

March 1, 2024
Establishing a workplace that helps employees succeed.

Everyone has a different reaction to their alarm sounding in the morning. Some people wake up right away, ready to start the day. Others may hesitate, grab their phone, and spend a few extra minutes in bed. For some, several alarms are necessary.  

Upon waking up each morning, work is usually a common thought. Preparing for the workday, both mentally and physically, is a task that some people look forward to and others do not.  

When that alarm clock goes off, what can employers be doing to ensure that their workplace is one that employees are excited about heading into each day? How can employees be supported toward their own success? Developing the foundations of a great workplace involves strategy, perspective, and defined dedication. Three representatives from the quick lube industry spoke with NOLN about their approaches.  

Setting the Stage  

Much like how people guide their lives by their values, solid shop structures are formed by the motivations behind the service.  

Cody Posey is the division manager for Toot ‘n Totum, which has multiple quick lube locations in the Amarillo-Panhandle area of Texas. Toot ‘n Totum car care is part of the larger Toot ‘n Totum company, which also includes convenience stores, travel centers, car washes, and the like. 

Posey says Toot ‘n Totum is guided by pillars: to be team focused, guest ready, and to have honor, value, and ownership.  

“Our motto is, ‘Creating experiences worth repeating,’” Posey says.   

At Victory Lane Quick Oil Change, Jim Harrington is the executive vice president. He oversees operations on the company side and the franchisee side. There are similar guiding forces for both.  

“Providing a safe work environment is absolutely essential,” Harrington says. “Providing opportunities for (employees) to grow within in the company, and possibly providing them opportunities to expand into different roles in the company.”   

Ben Enns, Northern California district manager for Oilstop, says “putting people before our own selves” allows Oilstop to provide a quality experience at its stores.  

“We focus on a mission statement heavily at Oilstop,” Enns says. “Our mission is that ‘We will serve people with excellence humbly with a servant’s heart.’ We project that to the new hire (and) throughout the teams as we grow together.”   

All three of these approaches help set the stage, but what about the performers themselves? In this circumstance, that would mean the actual employees. Determining the right people to hire for an operation is just as important as the actual operation.  

From Posey’s perspective, bringing on new employees who are willing and able to be trained allows the values of Toot ‘n Totum to be spread.  

“We want someone (who’s) energetic, willing to show up a little early, (and) stay a little late if he or she needs to,” Posey says. “That’s really what we’re looking for.”  

Posey says that while most of the jobs filled are not “career positions,” employees still enjoy the opportunities provided by the workplace atmosphere.  

“What we do, it’s not black and white,” Posey says. “Every day is different.”   

Education is a key component for many Toot ‘n Totum employees as well. After an employee reaches 90 days of employment and they maintain certain grade averages, they can use a tuition reimbursement program that helps that individual pay for schooling with money that can be used towards tuition, books, and supplies.   

Harrington says he tends to position Victory Lane as compared to a retail environment, and this can be put into practice when looking for potential employees. He says oftentimes, people who do not have an automotive background can find success at Victory Lane.  

“Because I feel with our training capabilities, that if I can find somebody who can have good attendance, wants to learn, (and) has had good stability in their positions prior to this, those things I can work with to create a good lube shop technician, lube shop crew chief, assistant manager (or) manager,” Harrington says.   

For Oilstop, Enns says evaluating a potential hire involves assessing an important skillset.  

“What causes us to gravitate towards an individual is somebody (who) communicates well,” Enns says. “That’s No. 1. Great communication is super important.” 

When asked about why employees tend to enjoy their work with Oilstop, Enns says he recently spoke with team member Maya Cervantes, who shared her appreciation for the opportunities available with Oilstop. This notion is exemplified by Enns sharing how Oilstop promotes from within to encourage leadership in the organization.  

“We’re all on the journey together and seeing other people’s success is the true reward in our company, and seeing other people become extremely successful,” Enns says. “What we do is so exciting and so it motivates me—it gets us going.”  

Doing the Work  

While there can be some predictability in quick lube, it remains a fact that no two days are ever quite the same. That variety can keep things interesting, but it’s important to have reliability to fall back on in the workplace.   

One way in which a comfortable environment is crafted at Toot ‘n Totum is through a focus on positivity and an attention to who is being brought on the team.  

“It’s a fun environment. We have great management on site,” Posey says. “I personally don’t hire in, so the manager has the ownership and the freedom to hire in their own team members. And before they’re hired in, they meet the other team to make sure it’s a good gel.”   

Something that Posey keeps in mind, on the employee development side of things, is the idea of betterment. He shares this with the management team members that he works with as well to keep the idea moving forward.  

“I want you to end Toot ‘n Totum better than when you came,” Posey says. “Whether that’s individually, or it’s work-related.”   

At Victory Lane, Harrington says the workplace culture is sustained by everyone—starting from the top and trickling down.  

“We really try to keep it a family-type environment, with recognition for performance through the month, recognition for attendance (and) all these different things to show the other employees hey, people are moving through this process,” Harrington says.  

An emphasis is placed on consistent communication throughout the teams at Victory Lane. This not only keeps everyone informed, but also creates a network of individuals who are on the same page about challenges and successes.  

“We really try to focus on the communication not only going out but coming back,” Harrington says. “What problematic vehicles are out there? What are employees encountering that are presenting challenges? And what can we do as an organization to look at those challenges and provide solutions on there?” 

The daily work at Oilstop harkens back to the mission, and Enns says they pay special attention to ensure the people they hire are committed to that mindset.   

“The culture … I would describe it as mission-minded,” Enns says. “Serving others is a top priority to us.” 

By putting the customer first, employees are able to build an attention to service that is welcoming and guided by a desire to do a good job and offer a good experience.  

“You pull into (an oil change facility) you can be greeted by a couple different ways,” Enns says. “You can run into a staff that look at you and you feel like you’re an imposition upon them by being there, or you can run into a staff that runs to your car ... is excited to see you, and says hello and offers you a beverage and gives you a great smile and a great greet. That’s a successful candidate at Oilstop—somebody that’s ready to greet our guests as you would in your own home.”   

Understanding the Impact 

Once the foundation is poured and set, the building can begin. It’s one thing for a shop to have a process in place for developing a positive workplace environment, but it’s another to see the greater impact of that dedication.  

At Toot ‘n Totum, career development is encouraged. This is exemplified in part by the tuition reimbursement program, which Posey says employees don’t just use for car care related ventures—some individuals are involved in business school, exploring areas like accounting. But overall, when asked about why it’s important to invest time and energy into this kind of workplace development, Posey’s answer is simple.  

“We operate as a family … we want to make sure that we can help you out in any way, shape or form,” Posey says. “Hopefully, whenever you graduate, you stick with us if there’s something we can help you with. But if not, we understand.”  

At Victory Lane, supporting employees means looking at the whole person.  

“I think it even goes beyond being an employer,” Harrington says. “You’re providing mentoring and training for people with skills that they can utilize even outside of the work environment. You’re growing and developing people, and I think that’s how we approach it.” 

Harrington says leadership goes further than molding a lube technician or manager. It’s about focusing on the hard and soft skills that can be used throughout a career. He finds this kind of thinking to be especially applicable with Victory Lane, as many of the individuals they hire are young, being between the ages of 18 and 28 years old.  

“I think that really has to be the focus when you’re looking at employees,” Harrington says. “How are you developing this person to be successful in their everyday life? Because if they’re successful in their everyday life, they’re going to be successful with you on their end.” 

Enns says employees are set up for success from the get-go at Oilstop, as they are “exposed to things right away that show them how they get ahead.” Enns shares that Oilstop CEO Scott Hempy often says “clarity is kind,” which Enns says means it’s important to be clear with employees about their expectations and opportunities.  

“Being very clear with incoming staff and existing staff about their next step within our organization is super important,” Enns says. “And so, we put up on posters in each of the stores, steps to get ahead and the certification path(s) and the rewards that come with accomplishing those are very clear to all the staff members.” 

Setting this path forward for employees is just one of the ways Oilstop invests in its people. But including elements such as this can make or break a workplace.  

“I think without it, people may feel neglected or overlooked,” Enns says. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to have a live pulse on staff needs and people’s needs as they’re going through life. Without that heavily investment into people, you’re definitely … leading a ship without a rudder.”