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I have been involved in dealership management for over twenty years. Interviews and hiring are one of the things that I do best. But hiring is not a science. I always try to hire for character first. I have been fooled more than once.
The shortest interview I ever did was with my friend Mitch. We were in many of the same classrooms from kindergarten thru high school. We played sports together. We grew up in the same neighborhood, a few streets apart. Mitch walked into the dealership and told me that he wanted to try selling cars. Without hesitation I said yes. He was Salesman of the Year his first year in the business. I guess that I was right on that one.
We needed two lot porters to wash cars. It was a full time job that paid minimum wage. I interviewed fifty applicants in one day. The two guys that I hired, Mark and Hakeem were excellent employees. They both went on to good career jobs.
Hiring a good Team manager is a bit harder. The position is commonly called a closer. The best part of the job is when they get to go in after their salespeople and close deals. That only takes up 10% of their day. Most of the hours they are at work are spent doing a form of adult daycare. Handling the salespeople. They are always up to something.
After reading thru some applications, I called a couple of promising guys in for an interview. Adrian stood out on his application and from the moment he walked into the showroom.
My first impression was that this guy was way too slick. Adrian was a Black man about six feet tall. He looked quite muscular. He wore a designer suit that had been tailored to fit. The shoes looked like they were expensive Italian leather. The watch was a Movado with the diamond at 12 o’clock. He wore is hair in a mid length pony tail. His socks, his tie and his smile were impeccable.
Great eye contact and a firm handshake started the interview. Before I could get very far into asking questions, Adrian was trying to take over the interview. He started telling me how great he was. He was giving me examples of how he had overpowered customers and closed them. He explained how his Martial Arts training translated into being a kick ass leader. I basically stopped interviewing to see how long he might go on gushing about himself.
Everybody knows not to interrupt when I am interviewing. Into the office walks Jerry. He addresses Adrian, “Hey brother is that your Z out front?” I wonder where this is going. Adrian answers, “Yes.” “Sweet ride” and Jerry continues, “Is it the white one?” Adrian starts spewing performance numbers like horsepower and top speed. Jerry interrupts Adrian by saying, “There’s a tow truck taking it away.”
Adrian bolts from my office. I guess the interview has been interrupted. Jerry and I watch from the showroom window as the sharp dressed interviewee confronts the Repo Man. The Z car is already on the hook. Adrian starts yelling at the truck operator to put his car back down. The driver shows some paperwork to Adrian. We don’t think he is going to get his car back. The Repo man tries to walk past Adrian to get to the drivers door. Adrian blocks his path and pushes him back. This particular repo man is very experienced. He has his mace out in an instant. The repo man literally paints Adrian’s face with mace. Adrian steps back in obvious pain.
What we saw next looked like a scene from a Hollywood movie. In his expensive suit, blinded with Mace, wearing Italian Loafers, Adrian executes a flying kick that Jet Li would be more than proud of. It sends the repo man to the ground. Adrian moves in for the kill and suddenly realizes that he is in trouble. Suddenly Adrian turns and runs down the street. His little ponytail and those leather shoes were cutting out.
The tow truck driver got up off of the ground and dusted himself off. He pulled out his cell phone and called in to report an assault. With the shiny fast Z car in tow, he left. I quipped to Jerry, “I wonder if he is going to come back so we can finish the interview?”
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I met Jeff Larson when I was three. He lived across the street and down four houses. When we met each other, we stood across the street and introduced ourselves. Jeff thought that I said my name was Harry. We were best friends for all of elementary school and walked together, to and from school most everyday.
My Mom took me to school the first day. I remember seeing the monkey bars for the first time. I was so excited that I took off running for them as soon as we set foot in the gate. I climbed up those two steps and grabbed a hold of the metal crossbars. Off I went. My grip wasn’t as good as I thought and slipped right off into the sand below. When I did a small patch of skin came off of the palm of my hand. It stung.
Quick, where’s Mom? I turned to where she had been standing. The gate was already closed. I could see her walking away. I was left to deal with the pain alone. I wasn’t sure that I was ready for this.
The only time that Jeff and I were in the same class was the first year. Our Kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Roselanski. She would divide unto groups and let us race to the fence. It was a red light, green light game. Jeff and I were both fast runners, or so it seemed at our advanced running age. One of us was always first to the fence.
School for us was a fenced in affair. There were only two gates. For someone to come thru the gate during class, they had to be special. Especially the person that brought the cartons of milk. Milk cost a nickel in those days. After a hard morning of playing with blocks and running, milk was just right. For some reason milk was served just before naptime.
Each of us had our own thing to sleep on. For some it was a throw rug or for others it was a towel. Everyone got his or her mat out at naptime. I don’t remember ever going to sleep, but a lot of kids did. A half-day that included naptime, that sounds like a good thing theses days.
I don’t know if I learned to socialize, but I knew not to hang out with kids that wet their pants like Frank Batchen. I liked running with Jeff and at 50 we are still friends. If that is all that I learned from kindergarten then I guess that is enough.
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I was standing behind the backstop. Mike was at the plate and I was up next. The score was tied and we had a guy on first. The pitcher rolled a baby bounce pitch to Mike. He kicked it deep, but Mark, a third grader, caught it on the fly. In elementary school, kickball games seemed very important. It was midway thru recess and we had a chance to pull ahead.
From across the grass I saw my teacher, Mrs. Purdy, heading straight for us. She had an unmistakably purposeful walk. It was obvious that somebody had violated a rule. I knew that she was headed for me. Women teachers in those days wore dresses. They all had their hair done in some sort of beehive style. The ones that wore glasses wore those horn rim style that made them look so intent. Mrs. Purdy was intent on making me understand the error of my ways.
I hadn’t finished my lunch that day. I am very sure that it was Deborah Sayles who told on me. Deborah had this disapproving look that she gave when she saw others breaking the rules. When I dumped my half eaten lunch in the trash, I knew that Deborah saw me. When she gave me that look, my lunch was already in the trash. Too late to change things. I wanted to go play.
I usually brought lunch from home. I had one of those cool lunch boxes. The metal one with the matching thermos. This was before zip lock Baggies. Mom mostly made my favorite, which was peanut butter and grape jelly. The day before I was goofing around with my best friend Jeff and had broken another thermos. So regardless of what the daily menu we had at home said, I had to buy lunch.
School lunch in the 1960’s was not fine dining. Hamburgers on Thursday and fish on Friday. Not really fish, but fish sticks, Usually with tater tots. There were also a lot of mystery items in our meals. The one thing that I could not stand was Brussels sprouts. It was the perfect trifecta of texture; smell and taste that made me gag. We had a strictest kind of teacher that made sure we finished our lunch every day.
I sat down and ate some of my lunch. I noticed that our teacher wasn’t at our table checking on us yet. I saw my opportunity and took it. Our teacher Mrs. Purdy was a few minutes late getting to the lunchroom. I didn’t understand why we had to eat everything. I guess that it had something to do with all of all of the starving children in China. I hurriedly went to the trash and dumped the vile sprouts and got out before our teacher saw me. But alas the good girls were watching. This is a problem that would plague me for most of my youth.
Mrs. Purdy took me off of the playground and straight to her classroom. She made me write an apology for wasting food. I also had to spend the next three lunch periods writing that I would not waste any of my food. Worst of all I had to check out with the lunchroom attendant everyday and show her that I had eaten all of my food. I asked my Mom to make my lunch every day from then on. Except on Thursdays of course. I liked hamburger day.
In Mrs. Purdy’s second grade class, I received the best grades of my entire school career. I had straight A’s and one C. The C was in citizenship. It is amazing how early in life patterns are set.