Locator UpFront's 2010 Boss Of The Year
John "J.C." Cahill's endless energy inspires his staff of 45 to sing his praises and nominate him as boss of the year.
PHOTO: INDIGO PORTRAIT STUDIOS
When John "J.C." Cahill saw his boss and mentor Bill Stevens on the cover of the Locator UpFront September / October 2005 issue as 2005 boss of the year, he knew he wanted to achieve the same distinction as Stevens.
"I always read the boss of the year issue and I actually gave a quote for Bill's article," said Cahill, who was named Locator UpFront's 2010 Boss of the Year.
At the time Cahill was the site manager for GreenLeaf Auto Recyclers (GreenLeaf) in Tampa, Fla. Bill Stevens was GreenLeaf's regional vice president for the Southeast region.
In January 2009, Rick Perlenfein and Brian Perlenfein - owners of B & R Auto Wrecking headquartered in Corvallis, Ore. - recruited Cahill to move to Washington and manage their Graham and Tacoma locations. Winning boss of the year was still on Cahill's mind.
"I said to George Holmes, 'I wish someday my employees would nominate me,'" he remembered. Actually, Holmes had already recommended him.
Holmes, operations manager, and Denise Morehead, office manager of Meridian Auto Wrecking in Graham, Wash., saw the boss of the year submission form in an issue of The Locator Magazine. They decided their boss, Cahill, deserved the accolades.
Morehead wrote, "J.C. has a lot of positive influence on this company and believes in each and every one of us. You hear about your friends or family having a boss that goes above and beyond for their employees. Well now I can say that I am extremely lucky to have one as well."
When Cahill received the good news from Locator Executive Vice President / Chief Operating Officer Charis Lloyd, he was beside himself. "I lost my marbles! It was great!" he exclaimed. "I consider it the highest honor."
The award means something more than another plaque on the wall. It is a culmination of his hard work to motivate and inspire his employees, which was his goal from day one.
The Perlenfeins had just acquired Meridian Auto Wrecking (AutoWrecking.com) when they asked Cahill to manage it. It was no small feat. Cahill's aim is to make the Washington location as successful as possible.
"I always thought J.C. would be a great, young, energetic, positive addition to our growing company," said Brian. "He isn't a know-it-all and was willing to mesh with our procedures; at the same time he brought fresh ideas to our team that helped us achieve our goals and high standards."
To do that, he had to assess the staff and decide who was willing to help him succeed. Those who were key, are still his employees today - Holmes, Morehead, Evie Arsenault, inventory liaison and Roy Thayer, retail sales manager.
"I worked for the previous boss for 18 years," said Morehead. "When J.C. came in and stepped up, I didn't believe it. But the more I started to listen and watch him, the more I learned."
Cahill's secret to being a good boss is enthusiasm. He lives and breathes it. "He's Tony Robbins times 10," Holmes illustrated.
"I am internally motivated," admitted Cahill. "I like people. I love my job. I couldn't imagine doing anything else."
Every morning Cahill listens to a motivational tape during the 30-minute drive to work. He takes 15 minutes to plan his day and then he is hands-on. A hard worker who puts in 60-hour workweeks, Cahill leads by example.
"I have never seen him stand still," said Arsenault. "He is constantly multitasking. I think J.C.'s idea of slacking off is only working on one thing at a time."
"His energy level is sky high," added Holmes. "That's just who he is."
"He has follow-through," said Morehead. "If he tells you something, it's going to get done."
"I want us to be perfect," explained Cahill. "If we strive to be perfect, it makes everyone work towards a common goal."
The common goal was to turn the 45-employee Graham facility into one of B & R Auto Wrecking's most successful. Cahill said he and his team have managed to double the location's revenue in less than two years. Because of this dedication, he makes every effort to thank his employees for their hard work. In fact, he said employee recognition is crucial for inspiration and motivation.
All employees attend monthly meetings that are positive and reflect how the company is meeting its goals.
"At our meetings, he outlines what he would like to see happen and asks us to share ideas," explained Arsenault. "He also shows us how far we've come in the last year, and reminds us that it's not impossible to reach any goal if we put our minds to it."
Each month one department wins the golden gun award, a tribute to recognize hard work. It's presented in front of the other employees, which Cahill said is very important.
"To see people appreciated is my favorite part about being a boss," said Cahill. "Most people don't get thanked. When they realize, 'Life is good and my boss is nice,' that's priceless."
The facility is outfitted with nice equipment, like its trucks, so employees know Cahill cares about working conditions. "For the guy who is in that truck all day, that piece of equipment is important to him," he elaborated. One day a month, he works in a different department to make sure he remembers to "take a day in their shoes."
Cahill credits his own bosses with providing him the tools necessary to be a good leader.
"I've been able to work with a number of great people," said Cahill. "I take a piece from them and put it into my own playbook. For example, the Perlenfeins say, 'There are enough decisions for everyone.' So I let my people go do it. I tell them it's what they do, not how they do it."
Cahill got into the business at 16. He worked for his father, John Cahill, at Cahill's Auto Parts, LLC in Hoosick, N.Y. (CahillsGarage.com). He worked there on and off until a year after college when he was hired as a salesperson at Jerry Brown's Auto Parts Center, Ltd. in Queensbury, N.Y. (JBAP.com).
"Rob Rainwater and Larry Brown got me started on the track of a professional salesperson," he explained.
Two years later, he moved cross-country and took a position in Portland, Ore. He then was recruited by GreenLeaf Ford to be a site manager in Seattle, Wash.
Before returning to Washington to work for the Perlenfeins, Cahill survived three different acquisitions of GreenLeaf. He worked as a site manager in Seattle, Wash. and a co-manager of the GreenLeaf Nevada in Las Vegas. He briefly worked for LKQ as a plant manager until Bill Stevens recruited him to come back to GreenLeaf as a facility manager. Cahill traveled throughout the United States re-opening GreenLeaf facilities, frequently doubling revenue.
"I learned a lot working for corporate, but it was time for me to make a decision," explained Cahill. "It was all policy and procedures. I felt I was running the facility with one hand tied behind my back."
Cahill was traveling two to three weeks at a time between the Arizona, California and Florida locations. When Brian contacted him, he was eager to take the managerial responsibility at Meridian Auto Wrecking.
"We work very well together; we have the same goals and we both work hard and stay focused to work towards those goals," said Brian. "J.C. is a big part of our team. We are very proud he is part of our success and that we are a part of his success."
Arsenault said, "He is a master at getting us to work efficiently and still feel proud to say, 'I work at Meridian Auto Wrecking.'"