PAM's Auto Earns High Honors
Mike Meyer and Pat Huesers, co-owners of PAM's Auto in St. Joseph, Minn., have great employees who love their company.
PAM's Auto, Inc. in St. Cloud, Minn. can now say it holds company with Microsoft, 3M Co., General Mills and the Mayo Clinic. That's because all four of these companies made the Minneapolis / St. Paul Star Tribune's 2011 Top 100 Workplaces in Minnesota (StarTribune.com/topworkplaces2011). The Star Tribune published the annual list in the June 19, 2011 edition. PAM's Auto was ranked 24th in the list's small business category.
"It is an employee-driven program,"explained Wes Bradford, marketing director for PAM's Auto, of the top-100 business list. "This is something management didn't go after. You have to have an awesome group of employees to nominate you."
This is the company's first time on the list. The initial reaction from co-owners Pat Huesers and Mike Meyer was surprise.
"When we made the top 100 we were thinking, 'we are a salvage yard and a lot of these [winners] are corporate businesses,'"said Bradford. "Mark (Merchlewicz, marketing) and I were in our PAM's shirts. We were hobnobbing with people in gold cuff links and initials on their collars."
The process to get on the list started with a couple of the 54 PAM's Auto employees who read about it in the Star Tribune and later found the Facebook page. They nominated the late-model specialist for the small business category and, according to Bradford, it steamrolled from there. Soon other employees sent in nominations for PAM's Auto.
WorkplaceDynamics LLP (WorkplaceDynamics.com) facilitates the annual survey. Participants submit information about their employers by agreeing or disagreeing with a number of statements like, "I feel genuinely appreciated at this company,"and "I have confidence in my manager."If a company receives enough nominations, WorkplaceDynamics interviews its employees and looks at the company's profile to get more information before making a decision. A WorkplaceDynamics team then ranks the companies based on composite scores from the survey responses.
"Getting in the top 100 is phenomenal,"exclaimed Bradford. "And then we were even more excited when we found out we actually placed 24th out of [the 40 companies] within the small-business category."
Bradford said the Star Tribune gave PAM's Auto promotional materials, like logos and press releases, to market the company's achievement. PAM's Auto sent the releases to wholesale customers, sent e-mail releases to its e-mail database, promoted the achievement internally to staff, added the Star Tribune Top 100 logo to its web site (PAMsAuto.com) and plans to hang a banner on the outside of the PAM's Auto building to announce its ranking.
"It just lets your customers know that you're rock solid,"explained Bradford.
PAM's Auto is the second-largest employer in the St. Joseph, Minn.-area. It offers its employees the standard benefits - dental, health and 401(k) - but has many extras as well. For example, it hosts a Christmas party each year that features custom-built games, food and gifts.
"All the games are hand built by Pat and Mike. Last year, they had [NBC] Minute-To-Win-It-style games. There were big screen projectors and custom graphics with our logo,"said Bradford. "Pat ran the sound bites and video and Mike was the emcee. Everyone left with a nice present, even the [employee's] guests."
Other company benefits include regularly catered lunches or cookouts for performance along with internal incentives. For example, PAM's Auto provides full disclosure of all its parts. It takes 10 high-resolution photos of each vehicle plus records a video that documents the mileage, VIN and codes. If an employee finds a part that wasn't described correctly, he or she can turn it in at the end of the day for a cash reward. Bradford said employees could make an extra $100 or more a month doing this.
"It's not paying them extra to do their job,"Bradford clarified. "It's giving them notice if they do something extra."
PAM's Auto also offers other financial incentives like above-average pay and bonuses.
"We just try to respect the employees. We treat them well and pay them well,"Bradford said. "But, we expect them to perform. We expect good work out of them, good attitudes and to be on time."
The attitudes of PAM's Auto employees made a big impression on Max Schultz. Schultz became acquainted with the company while employed by Northwestern Mutual, a provider of investments and insurance (NorthwesternMutual.com), when it was hired by PAM's Auto to provide financial planning services for PAM's Auto employees, just another employee benefit. Schultz gave individual presentations to each PAM's Auto employee.
"I was blown away by more than one element of what I was hearing the employee's tell me about their employment experience,"he said. "As the employee's funneled in and out throughout the day I was catching on to a few themes - everyone was genuinely happy to be there, there was a culture dedicated to hard work and all had a real respect for the ownership. It became apparent that the first two themes were a derivative of the third."
At the same time, Schultz was going through major life changes. Recently married and a father, he needed work with a more predictable schedule and pay.
"As much as I loved assisting clients with their finances, there were too many late nights,"said Schultz. "It started interfering with the two things I really care about most; my highest priorities of being a good husband and dad."
His experience at PAM's Auto set the stage for a new career in sales. "I had a conversation with a friend regarding the end of my career at Northwestern Mutual,"Schultz explained. "He told me he was good friends with one of the PAM's Auto owners and would do some digging for me. Five days later, I had an interview. Three weeks later I was the newest member of the PAM's Auto staff."
20 Years In Business
Huesers and Meyer started PAM's Auto exactly 20 years ago with just a two-car garage. Meyer gave up a chance to go to law school to help Huesers get the business off the ground. It paid off. The business is currently expanding from a 19-acre, 44,000-square-foot facility to a 56-acre, 70,000-square-foot operation.
"This is going to be a big expansion,"Bradford declared. "Pat and Mike are amazing owners. Both of them just turned 40. It's amazing these guys were 20 when they started."
Huesers and Meyer bought 36 adjoining acres from a company and private owner. They are building a separate structure on the newly acquired land to house OE take-off parts, aftermarket options and the shipping department. They also renovated the original horseshoe-shaped building. A two-story, vaulted-ceiling, conference center replaced the six-door, pre-inventory inspection area. The new center provides space for training and meetings. Eventually both buildings will connect.
The expansion increases its frontage by an additional 2,000 feet, big enough to accommodate shipping trucks and semis.
"I see our expansion going in all different directions,"said Bradford. "Whether it is OE parts, aftermarket or buying more salvage, I see a nicely planned overall growth of all programs."
Bradford said the new building should be complete by late-October or early November. It is doubtful this expansion will be the company's last.
"I foresee [Pat and Mike] purchasing the land to the west of them,"guessed Bradford. "Right now we're 90 percent wholesale and we're busting at the seams when we get walk-in traffic. I see a retail parts store in the next 5 - 10 years or a store front, like a NAPA-type store."