Podcast Ep. 81 – Knowing What You Want

Larry Olsen December 21, 2021

Sean Green attributes his experience gained as a 23-year veteran of the US Navy’s elite Submarine Force as Navigator and Master Training Specialist, as perfect preparation for his many successful roles along with a progressively oriented Dealer Principle. He is currently in the position of Chief Training and Education Officer for the Haselwood Auto Group and during his 21 years of Automotive Experience, he has successfully worked in every sales position ranging from Sales & Leasing to dealership General Manager. His forte is bringing out the best in others and he believes leadership modeling the core values is the best influencer.


Larry Olsen: Welcome. I’m Larry Olsen, and what’s on your mind? Once set, it delivers your life. To change the outcomes we want, we must change the plays we’re running. Join us at Mindset Playbook with Real people – Real talk for Real insight.

Narrator: Today’s episode is sponsored by Aperneo, An Achievement Acceleration Company, whose approach to professional development enables clients to gain insights and perspectives to live, work, and engage with more success.


Larry Olsen [00:00:11] I’d like to welcome all of you and thank you for making the choice to listen to what I believe you’ll find to be an insightful, fascinating and very worthwhile time because I’ve got a special friend that I’m going introduce you to. And you are on The Great Automotive Experience. And remember, The Great Automotive Experience is defined as when the buying experience meets or exceeds the thrill of owning a new vehicle. So, it’s a pretty high bar, and I only have people on here who have either met it or raises the bar themselves. My guest today is a dear friend and automotive expert, Sean Green. Sean attributes his experience gained as a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy’s elite submarine force as navigator and mastered training specialist as perfect preparation for his many successful roles, a progressively oriented dealer principal, which we all know helps. He is currently in the position of chief training and education officer for the Hazelwood Auto Group, and during his 21 years of automotive experience, he has successfully worked in every sales position, ranging from sales, and leasing to dealership general manager Sean, it’s a pleasure to have you here today as my guest on The Great Automotive Experience.


Sean Green [00:01:44] Larry, it is truly my honor, my friend and colleague


Larry Olsen [00:01:49] And colleague, thank you! You know, Sean, we’ve all experienced the huge task of getting it right with the customer’s day in and day out, and some get it and many don’t. My experience has taught me that we need to get it right with the habits, attitudes, beliefs, and expectations of every associate in the organization. What has your vast experience in education taught you as to the secret sauce behind the great customer experience? And why do you believe that?


Sean Green [00:02:25] You know, that is the universal question of everyone in sales, and I’m glad you asked. What I learned early on was the transportation is a staple in not just American life, but generally around the planet. And as I retired from the Navy and wondered, what will I do next, I remember thinking I wanted to do something that was challenging. That would be useful. And that could change the current perceptions into something that was fulfilling and promising for me, as well as whoever it was, I was working with at the time. And so, I’d been buying cars from this organization even as a young sailor. And they had said to me many times, Good Lord Sean, you know more about the cars than we do. You should come work for us. And I said, oh, I can never see myself as a car guy. You kidding me? You guys have the worst reputations on the planet. And then it dawned on me. What a great place to start. I could change one customer at a times perception, and in doing that, the paradigm of retail automotive sales. And I thought, what bigger and better and more fulfilling and rewarding challenge could I ever find?


Larry Olsen [00:03:51] Wow, what a great. What a great way to begin.


Sean Green [00:03:53] Indeed.


Larry Olsen [00:03:55] How did that? Vision, if you will, of how you wanted to transform the perception that customers can have about the automotive buying experienced what kind of experiences you have along the way, that you found perhaps some of these customers came in with their mind already made up not to trust you?


Sean Green [00:04:19] Well, frankly, I’d been one of those customers on several occasions myself, and so I knew the mindset and I remember thinking always to treat the customer just the way I wanted to be treated. And I have some pretty lofty expectations when I’m going to spend my hard-earned money, just like all of us do. Just a thought. And so, as I looked at myself in the mirror and said, What are you going to do different? I knew I was going to be bucking the system at the time that had been for decades oriented in one direction, and that was profit motivation and potentially “do it our way, not yours”.  And so that’s what I encountered early on, and I thought, OK, many times I thought I was going to throw in the towel, Larry. Many times, because remember, I wasn’t a youngster when I started in this business. I was a 40-year-old man, and I already had some set perceptions of the way things should go. And so, as I encountered some of the resistance to my thought process about making it more about the customer, there were many times I thought, I’ll never change this.


Larry Olsen [00:05:32] Hmm. That can be discouraging.


Sean Green [00:05:32] Yes, indeed. So, I went about the task. And luckily, just coincidentally, several people entered into my life in the organization that had similar concepts about that. One of them was Rob Colon, who I consider a dear friend and mentor who you know very well as well. And so together we set about, changing this paradigm. He really didn’t know what I was up to, and I didn’t know what he was about yet. But together we created these experiences for customers. That kind of was about changing their perception. And so, the things we would do would be at delivery, you know, there’d be a bottle of champagne, there would be flowers, and I’d always take a photograph of the customer with their new car. And slowly but surely, the other salespeople in the in the dealership could see the smiles on people’s faces and they go, well, who is this upstart going to come in and, you know, take over and show us what’s what? And so, it became slowly but surely, it began to be something that everybody started doing. And so there you have the beginning of some positive change. And that was all I needed to fuel me to continue.


Larry Olsen [00:07:08] Beautiful. You know, they talk about all of the individuals that because of this pandemic have taken a pause and looked at, is this really what I want to do with my life? Is this enough money to sustain my life and a multitude of reasons to end up going someplace else? And then when you look at the Gallup studies, it says people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their bosses.  How did that come into play as you experienced leadership yourself attempting to make that transition? And did they? Or is it a work in progress or how do you see that because it’s so essential if we want to keep people? 


Sean Green [00:07:59] Sure.  Well, as I said, when I came into the organization into automotive retail sales, I had already been a leader of men. Submarine force at the time, one hundred percent male and I had led large groups of men and had a fairly large responsibility on board the submarine, essentially getting it to where it needed to go and getting it back safely, which I considered a privilege and certainly very challenging. So when I came into this organization and literally started at the bottom, you know, I had to be humble and humble myself and make sure that I knew that the only way to win the hearts and minds of not only my coworkers, but my customers was to try and be an example for them and a role model as a senior chief petty officer in the United States Navy, that was what my upbringing was all about is honor, courage and commitment were the core values of the United States Navy, and I believe in them 100 percent. So, bringing that into this organization was it stayed with me constantly, and I have to say that over time, as I ran into various situations and was promoted up the chain based on sustained superior performance because that’s what a champion is all about. As Michael Jordan says, I missed a lot more shots than I ever made. And believe me, I have failed multiple times. But. I think having the combination of the experience that I had, the determination that I had and one of my favorite words is tenacity. And with the company that we eventually evolved into being, it made it much more simple. And now I’m proud to be able to say that our owner dealer principle is completely committed to customer satisfaction, whatever it takes me. Because we rightfully recognized if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. (Larry:  Yeah, yeah) The buildings can burn down around you. But you can always count on your customers, no matter where you go. If you’ve taken good care of them, and that’s what we aim to do every day.


Larry Olsen [00:10:20] Beautiful, beautiful. How do you instill this in your in the people that come on board with your organization so that they didn’t have perhaps twenty-three years of experience in developing core values and recognizing the importance of those as parameters to kind of guide you through your life? What about the new ones that are just first job, you know, checking it out? What is a process that you folks entertain with these people?


Sean Green [00:10:55] You know, that’s a really good question, because as I mentioned earlier, that I had been a leader of men. And as I rose through the ranks and now as a chief training and education officer, I manage several teams. One the internet department, which consists of between 15 and 22 individuals and what’s called the Quality Assurance Program, the vehicle upgrade program, which has another 12 to 15 people. And it turns out all of them are women, except for one guy. And that I thought was going to be a big challenge. And early on, I think it probably was, but I changed my mindset because really, does it matter? We’re all human. Our experiences may be different in terms of how we were raised, where we come from, what our economic background is, what our ethnic background is. But essentially, we’re all human and we have that in common. And I thought, well, what difference does it make if they’re male or female? They’re my team. And I can lead them if they will listen if they are willing to be open to some ideas. If I can hear them and they can hear me, I can help them succeed because that’s what they wanted to do. They would not be here if they didn’t want to win. And I do have a formula that I know has been successful for me, and I wanted to share that with them.


Larry Olsen [00:12:29] Right. All right. And ‘m sure you’ve had tremendous success as a result.


Sean Green [00:12:37] It’s amazing, actually. I can remember when we first started in one of the positions as the vehicle upgrade program we started at, I think probably about 15 to 25 cars for the, you know, all seven of our stores. And we’ve eclipsed 200 on several occasions


Larry Olsen [00:12:58] Is that per month?


Sean Green [00:13:00] Per month.  So, we became such an integral part of the operation that it is now a department unto itself and that the sales the rest of the sales team recognizes the vehicle upgrade program as a mainstay in terms of the health and well-being of the organization period. Same goes for the internet department.


Larry Olsen [00:13:32] What is the vehicle upgrade program?


Sean Green [00:13:35] Vehicle upgrade program is a program where our service customers who have been loyal to us obviously are given some very special privileges and acknowledgment when they choose to upgrade to their next vehicle. We recognize that if you’re taking good care of your customers in this industry, probably 70 plus percent of them will buy another vehicle from you. So, the whole concept of a concierge level treatment, which, by the way, helped some of your training in our organization helped us recognize as the necessity to be able to perform at the Nordstrom’s of the world, the Marriott of the world of the four- and five-star organizations. One thing they had in common was outstanding customer service. So, when people wake up in the morning, they don’t bring their car in for an oil change. They’re not thinking about buying a car. But through a series of introductions and having been taken care of at a concierge level, we introduced them to the topic of perhaps saving some money in an upgrade. Some extra benefits because you’re a loyal customer. And in introducing them to that concept and sharing with them some of the extra advantages they have as a customer of ours. Towards getting a vehicle that has more value that’s newer, that doesn’t require the maintenance that their vehicle is going to eventually encounter and need in the very near future, they become open to that, their reticular opens, and they become a lot more receptive to the idea and in very many cases, they are willing to make that change because they see the value in it.  So, it’s a program that’s designed specifically for our service customers to take advantage of some of the benefits of being with us. And it’s been pretty successful.


Larry Olsen [00:15:46] Yeah, it sounds like it. What have you found? It’s a lot of the magic sauce if you will. I mean, there’s so many people that are so frustrated with one of the most difficult elements within any organization. And it’s human nature, it’s our people because they can be unpredictable. They can come in with moods. They can have a great night and be on fire the next day. They can have terrible things happen at home and it’s hard not to bring that to work. How do you kind of gauge and what do you do when you witness someone who has perhaps brought some unpleasant experiences in that kind of now reflecting on the customer experience, if you will? What’s your approach?


Sean Green [00:16:41] And you’re specifically speaking about a member of our staff.


Larry Olsen [00:16:45] Yes.  I come in as a member of the staff. I’m a little grumpy short with people because I’ve, you know, I’ve just broke up with my girlfriend or I, you know, had an argument last night or I found out that my, water of all things was turned off.


Sean Green [00:17:04] Really easy. The concept of creating remarkable experiences for people. Has nothing to do with bringing my baggage into their lives. It’s all about honoring them and what they bring and how important and special they are. So, when we, when I see something, I’ll just speak for me when I see someone that’s exhibiting less than the enthusiasm that we as a company expect from our employees. There’s a couple of things that come to mind. First of all, it’s not to be judgmental because we all have days that we may be off our game. And so, it’s really to engage with that individual and try and find out what it is that has them off their game. And through some coaching, help them see the value of number one, why being here with us, if they reorient their focus, which is important if they want to have a positive outcome with the people that they deal with all day, it means leaving that baggage at the door. And oftentimes what we really need to do in our lives when we encounter challenges such as that is exactly that reorient towards the positives and make sure that we’re exhibiting the very best that we have to offer as a company to others. And that’s an expectation for all of us in our company. And if that’s not the way people think in any retail organization, then the environment becomes less than enthusiastic. It becomes less than fun to even be in. (Larry: Yeah. So not engaging at all). It’s not engaging. So that’s really it is having a conversation with people and trying to identify where the issues are. But by no stretch am I, you know, a psychologist, so I’m not there to solve their problem, but I certainly can help them visit that situation at a more appropriate time and make sure we refocus on the task at hand.


Larry Olsen [00:19:21] So, what kind of guides you folks, as far as what the expectation is in your organization?


Sean Green [00:19:33] Well, we have a set of core values. That someone that we know very well helped us implement the devise and implement, and that would be Mr. Olsen himself, and we call them RICH GP’s


Larry Olsen [00:19:48] RICH GP’s.


Sean Green [00:19:50] Respect. Integrity. Commitment. Humility. Generosity and Professionalism. Those are the guiding principles of our organization, and Larry, I’m here to tell you. And you know me well enough to know that is extremely important to me and I know all of the management team in our organization, and we try to instill those RICH GP’S values in every new employee. And just have it permeate everything that we do all the way up to and including our customer interactions. THANK YOU.


Larry Olsen [00:20:36] Oh, you’re more than welcome, by the way. Thank you for bringing that up. I appreciate it. Or did I bring it up?


Sean Green [00:20:43] No, we didn’t rehearse that what my answer was going to be. So. No, that was spontaneous. How about that? So, you know, it’s, you know, it’s really true.


Larry Olsen [00:20:52] You know, a lot of organizations will bring someone in from the outside and they’ll develop a sense of purpose, and their guiding principles are values, whatever you want to want to give a name to them as. And yet sometimes it just goes into a drawer, and they don’t look at it again, and then they wonder why amazing things aren’t happening. What’s different about how you go about in your culture to be able to keep it alive and fresh because people get used to anything?


Sean Green [00:21:24] Surely, it’s important. Well, I can tell you for sure any meeting that I’m conducting. Begins with a purpose driven engagement moment. So, in that moment that we take in that time that we take, we reflect on one of those values up there and just try and develop it into how it incorporates into our daily lives and why it’s important and everybody gets a chance to contribute. But it is something that I’m committed to that. To your point, how some things can become stale. But when we find real life examples on a daily basis and we’re aware that they exist and also that Sean is going to ask anyway at the next meeting, so maybe we better be paying attention. It’s all about that awareness piece. You know, we, you know, if individuals make a decision that they’re going to drive their life in a direction that is on purpose. That they’re not going to just haphazardly trip into every pothole that they run into, but they actually can direct. Then we realized that those core values, when we’re thinking about them, can change the direction of our lives and the quality of it.


Larry Olsen [00:22:54] Yes, that makes an awful lot of sense. It’s too easy with all the noise out there to be getting into the flavor of the month or the worst thing that’s just happened on this planet, or totally whatever it may be, and somehow there has to be a light, a vision, something greater than self to be able to pull us away from what can bring us down. And I have to tell the audience that since it’s the first day I met you, you were that person for me. So I thank you for that, because you all not only valued what it was I was doing, and I understand now after all the years we’ve been together that it was in alignment with what your belief system was all about.


Sean Green [00:23:46] That’s it.


Larry Olsen [00:23:47] And so we were kind of kindred spirits, if you will, from that perspective. But also, I witnessed you in very, very tough situations. I witnessed you in scenarios where I would have probably quit. I would have responded in a very negative fashion. And I always, always saw this little glimmer of wisdom come out of you as if you were going through which scenario do I want them to experience because you had to be emotionally is in the event? (Sean: Sure). And I tell you, that’s something that you give to people Sean is they witness the work in action. It’s not just words with you. It’s a lifestyle. And if you could somehow package that and just kind of let that ooze on other human beings, which you do whenever you’re around anyone. It’s a phenomenal asset to any organization, any family. And it’s why I call you my friend among many reasons.


Sean Green [00:25:00] Well, thank you, Larry. It’s, as you know, full well, we can say all kinds of things.  We can pat ourselves on the back whenever we feel like it, but it’s through our actions and our deeds on a daily basis, under stress, under challenge that defines really who we are. It’s what we do when no one else is looking. You know what? That that reflects what’s truly in our hearts. And so, you’re right, that alignment with you, what came at a critical time in those early days in the business? You know, it felt to me like it was just meant to be. So, my honor, courage and commitment and values began to align with our RICH GP’s that you helped us identify. And so, I would say my favorite word relative to what you’re what you’re asking me was “commitment”.


Larry Olsen [00:26:03] What does commitment mean to you, Sean?


Sean Green [00:26:06] Commitment means staying the course. Commitment means, regardless of the challenges, if you believe in what you’re doing. And there will be many, many, many roadblocks that you can expect along the way, if it’s something that is worth doing. Generally speaking, and especially when it comes to dealing with human beings. OK. It takes lots of dedication and commitment to even with the smallest of visions, but one such as what I had, which was to single handedly, if necessary, change the paradigm of how we interact with our customers and have them leave with a completely different mindset than what they arrived with then. You know, I had to be ready for challenges and I have to tell you my life in general as a youngster coming up in New York and Philadelphia was no walk in the park. And my time in the military also was very challenging early on because I didn’t do well with authority figures.  I never really enjoyed being told what to do. And so I had some early challenges that way. By the time I got to meet a guy like you, I’d figured that part out that.  You know, we all have a boss of some kind, whether that boss is God almighty or whatever your higher power is. You answer to someone and if you want to be in a position of influence and note that the word was influence versus power, (Larry:  yes), because I believe in my heart that influencing people is much more important than having power over them. Influence helps them decide. On their own, why they should be whatever it is that we’re trying to influence them with. And so that makes it a choice. And we’d like choices. We do. (Larry: We love choices). That’s why there’s so many cars?


Larry Olsen [00:28:32] Well said.  You know, if you’ve shared a lot of profundity, if you will, in the essence of how essentially what you what you’ve talked to people about just now is whether we’re at work or at home, what’s guiding us? What’s important to us? You mentioned something really powerful. And that is the commitment that is the ability to hold on to that vision, to hold on to what you want and get through everything else that’s trying to distract you or discourage you or say no to you. And I know just from the 17, 18 months since I worked with you last that you can get lost in and if you ever let go of what’s important to you. And when you’re not working and you’re not out there like a lot of people aren’t, you don’t get any validation, the only validation you get comes from your own conversation with yourself, and we all know how dangerous that can get sometimes that we do need so badly others, right? And you are a blessing to that organization, as you are to our listeners. Continue to remember what it’s amazing influencer you are. And you described it so well. And with everything is going on and all of our lives, and especially this time of year when we get into the holiday season and people have seen changes go on in their lives and sometimes just a reminder of it in other times, it can be the most amazing moment that one can experience, depending on the circumstances. Since the time since, we’ve wrapped up our short period of time together and I told you would fly by, what would you like to leave our listeners with during this time in their lives?


Sean Green [00:30:43] Let me think about that a moment. As I share with my teams in our meetings and in personal coaching sessions with them. The one thing that you can count on in this world is change. And how we receive that change and how we reorient with it and from it is up to us. You decide. That’s why the Compass Rose is my favorite symbol, not only because it was a part of my everyday life for twenty-three years in terms of finding direction. North, east, south and west. Got you. But because it’s true that having a compass needle and deciding what direction that we each want to go, regardless of the magnetism trying to pull us off course, that’s up to us. And so with pandemics and with the political upheaval, religious consternation, whatever that particular issue is, that’s trying to pull our compass needle. We get to decide that direction. And as long as we are committed to that direction, which is where the commitment comes from. Many things are going to happen on this planet and in this world and in our lives. But we can make that change ourselves. No matter what it is.


Larry Olsen [00:32:29] Beautiful. Very, well said.


Sean Green [00:32:32] Thank you, Larry, I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with you right now. You know, I sometimes would wonder if you thought, Is this guy crazy? I mean. Because it’s you could be on this side of it, and I could be on my side asking these questions, and this would probably go much the same way. It’s so bizarre to me.


Larry Olsen [00:32:56] I believe it would. And I know it sure resonates with me and I hope it resonates with our audience the importance of deciding what it is you want to become. What do you want to grow into? How do you want to show up?


Sean Green [00:33:15] Regardless of the influences?


Larry Olsen [00:33:18] Yeah. Yeah. And that power of influence. So, I want to wrap it up and thank you again for the time that we’ve had together. And I want to thank all you listeners for taking your time to invest in yourself to get some fresh perspective, to be able to look at the same differently. And hopefully it brings you some of that breathing spirit in which is called inspiration. And with that being said, I also want to remind you that wherever you are in your life right now is exactly where you need to be. And it’s just like Sean shared, it’s the choice. It’s to know the direction, know that you’re going to get steered in a multitude of directions. But once you know the direction, the rest will take care of itself. And so, thank you again, my friend. It’s been a pleasure. And I hope we have an opportunity to do it again.


Sean Green [00:34:17] The pleasure’s all mine, Larry. Thank you for the invitation.


Larry Olsen [00:34:21] You’re more than welcome. Listen up and you’ll find out who our next guest will be. Take care.


Narrator: Thank you for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, we ask that you please subscribe and share with your friends and associates.  Larry’s next guest is Brian Johnson. Brian is the founder and owner of Main and Johnson, a company that assists small businesses owners in bridging the gap between the successes they have had and the successes they seek. Find out the secrets to bridging the gap in this insightful episode.   


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