Dave Veale interviews Dave O’Leary, Part Owner of O’Leary Auto Group, as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.
Watch an excerpt from the interview…recorded on Dave’s flip-cam:
What values would you stereotypically assign someone who is focused on running not just one, but three profitable dealerships? What comes to mind when you think of the leadership characteristics needed to run a successful car dealership?I sat down with Dave O’Leary, part owner of the O’Leary Auto Group and self-described “jack of all trades”, and my assumptions were soon called into question. The scope and scale of the business surpassed my expectations. The O’Leary Auto Group runs three dealerships and employs approximately 120 people in New Brunswick as well as another 65 people in Africa. They also have been funding an orphanage in Haiti for the last nine years.
Dave is running the family business his father started and continuing a tradition of principled leadership. As I talked to Dave I realized that Manuel London, author of Principled Leadership and Business Diplomacy, could have been describing the O’Leary Auto Group when he stated, ‘The notion that doing well and doing good is not new. Many corporations recognize that social responsibility and supporting community welfare are important elements of profitability.’
I started the interview asking Dave what he was most proud when he thinks of his business.
DAVE O’LEARY: Two things – first, every night when my team and I go to bed, and every morning when we get up, we can all take pride in the fact that we’ve done a good job. We’re blessed with a core group of people who love what they do and enjoy being good at their job. Secondly, we give a whole lot of the money that we earn away. All of our staff knows that when they work to earn money it’s actually helping people that need it. Those are the two most satisfying things.
DAVE VEALE: You spoke earlier of ‘helping people in need’, where does this come from?
DAVE O’LEARY: It comes from our Christian faith and our belief that those who are blessed have an obligation to give back to those who aren’t as fortunate. That’s one of the core principles of what we believe in. If you’re being blessed, your job is to pass the blessings on. I went to Haiti in 2003 for the first time and it was a life changing experience for me in terms of understanding how blessed we really are here in Canada.
DAVE VEALE: So your faith drives the philosophy that your primary job, as a leader, is to run a profitable business because it translates into helping people?
DAVE O’LEARY: Profit that we make in car and RV sales results in somebody getting water, fed, off the street, a well dug, a bible, faith, something to give them either life or hope. It is certainly is a motivating factor.
DAVE VEALE: How does your business stay successful and profitable?
DAVE O’LEARY: Every day we look at how we can improve our current business. We are huge believers that attention to detail is the key to success.
We are also process driven. For example, if you want to buy a new RV today, we have a 14 point process for taking a deposit from you to securing the sale. We also want consistency at all of our stores.
DAVE VEALE: What are you finding is the best ways to motivate the people around you?
DAVE O’LEARY: People do need to get remunerated for what they do and I’m a firm believer that if you have a rock star, they deserve rock star money. But it’s not just about money – people also need to be encouraged. In selling and in business, and everything else in life, it’s about listening to your people and encouraging them.
Dave Veale: Beyond listening and encouraging, what is another important soft skill that every leader needs?
DAVE O’LEARY: You’ve got to have empathy for your people, as a leader you have to constantly balance the drive to push people as much as you dare and to empathize with the fact that they’re human and they have lives outside of work. I’m learning about work-life balance and empathy – actually, having kids really is what caused a switch to go on in me because I found myself missing my kids if I didn’t see them go to bed and get up in the morning.
DAVE VEALE: Tell me about your employees in Africa.
DAVE O’LEARY: We have 65 full time employees in Africa, in a country called the Ivory Coast. They’re supported mainly through our businesses. There are some other people who help with their time and their money but we mainly support them with our businesses. We’re digging wells, we’re building churches and we gave out a million bibles last year.
Who inspires you?
DAVE O’LEARY: On a personal level, my wife really inspires me she’s a way tougher, stronger person than I am. She’s awesome. My kids inspire me to do better and work hard. On the business side, my father has inspired me with his drive and his push over the years. Then there are our managers that work with us – I’ve got some awesome people who bless me everyday. And God … that probably should have been first. Faith inspires me.
Dave: And, in closing, what makes you get up and keep going every day?
DAVE O’LEARY: You’ve gotta be having fun. And I am.
Published July 29, 2010 in the Telegraph Journal
Photo: Cindy Wilson, Telegraph Journal