Aha! Hiring retirees proves to be a wise move
In 1997, fixed-operations manager Richard Bauman opened up a whole new world of hiring possibilities for Cascade Auto Group's Michelle Primm.
Bauman, then 61, had worked at a nearby dealership until it closed, but he wasn't ready to leave the business permanently. Though he didn't want to work full time, Bauman wanted to stay busy yet have a flexible schedule.
Primm, who was finding it increasingly difficult to hire dealership employees, decided to bring him on at her family's dealership in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Bauman qualified for a state of Ohio computer training program that would pay his wages for six months.
"He never left," Primm, the store's managing partner, said of Bauman, now 76, who works 20 hours a week tracking her parts inventory. "It works great. He has trained my last two parts managers and really mentors them and helps with different inventory projects. I work around the births of his grandchildren and his golf game."
Moreover, the experience convinced Primm of the benefit of hiring retirees or near-retirees to work in the dealership. Sixteen years later, Cascade employs a dozen people fitting that description and ranging in age from their late 50s to their 80s. They make up about 19 percent of the company's work force.
Hiring has changed since the "old days" of the car business, Primm said. She jokes that's when you'd hire someone if you could hold a mirror up to his or her face and it fogged. Today Primm says she prospects for potential employees 365 days a year.
So realizing that older workers could be a boon to the dealership turned into an aha moment for Primm.
"My gosh, I can count on these people," Primm recalled. "They show up on time. I don't have to tell them what to do more than once. As long as I can get my staff comfortable with the idea of variable schedules, it's going to be a win for everyone."
Another benefit: They generally don't need health care benefits, saving the dealership money, though Primm hasn't quantified how much.
Since Bauman's hiring, Cascade has added such people as a retired librarian, a policeman, two accountants, an insurance agent and a former Mazda field representative.
Primm doesn't recruit at the senior center, but she does ask current customers that have retired recently whether they would consider part-time work. Some of her retiree employees refer their friends.
They handle tasks ranging from service department marketing and shuttling service customers to handling dealer trades and working as dealership ambassadors at events. Primm's mother, who is 80, works three days a week handling payroll and doing compliance checks.
Some baby-sit grandchildren on their off days or schedule longer breaks to enjoy travel and family. One employee takes two or three weeks off at a time to visit his daughter, who lives in Colombia.
Richard Green, 65, retired from his accounting job at a telecom company three years ago to spend more time on his woodworking hobby and volunteer work.
A customer of Cascade, Green asked one day when his car was in for service whether the dealership needed more drivers. He now works up to 15 hours a week, mostly driving, but he also has offered tax and accounting expertise when needed.
"It's a fun job and a place where you can get out and keep busy," Green said.
Bill Robinson, 70, who also works as a driver, retired as a sales manager after 30 years at 3M. He came to work at Cascade after getting to know Primm's father and brother through volunteer organizations.
Robinson enjoys the camaraderie with co-workers and customers. "We meet a lot of people here from a variety of backgrounds," Robinson said.
Richard Bauman, who got it all started, says the work at Cascade keeps him sharp but gives him the flexibility to visit his daughters and grandchildren in North Carolina and Florida. He'll keep working "as long as my mind holds out."
He doesn't need the money, but Bauman says it helps when golf season starts -- he plays three days a week.
Bauman, who got a hole-in-one at age 73, said: "It does pay for my golf."
Managing partner: Michelle Primm, 56
Where: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Brands: Audi, Mazda, Subaru
Annual sales: 767 new vehicles, 509 used vehicles
Don't overlook: Hiring retirees to work at the dealership
You can reach Amy Wilson at email@example.com.