A few months back, I wrote about John Hiester's idea to keep his dealership techs busy at his four stores in North Carolina during the early days of the pandemic. As someone who liked to tinker on old cars, Hiester wondered if his technicians would like to refurbish classic cars to pass the time.
His idea soon caught fire, growing into a team competition with the winning car being auctioned for charity. To top it off, celebrity car customizer Danny Koker provided each team of techs tips and advice recorded for a YouTube series.
Hiester bought 19 vehicles in all, and 14 were used in the competition. After many months of work — some of it after-hours because customer service business bounced back — a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner was crowned the winner in online fan voting.
It was sold at auction in late February, fetching $43,000. The winning team donated the money to Military Missions in Action, a nonprofit that supports disabled veterans, active-duty military members and their families. The other 13 vehicles also were sold at auction to help recoup Hiester's original investment.
Hiester, who owns two Chevrolet dealerships and two Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram stores scattered south of North Carolina's Research Triangle, said the competition was an "amazing experience" and helped form a bond between the younger and older technicians. He also said it has helped in the recruitment of "harder-to-find employees," such as techs, "because they felt like we were a company that took care of their people."
It also made his employees grateful, something very important whether they are enduring a pandemic or enjoying a robust, profitable ride.
"Every employee here appreciated the fact that when faced with an adverse situation, we didn't run or hide or do the cheapest way out," he said. "We found a way to accommodate all parties. And because of it, the reputation of our dealership grew."