Brand loyalty is one thing, but honest dedication and concern is another. For Dean Sykes, lot manager at West Herr Ford in Hamburg, Ford is not just a brand but a way of life.
Dean is as dedicated to Ford as he is his job. He says it’s a pleasure for him to come to work and mentor the younger lot attendants he works with. He also earned high praise from coworkers.
“Dean simply takes pride in everything he does, he’s a no nonsense worker,” said Tony Helta, general manager at West Herr Ford of Hamburg. “He always has a smile on his face.”
I can personally attest to the latter part of that statement. I watched Dean greet and crack jokes with at least 4 people in a very short time at the Ford store. People just flat out like Dean Sykes. He reciprocates their sentiment.
“I truly like everyone here,” he said.
Beyond his affable personality, Dean is also a model employee. Regardless of the situation or conditions, Dean always does his job.
“He never complains about our winter working conditions and sets the bar for all of our lot managers,” Tony said.
Even when he is taking a well earned break, Dean Sykes is still working. He can be seen doing Sudoku and Cryptoquip puzzles in an effort to stay fresh.
“I’m not ready for that couch yet, I live a life where I can do what I enjoy doing,” Dean said. Who wouldn’t value that?
‘Service with a smile’ is often just a clever tag line, but when it comes to West Herr Dodge Sales Associate Ron Kowalski, it’s a way of life.
“Ron brings so much enthusiasm to everything he does it is contagious to employees and customers,” said Fred Reed, General Manager at Dodge. “Whenever there is something that needs to be done in the dealership Ron takes that project and just runs with it.”
When you talk to Ron, you see all of that is just part of his personality. It’s obvious he legitimately enjoys what he does.
“I love being on the front lines, I love the excitement,” he says. “I am definitely a people person.”
After meeting Ron, it’s clear that’s an understatement.
Ron says he has an excellent rapport with Fred Reeb and Craig Spear and loves coming into work. He says West Herr’s family oriented atmosphere helps build morale and a positive attitude.
“West Herr gives sales staff off on Sundays and around Christmas time, something not all dealerships do,” he says. “That can’t be understated; it allows you to spend time with your family.”
Ron extends the family approach to his customers as well. He says his goal is to make them feel comfortable. He takes the honest, direct approach and enjoys the process. Who wouldn’t value that?
“We are proud to have Ron on our staff and he truly exemplifies a true West Herr employee,” Fred said.
We’ve all heard about people “climbing the ladder,” but John Tedesco has lived it.
“Jon is always very helpful to everyone around him,” Dean said. Dean mentioned that other coworkers have noticed Jon take on a leadership role.
“We’ve seen Jon go outside and help the lot guys blow up balloons and open up some hoods,” Dean recalled. “He just knows how to take initiative.”
Both Jon and Dean agree that they have great working chemistry. Jon says that Dean is constantly cracking jokes and keeps the team loose. He says Dean is a major reason why he chose to work at Chevy Hamburg specifically.
“I really enjoy the laid approach at our store, Dean is a huge part of that,” he said.
This attitude helps benefit customers as well. West Herr trains their sales staff to take the honest approach to sales. That’s something that we all value as consumers.
“I meet a lot of interesting people at my job, and I love that I can take a no pressure approach to my job,” he said.
He credits upper management with making his job enjoyable. He worked at West Herr Saturn and when the company folded, the staff wondered about the future. He credits VP Bill Loecher with making the transition smooth.
“Bill really did an amazing job with that. We all felt comfortable and the transition went well,” Jon said.
Jon says he plans to continue on his path, and given his body of work, West Herr will obviously welcome that.
“I don’t ever plan on working for another company,” Jon said.
Simply put Greg Szuniewicz, technician at West Herr Buick Cadillac GMC in East Aurora, is someone you want to have around.
Melissa says that based on fact. Recently, Greg was involved in an emergency situation with Ted Wilkinson, a co-worker.
In late February of this year Greg found another tech, Ted Wilkinson, in a vehicle complaining of indigestion. Greg asked Ted a few questions and immediately recognized signs of a heart attack.
Greg insisted that Ted take aspirin while someone grabbed a blood pressure cuff from the fire department. Ted chose to tough it out and continue working, despite Greg’s insistence. Greg went so far as to contact Ted’s wife about the issue. That night, Ted was taken to the hospital and treated for a heart attack.
“Thanks to Greg’s quick thinking and EMT background, Ted is doing well and expected to return to work!” Melissa said.
Now, thanks to Greg, there is a blood pressure cuff in the body shop at West Herr in East Aurora.
“I’m a pretty big blood pressure advocate, it’s important to check,” he said.
When he isn’t checking blood pressure, Greg leads a full life. He’s the captain of his local fire company and also runs a local club for Harley owners, even organizing an annual fundraiser for the club.
“Greg is always concerned with the well being of our employees and customers,” Melissa said.
If you’re looking to add some flair to your ride, Wayne Stephen is your man.
“I love what I’m doing right now more than anything I’ve ever done in my life,” Wayne said with a smile. “I love my work, I love getting dirty.”
It’s easy to see how Wayne’s enthusiasm could be contagious around the workplace. More importantly, it shows customers that he is working hard for them and their satisfaction.
“Wayne is always conscious of customers’ needs and will go above customer expectations,” said Jack Macey, Kustom Korner director. “He will answer his phone at night and on weekends to take questions.”
Now that’s dedication. Wayne says he values the fact that West Herr gave him an opportunity, and he’s happy to reciprocate.
“West Herr took a chance on me and I have nothing but praise for this company,” he said. “I’m not leaving, I plan on being here forever.” Wayne has even brought his brother onto the West Herr team.
Wayne says he enjoys teaching and discussing his craft. With his attitude and drive, it’s hard to imagine Wayne Stephen being anything but successful.
Tom Fogarty, General Manager of West Herr Toyota Orchard Park, set up this piece perfectly:
Freida answers phones and basically handles all the little details needed for a high volume car salesman. On the surface that sounds like quite a grind. Talk to Freida, and she’ll tell you quite the opposite.
“I love my work, I consider everyone here my friend,” she said. “It’s a great feeling to enjoy coming into work every day.”
Freda’s main job is talking to customers, and she goes above and beyond what you’d expect. She makes jokes with the customers and asks about their families. It’s gotten to the point where she runs into customers outside of work and they stop and talk.
“I enjoy connecting with customers, I feel like they are my friends,” she said.
She says her goal is to make the car buying experience fun. It’s not a stretch to say that every potential car buyer would value that greatly.
“Freida will do anything to help you. If you need something taken care of, you can count on here,” Fogarty said.
Freida says she is continuously busy and likes it that way. She lives in Boston Hills, NY and runs the Red Barrel Cider Mill with her family. She says that she’ll even run into West Herr customers there, something she values greatly.
“Freida is always smiling and in a good mood, and is always ready to work,” Fogarty said. “She truly deserves employee of the month.”
The phrase “go to guy” isn’t a term people throw around arbitrarily. It makes sense then that Scott Harvell, General Manager of BMW of Rochester, uses it to describe technician Shaun White.
Scott mentioned how Shaun will come in on his days off to help handle the staff handle customer inquiries.
“Shaun White truly goes the extra mile,” Scott said.
According to Shaun, the professional respect is mutual.
“Scott always gets back to you quickly whenever there’s an issue, you can go to him with anything,” Shaun said. “I feel like they listen to you around here.” It’s not hard to understand how valuable that is in a coworker.
Since West Herr took over the BMW location, Shaun said he sees a noticeable change in the work culture. He said it feels more like a family business. He mentions how Scott Bieler will walk through the mechanic shop and greet everyone.
“It’s incredibly rare to see an owner of a company do that,” he said.
Shaun is certified through the BMW Service Technician Education Program (STEP) and says BMW technology presents a new challenge for him every day. Scott Harvell praised him for his skill.
“Shaun is knowledgeable and talented, he’s an asset to our service team,” Scott said.
Outside of work, Shaun still does some tech work, albeit in the form of working on and riding 4 wheelers. He says the craft is in his blood. His father was a navy tech and his grandfather owned a race track. He says he grew up helping them out.
Shaun says he eventually hopes to move into a management position, and he understands what it takes to get there.
“To be a good manager you have to have done the work of the people you’re managing.” If empathy and knowledge are something you value (who doesn’t), then Shaun White is truly the “go to” person.
Visit West Herr Toyota Scion in Williamsville, and you will see Robert Kerr hard at work. Robert’s job is to manage the lot and make sure all the cars are ready for a customer to look at or drive.
Robert agrees that the customer experience is his highest priority. He goes so far as to group similar models and makes together to make it easier on the customer.
“I don’t want to make the customers walk all over the lot to compare cars,” he said. What customer wouldn’t value that level of convenience?
Robert’s efforts have gone noticed by many employees across the West Herr Auto Group. Terry Mutton, who works in the group’s director’s office next to Toyota Williamsville, also sang Robert’s praises.
“Robert puts an incredible amount of pride into his work,” Terry said.
Robert’s dedication was exemplified after he suffered the misfortune of getting stuck by a plow truck last winter. He was back to work in a week.
“I just couldn’t sit at home, I had to be back to work,” he said.
Robert said he feels a great sense of camaraderie and respect around his workplace. He says he hopes to retire with West Herr. President Scott Bieler even attended his housewarming party.
“Robert executing his job responsibilities truly helps us sell more cars,” said Beth.
Robert has referred 18 people to buy cars from West Herr, 6 within the last year. Clearly, Robert Kerr is someone you want on your team.
Soon after you get the “You’re hired” message from your new boss at West Herr, you may meet Sara Skovenski. As a Human Resources administrator, it’s her responsibility to introduce new hires to the West Herr culture. Luckily, she makes the process easy.
Sara says that at her job, the employee is her customer. By all accounts, the “customers” leave happy.
“Sara is great, she does her job the right way and is easy to work with,” said Pete Small, director of variable operations at West Herr.
Sara says that for her, no two days are exactly the same and she enjoys addressing employee concerns. As an employee, it’s important to know there is always someone there to respond to questions or issues.
“There’s just a great camaraderie in this company that I love being a part of,” Sara said.
Prior to her time at West Herr, Sara worked for Ford. She says the auto industry always provides her with a new challenge, part of what has kept her in it. The other part has plenty to do with West Herr.
“This company has always had a good reputation, and from working here I can attest that they always follow through on what they say,” she said.
She mentioned one encounter a friend of hers had with West Herr President Scott Bieler. Her friend met Scott on a plane, not realizing he was the West Herr President. They talked cars for awhile and eventually Scott told the man to call him if he needed a car. He did, and Scott met him at the dealership personally.
“What’s great about West Herr is that even if your friend or family member has a problem or question, they’ll do their best to help out,” Sara said.
Outside of work, Sara is very family oriented. She visits her mother for coffee in the morning and Skypes with her grandchildren in South Carolina whenever she can.
“My grandchildren are the center of my world,” she says.
Sara hopes to finish her career at West Herr. She says she’s happy with her work and enjoys working with the newest member of the HR team, Ryan Sattler. Working with Sara, he’s clearly in good hands.
“Josh is just a flat out good guy,” said Chris Smering, West Herr associate. Another man in the parking lot echoed those sentiments. If people offer up unprovoked praise about you, you must be doing something right.
In his four years at West Herr, Josh has gone from lot attendant to a member of the Finance team. He manages used car titles, stocking, and trades among other things. Basically, his job involves all the little details necessary to keep a day running smoothly.
“It’s my job to avoid any hang ups,” he said. With the rave reviews he received from coworkers, seems like he’s handling his duties well.
Josh’s brother currently works at the West Herr Used Car Lot and their father is a tech at the Toyota Williamsville body shop. For the Reid’s, West Herr is a family business.
“Everyone in my family loves West Herr,” Josh said. He says he views other West Herr employees as friends and not just coworkers.
Of course an atmosphere like that starts at the top. Josh credits Ryan Garrigan, the GM of Ford Lincoln, for giving him guidance. He says Ryan taught him persistence, specifically when calling on lien releases. Ryan told him not to stop calling until he got the right answers, and that’s just what he does.
“Ryan has a very distinct style and it’s helped me grow,” Josh said. “He has been a real mentor to me.”
He remembers a time as a lot attendant when he “dinged up” a car and was worried about the repercussions. Management didn’t scold; they simply let him learn from a mistake.
Outside of West Herr, Josh is passionate about audio editing and music. Could we eventually hear some of his work on West Herr’s commercials? Given his career trajectory, why not?