Steven Voudouris | Crain's Philadelphia

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Steven Voudouris

Background:  

Launched in 2004, Turn5 is an aftermarket auto parts company that, through three brands — AmericanMuscle.com, AmericanTrucks.com and ExtremeTerrain.com — sells novelty parts like special steering wheels, souped-up exhaust systems and massive tires. The company is based in Malvern, Pa., where it employs more than 400 people.

The Mistake:

I don’t think we were overly effective early on in investing in our talent as much as we could have.

[My brother] Andrew and I founded our company in high school. I was a senior and he was a sophomore, and we were super interested in digital marketing and econ. We were working out of our parents’ garage in Delaware County, Penn., when we started to get some traction. The business kept growing, so we added people to work with us. But we eventually started losing people with a lot of potential.

We were young at the time, and thought that you created a job, filled the job, and made sure that the employee kept doing that same thing. But when we talked to people, we learned they wanted to be challenged and take on new things. Once we figured that out, fixing the problem was easy; the business was growing so fast, so there were tons of challenges and new things they could take on.

After we began providing them more opportunities to attend conferences and train in-house, we saw a big impact. We realized that someone could start off writing copy, but maybe a year or two later, could take on a bigger role as a project manager.

It’s important to invest in your team by keeping them challenged.

The Lesson:

It’s important to invest in your team by keeping them challenged and helping them develop personally and professionally. What’s unique about our situation, I think, is that neither I nor my brother went to college, and it’s helped us understand the importance of training, having mentors in the community, and going out to conferences. And small businesses are great because everyone gets to try a bit of everything. Combine that with some formal training, and you have a really great formula for success. While you might bring someone in to fill a certain role, they could grow and eventually help the business in different ways.

We’ve since done a lot to create this sort of environment for our employees, and it’s been fantastic to see people grow. At the end of every year, for example, we ask our staff to fill out self-review forms and consider how they could improve. A couple of our questions include, “What are your aspirations?” and “Where do you see yourself professionally within the organization within the next 12 months?” It’s also a conversation every manager is having with team members at all levels of the organization. It’s had a really significant impact on people.

Follow Turn5's brands on Twitter at @americanmuscle and @extremeterrain.

​Photo courtesy of Turn5.