5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team, With José R. Costa

I am currently part of a remarkable movement that started three years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina. In partnership with the local…

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I am currently part of a remarkable movement that started three years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina. In partnership with the local public school system, we launched a program called Latino Youth Summit where we teach and empower US Hispanic high school juniors and seniors about the options and opportunities they have when they graduate. A lot of the conversation is focused on leadership skills and empowerment, so students have a full understanding of the alternatives they have once they graduate. For example, they can go the traditional college route or become a business owner or take over the family.

I had the pleasure to interview José R. Costa. Jose has a background steeped in marketing, franchising, multi-unit retailing and enhancing customer experience amongst some of the most recognized brands in the world. He currently serves as CEO of For Eyes, which is part of GrandVision, a global leader in optical retail. In September, Mr. Costa has launched a book called “Leading with Edge: How to Sharpen Your Own Advantage In All Aspects of Life,” featuring the concept of leadership as a practice and discussing the determination and grit it takes to be a good leader.

Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?

I was born in Venezuela. My grandparents and parents were immigrants who came from Europe to Latin America to build their lives there. My dad became an entrepreneur from an early age, opening a very successful advertising agency in Caracas with over 400 employees.

I came to the United States in 2003 to do a Masters degree in Marketing at Northwestern University. The original plan was for me to study and return to Venezuela to take over my father’s agency. However, the plan didn’t work out as expected! I met my wife while I was studying at Northwestern and decided to stay in the US.

In 2004, after graduation, I joined Yum! Brands, where I was rapidly promoted through successive roles, including Multicultural Marketing Manager, Customer Experience Manager and Associate Brand Manager. I much enjoyed my time at Yum! Brands, helping increase market share within the US Hispanic and African-American segments via targeted campaigns and championing customer experience initiatives that translated into a significant increase in sales.

In 2007, I decided to open and managed my own full-service digital and brand marketing agency. Costa Integrated Marketing Communications focused on the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American segments, working on a variety of B2B and B2C campaigns for great companies and well-known brands, such as Sony, Diageo, Ford, LG Electronics and Televisa,

A few years later, I was hired by BURGER KING® to turn around the Latin American and Caribbean region, which was comprised of 32 countries and over 1,400 stores. As Vice President of Marketing, R&D and Supply Chain, I helped grow the region’s EBITDA from $50 million to $80 million in 26 months.

In 2013, I came aboard as president of MAACO®, where I was responsible for managing and developing 500 automotive body shops across the U.S. and Canada. During my tenure, my team and I improved MAACO®’s procedures and training practices, raised consistency among franchises, revamped operations and enhanced the look and feel of its advertising. Two years later, following the sale of Driven Brands to Roark Capital, I was promoted to Group President of Driven Brands’ Paint & Collision Business, which was a newly consolidated business with over 1,300 franchised paint and collision shops across North America under the MAACO®, CARSTAR, and Drive N Style brands.

Last year, I joined For Eyes by GrandVision as Chief Executive Officer. I was recruited to not only to lead the full scope of operations of the 120-store optical retailer, but also the company’s next stage of evolution through growth and expansion.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The most interesting aspect I can share is that the core fundamentals of leadership are the same regardless of the industry. After 20-plus years of leading teams in fast food, automotive, healthcare, and advertising, I have come to realize that the traits of good leadership are applicable everywhere. For example, setting clear goals and expectations upfront, over-communicating the company’s vision, mission and priorities, and always recognizing great performance are true tenants that work in any environment.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

Managing large teams can be challenging, especially when it comes to communicating effectively with all the team members. As an optical retailer with over 120 stores across the country, we usually kick off the year with a company-wide employee meeting where we review the financial numbers of the previous year, present the new year goals and priorities, and give out awards for stellar performance. The primary objective of this meeting is to get everyone rallied around what we want to accomplish in the year ahead and make sure we are all on the same page. This is also a good time to set ground rules regarding internal communications. We also coordinate quarterly meetings where we let every single employee know where they stand in relationship to the company’s objectives and goals. Additionally, we leverage a plethora of communication vehicles, ranging from newsletters to videos and from blogs to webinars. We believe in over-communicating, so everyone is informed of where the company stands.

What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?

GrandVision operates in 45 countries around the world and it’s hard to keep everyone focused on the same priorities. One of the biggest challenges we face is identifying available times for meetings and calls at reasonable hours for people that are halfway around the world. We try to leverage as much technology as we can, and all teams use the Microsoft Team application and Skype to communicate more effectively. We also over-communicate the progress against our corporate objectives and plans, so everyone knows where we stand 100 percent of the time.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Building a great corporate culture — one where employees thrive — starts with leadership. Leaders make the initial decisions on the way a company will run and the type of company it will be — how they should treat customers, how they should encourage employees, what kind of hiring practices and company policies they should put in place, etc.

In other words, leaders set the tone for the organization. When you are at the top, everyone is watching every single one of your moves. Your leadership style is your mark, and it influences how your team performs internally. Because corporate culture is shaped mostly by how leaders act, it is essential that leaders walk the talk on the company’s values.

Leading is about listening, communicating, interacting and working with your team. It’s about using your leadership power to empower everyone else and guiding the team toward the company’s common goals. For me, leaders need to stay close to the trenches and talk to frontline employees. For example, one of the first things I did as CEO at For Eyes was to move the management team out of the private offices and had them sit with their respective teams.

Also, CEOs can foster a positive and productive workplace by holding performance review meetings where they let employees know where they stand in relationship to the overall company objectives. They need to be transparent, fair and clear about their expectations. This creates an open culture where employees can be heard, and everyone can make a difference regardless of age or experience.

Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers.” What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?

Employees can literally make or break an organization. This is why it is critical to the success of a company to find, recruit and retain the right talent. When it comes to recruiting, we usually look for entrepreneurial-minded individuals who possess an inquisitive nature. These traits tell us how a candidate will handle risk, work with few resources, lead teams and build something from scratch. We also look for people who are bold enough to provide their opinions and ideas.

In terms of attracting that top-level talent, we use a variety of strategies. It all starts by offering a thriving corporate culture that encourages teamwork and inclusion. After all, we want top professionals to want to work for us. At the core of For Eyes’ corporate culture, it is the concept of meritocracy. We hire and promote based on performance and merit. This means everyone in our company has the opportunity to get ahead and advance as long as they work hard, have a solid track record and bring exciting ideas to the table.

To identify top talent, we always use the same approach. We look for candidates both at a local and out-of-state level. A perfect balance can be achieved by finding qualified professionals at top schools (and companies) while building strong relationships with key local organizations. A successful business organization is built on diversity. Our employees come from different backgrounds, exposing our company to a variety of viewpoints and unique insights.

Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

1. It all starts since day №1

The HR department plays a fundamental role at a company. However, the onboarding of a new team member should be a responsibility that all employees share. A new hire first day should never be neglected and left to fend for themselves. Make sure to foster and cultivate new employees very early on by guiding them expertly through the orientation and training process as well as integrating them into the existing corporate culture.

2. Communication is key

Managers need to make a point to communicate their vision and objectives regularly. This way everyone is on the same page and has a clear understanding of how he or she is part of making this vision a reality. Having employees understand how their work contributes to the overall company’s goals can help engage employees. Additionally, transparency between employees and leadership can also give employees the confidence to approach leadership to raise concerns and bring ideas.

3. Motivation drives productivity

Feeling appreciated is a key driver of employee engagement in the workplace. At For Eyes, we give four Superhero Awards a quarter, which recognize superior customer service by our employees, managers and doctors. However, for us, appreciation extends beyond awards, fair wage and salary increases. It is critical to promote a corporate culture that not only recognizes good work with nice perks, but also that provides a setting where people can be heard and take ownership of their work, as well as gives them an opportunity to grow in their career and at a personal level. People who love what they do and are surrounded by an environment that stimulates them every day make significant contributions to the company and their teams.

4. The importance of cross-training

It is a good practice for managers to cross-train employees. When employees understand how different areas of the company work, they are more apt to make decisions that benefit the company as a whole, rather than solely their own department. Additionally, it helps teamwork because it teaches employees to appreciate each other and helps build new relationships.

5. Managers don’t have all the answers

Having humility as a leader means starting from a place of admitting you don’t have all the answers and are not always going to make the right decisions. By recognizing this, managers are opening themselves to people who could have the information and insights they need. The result is an inviting atmosphere in which people are willing to bring in new ideas and offer opinions.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am currently part of a remarkable movement that started three years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina. In partnership with the local public school system, we launched a program called Latino Youth Summit where we teach and empower US Hispanic high school juniors and seniors about the options and opportunities they have when they graduate. A lot of the conversation is focused on leadership skills and empowerment, so students have a full understanding of the alternatives they have once they graduate. For example, they can go the traditional college route or become a business owner or take over the family.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson came from my parents. Ever since I was a small child visiting my father’s advertising agency in the late 70s, he would always say “Dream Big. Work Hard.” He would encourage my sister and me to dream as big as we could and always work harder than anyone in the company. He always told us “it takes the same amount of effort to dream big as it does to dream small. So, always dream big!”

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