Jonathan Vakassian is an automotive sales and service manager that grew up around cars at the family business. Currently, he and his business are located in Cornwall, Connecticut. While growing up he worked on and off at the family gas station and learned the basics of auto and service repair. For many years he apprenticed under his father who was an automotive engineer with a background in electronics.
While growing up working on cars, he studied automotive technology, attended Chrysler Technical Training, and became an ASE Certified Technician. Jonathan worked on and off for his father throughout the years and learned about serving the general publics motor vehicles, strong customer service, and about operating a gasoline service station.
In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit, or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?
For many years I managed an automotive sales, service, and towing business. The ability to provide 24-hour service requires a lot of time, dedication, and investment. In recent years, we have expanded our sales department and have limited some other services that were difficult to staff around the clock.
Hard work is necessary for many reasons, but long hours may not always result in an increase in revenue. You need to try to strategize ways to work smarter and not harder, especially to maintain a positive work – life balance.
When you feel unfocused, what do you do?
While growing up I was a student of martial arts. The values learned will stay with you forever. We would practice meditation and I believe that this, along with prayer, are two very powerful tools. When frustrated or unfocused, I learned to take a break, walk away, and collect myself. Then, I find, you can refocus better after taking a break and coming back to your work.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
Whether they will start their own company, work for somebody else, or join our military, I would advise them to pick a career field that they have a very strong interest in, or better yet, a passion for. If you do something that you love, then it will not seem like a job or boring tedious work. Also, learn to understand the industry that you plan on being involved in. Look for a mentor or a person with related experiences as this can be a tremendous asset for you to learn from.
Being self-employed is very rewarding. For many years it was the American dream. I think much of that has been lost throughout the years with the advancement of technology, franchises, and mass merchandisers. So, I am unsure if it is as much the American dream today as it was years ago. While managing a small business I have seen potential customers that want to negotiate pricing and think that small businesses are able to accept this. This can make things difficult especially when the customer already knows that the initial price is fair to begin with. I know most customers accept the prices set by large corporations.
Be sure you understand the industry that you want to work in and try to come up with a plan where you have a goal at the end to work towards, and not just working harder all along. Nobody on their deathbed every said they wished they spent more time at work.
What is one lifestyle trend that excites you?
Throughout the years I have tried to stay physically fit and active. People should try to stay in shape, along with trying to well and maintain a healthy diet. Exercise on your own, like jogging, lifting weights, or playing sports with friends is good to increase your heart rate, burn calories, and build stamina.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?
Throughout the years, my father has been a great influence on me. He was a no-nonsense guy with a great sense of humor. He was a proud veteran and a very hard worker. He was educated and knowledgeable and I think he enjoyed teaching me about the technical aspect of things.
What’s one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned?
My majority of work experience has allowed me to have extensive contact with the public and with customers. This has taught me the importance of customer service, like having a smile on your face, being an open, friendly person, communicating and addressing somebody in a friendly way to make a customer feel welcomed. Ultimately, I try to remember the way I would want to be treated if the roles were reversed or the way you would want your family to be treated.
What do you think it is that makes you/someone successful?
I absolutely feel that hard work and planning is part of success. Behind the scenes, the hard work is learning the ins and outs of something to the point where you can be very knowledgeable and be able to accomplish many tasks. You want to grow and put that knowledge to work so you can go to the next level.
How do you stay motivated?
I think earning money is a large motivator for most people. I think having the ability to pay your bills on time is motivating. I have personally known several people that have worked their way up and were very responsible, lived a comfortable lifestyle, and contributed to their community as well. My faith is also an extremely important motivator.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
I hope to leave something of a mark that I was able to help people throughout my personal and professional life. I want to teach the values and characteristics that I have learned from my father and throughout my life onto my children and to be able to positively impact them further.