Meet Nick Schloesser, our Western Massachusetts Regional Manager. Nick manages roughly 100 employees, including 10 Location Supervisors. In addition to overseeing the daily operations of the region, Nick is responsible for creating the region’s schedule and handling Special Events within the region. He came to VPA in the beginning of 2006 as a valet attendant, fresh out of college. Recently, we sat down with Nick to share the story of how he turned his entry-level valet job into a career in management.
What were some of the locations you were working at when you first started?
I started at Baystate Medical Center. I really got along with everybody that I was working with at Wesson and Daly and I worked there pretty consistently. I was regularly at Bay State during the week and working the Delaney House on a Friday night. Eventually I was able to kind of manage Wesson here and there when the regular manager was on vacation. The recognition made me feel good about the job.
So from there were you able to start taking on even more responsibilities?
I really started taking on more responsibility once I moved to Albany, when we started valet service for St. Peter’s Hospital. I started here in January 2006 and in September, 9 months later, I was on my way to Albany. I kind of wanted a change of scenery and this was a good opportunity.
So you were part of that start-up crew?
Brian [Hiltpold, Capital New York Regional Manager] and Micky Dumais [Worcester area major account manager] went out there probably a month before I got there. We had originally started working with St. Peter’s doing their employee shuttling, and we did such a great job with that that they wanted us in there for the valet. So when that started I was there for day one of valet. Eventually I grew into an Assistant Manager role over at St. Peter’s.
Where did you go from being the Assistant Manager at St. Peter’s?
I was out in Albany for four years. I was kind of hanging around for Albany Medical Center because we were promised that we were going to be starting there and that actually ended up being a while. We started with the shuttle service at Albany Medical Center and were anticipating adding valet service as well. That started in ’09 and I was a manager over there for about a year. I came back to Springfield January 1st, 2010. I wasn’t unhappy with anything in Albany. I was making great money and I was working with great people. I just wanted to be back home and go back to school.
Once you returned to Western Massachusetts, what type of role were you able to settle into after gaining some managerial experience in Albany?
When I came back there wasn’t really any place for me to go. I was kind of bouncing around and managing Wing when Jacob [Johnson, Wing Hospital Manager] had a day off, and managing Bay State when Greg or Jay had a day off…. But I was doing weekend managing and Bay State Lot managing. I didn’t really have a home until I started managing Wing full-time, which was probably 10 months after I came home, in late 2010. I was at Wing for almost a year. I became Regional Manager in June 2011. It was a little bit of a rough start. This isn’t the easiest region to take over. Obviously we started here. We’ve been doing it for years. As time went on I started absorbing more of the responsibilities, the schedule, etc.
When you started here you were working at some of our older accounts, Wesson, Delaney House… Talk about some of the changes and expansion that you’ve seen the company go through since then.
When I started we all had to wait by the fax machine at Wesson for our schedule to come out, which was hand-written. Shortly after I started, the online scheduling program came out, which is an amazing piece of software. It can do so much. Obviously the growth that we’ve had since I started here; we were probably at 100 employees and now we’re at 600. That’s something. We had Bay State and UMASS in Worcester and some Restaurants and the Mountains in Vermont, and that was as big as we were. Now we’re all the way to Buffalo and down to the Bronx. The company has really streamlined everything, communication. The Franklin Covey system has made a big improvement. Working in Albany for as long as I did, it was hard to stay up to date on what was going on here in Western Massachusetts. For a short time we didn’t have the newsletter, which I missed and I think a lot of people did, too. The newsletter is definitely a great way to keep everybody on the same page. We were doing something called the Weekly Spotlight where Tim Duval would send out a quick email every weekend, a compliment we got or something. But the newsletter is great. My 4dx [My 4 Disciplines of Execution] is great. The expansion within the office is definitely great. When I started we had maybe four to six people in the office. Now it’s much larger. It helps out as a whole. It frees up a lot of time.The administrative staff takes a huge burden off of not only the regional managers but the directors of the company. That helps to keep the company moving in the right direction.
Can you talk about your personal progression that resulted from your growth within the company, going from valet, to assistant manager, to regional manager? What were some of the steps that you took to work your way up?
The number one thing that I look for when I’m moving my own staff up, and what I feel like was recognized within me, is you have to have leadership potential. I can recognize it easily. It was recognized in me. You have to have a good work ethic. I worked for somebody who has the best work ethic I’ve probably ever seen, Ted [Chagnon, President of VPA]. That’s something that I think every manager recognizes in his employees and feels that was recognized within him.
Did you face any challenges during your progression throughout these different roles?
As much as we try to get a handbook for this kind of stuff, there are some situations that are going to come up that we just don’t have any training for. Sometimes you’ve just got to wing it and do what makes sense and learn your way as you go. If any of my team gets stuck, they call me and I’m usually able to take care of it. If it’s something I’ve never seen before, I’ll call Tim Graney [VP of Operations] or Tim Duval [Director of Human Resources]. You still have somebody a little more experienced over you. And if I need to get a hold of the president of the company, I can. That’s really important. But you roll with it as you go and you learn your way. You can’t prepare for everything in one orientation or reading the handbook. You just kind of get out there and see what’s going on and figure out the best way to run your account. As you have problems, deal with them the best you can and if you don’t feel like you’re able to deal with them the right way, you always have somebody there to support you.
In dealing with different situations that you weren’t prepared for and having to come up with a solution on the spot, what motivated you to overcome those obstacles and continue your progression?
I’m a pretty competitive person so I see any kind of challenge as an opportunity to improve myself and gain more experience. I want to learn from everything I can. I want to be that guy that people can call and know what’s going on and what to do.
Have you had any rewarding experiences or accomplishments, whether as a valet or a manager, that stand out?
When I go out in the field and work a valet shift I feel rewarded when I go home. Customer service is something that I really enjoy doing deep down. I get a little pent up when I’m sitting here in the office on my computer and on the phone. When I go home from being in the office all day I definitely won’t feel as rewarded as I do if I go home from working an actual valet shift. I think that’s something that nobody gets away from; good customer service. You don’t have to do anything major like push somebody out of the way that’s about to get run over, but just helping somebody out and getting them a wheelchair and taking time to show them that you’re there to care for them. You can see people recognize that when you come across them. There are times where I went above and beyond and went out of my way to help somebody out, but even just doing something simple for them makes me feel rewarded.
What do you like most about working for VPA?
The camaraderie, the family feel. I grew up with some of these guys. We’re definitely a family here. I like the job, even at its basic level. I like what I’m doing now. I like that I’ve been able to constantly get a change of pace and a change of scenery. I think that makes everything seem fresh. The opportunity of starting a new account obviously freshens it up. Going to Nantucket over the summer was awesome. It’s always evolving. It’s always changing. I think that’s a good thing.
What advice would you give to a new employee who is interested in advancement opportunities?
You’ve got to stick with it. Things aren’t always going to happen when you’re ready for them, but if you continue to show a strong work ethic, as soon as an opportunity comes along it will be there for you. It was frustrating for me when I came back to Springfield and didn’t really have much to do, but you just have to have patience. The company is going in the right direction. We’re getting more and more opportunities as opposed to less. That provides motivation to someone who’s looking to move up.