2016 Employee Spotlights
Throughout the year we spotlight different employees from various departments in the dealership to highlight the diverse, unique, and awesome qualities of the Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land staff on Facebook and Instagram. Here is a recap of the employee spotlights and interviews we did in 2016.
Heather Gula, Vice President of Finance
Success is where opportunity meets preparation — and Heather Gula is proof of that. As the current Vice President of Finance at Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land, Heather remembers her start as something she “fell into, and stuck with.” She began her career in the automotive world as a receptionist at a local dealership, and worked her way up. She met one woman who became her mentor. “I was initially going into child psychology, but I would look at her every day and thought ‘tha…t looks fun, I might like to do that.’” Heather fondly remembers this time with her mentor as a learning experience she will never forget. “My mentor, beautiful inside and out, saw the potential in me and gave me the shot.”
When we asked Heather about key lessons she learned on her journey, she stated “Start at the bottom and learn your way. Don’t ever think you’re too good to do something.” At Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land, we pride ourselves in being an environment where everyone is able to grow, and work together. “I jump in and do whatever I can to help my employees. It’s not ‘that’s your job’; it’s everybody’s job. We all work as a team. We’re here to help each other.”
Heather is a testament to when people believe in you, and you believe in yourself, you can achieve great things. “When I started at Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land 8 years ago, I heard it was like family. And it truly is.” We are happy to have Heather on our team.
Tony Acciarri, Mercedes-Benz Technician
At Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land, our technicians are constantly fine-tuning some of the most advanced vehicles on the road. When Tony Acciarri, Team Lead at MBSL, began his career 28 years ago, he gained unique and important experience working in independent shops. “You don’t have the same access to equipment or information that you do in a dealership, so you have to find a way to work with what you have.” Because of this, no task seems too daunting now.
Recognized as being among the top 40 Mercedes-Benz technicians in the country, Tony must continuously master the ever-evolving style and technology that our vehicles are known for. Oftentimes, Mercedes-Benz technicians are working on systems that no one else has seen yet. “You never, ever stop learning in this business.”
Due to his vast experience, Tony has trained many fellow techs, and in a typical work day is often called on for his expertise. However, one of the most important things Tony knows as a leader is how to embrace new ways of doing things. At MBSL, we strive to create an environment in our service center where everyone is able to help each other out in order to meet the same end goal. With Mercedes-Benz service, you can always count on it being first class.
Amanda Hughes, Client Relations Manager
At Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land, our philosophy is “First. Class. Service.”, and Amanda Hughes truly lives that standard every day. As Service Client Relations Manager, Amanda is responsible for following up with MBSL service department clients to ensure their expectations are exceeded. “Empathy is the most important thing when you speak to clients” she says, “I’ve kept that in mind with every job I’ve ever had.”
Amanda began her automotive career as a lot attendant at a luxury car dealership in Virginia Beach, Va. Her manager at the time recognized that she had potential to grow and encouraged her to apply for an opening as a cashier. “I went from parking cars, to cashier, to making appointments. And when I joined MBSL in 2012, I worked my way up to Client Relations Manager.”
Caring for these vehicles and the people who drive them comes naturally to Amanda. Growing up, she always had a connection to cars. “Ever since I was little I could name any car you pointed to.” Amanda notes that it was her mother that sparked her automotive interest. “My mother owns quite a few classic cars, and from as early as I can remember I’ve been in love with them.”
With a passion for Mercedes-Benz and a strong sense of compassion for customers, Amanda has certainly found her fit at Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land. “When dealing with luxury brands, you know everything is expected to be at a higher level. People expect the best, so you have to give them the best you can.” We’re happy to have Amanda in our MBSL family.
Frank Kelske, Executive Sales
When the right opportunity presents itself, you’ll know when to say yes. Frank Kelske began his automotive career in the summer of 2007, when he came across an ad for a Mercedes-Benz recruitment program. After looking into it further, he was “wowed into the business.”
At the time, MBUSA’s Elite Sales Program aimed to bring aspiring salespeople into the brand that had no previous automotive experience. “MBUSA wanted to teach people about their vehicles, their heritage, and their way”, Frank says. After passing the program and nailing his interview with MBUSA, he was matched with the Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land dealership and has been a valuable part of our Sales team ever since.
In just 8 weeks into his new career with us, Frank was named Salesman of the Month. “I could tell right away that I made the right move.” Frank’s ability to service and understand his clients stems from a firm belief that every customer is a partner. “When you walk into MBSL we become a team and my role is to look out for your best interest. I know that generally some people would rather have a root canal than buy a car, so when people come here, we aim to exceed all their expectations.”
When asked how he feels about the vehicles themselves, Frank admits that it wasn’t until he got his own Mercedes-Benz that he realized their value. “I drive the same route everyday about 10 times a week, and suddenly the experience changes once I did so in a Mercedes-Benz. I will never forget the day I took my E-Class home; I had to stop by the grocery store. Even when running a simple errand like that, I recall being blown away by the sheer performance of the car. I know I’ll have a Mercedes for the rest of my life.” At Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land, we’re happy to have been the first to welcome Frank into the Mercedes-Benz family.
Charlie Johnson, Shop Foreman
As we head up to the training room to meet with Charles Johnson, we’re immediately struck with how silent it is. It’s a big change from the hypnotic rhythm of the roaring machinery in the service area, and an intimidating space for three people to be in. “Tell us about your role at Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land”, we ask Charles. He takes a deep breath before answering. “Well, I’m the Shop Foreman. I handle the cars once they get in the shop and determine the next steps to take with problem vehicles.” The list continues, “Other parts of my work include speaking to clients, assisting in sales, parts, wholesale, B2C questions — everything.”
With almost 40 years working exclusively with Mercedes-Benz, Charles has gained knowledge from every angle of the brand and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Charles was the first Master-Certified Mercedes-Benz technician in Houston – the first and only in the program’s inaugural year in 1990. In the years that followed, he also made MBUSA’s Master Guild three times, which recognizes and rewards the top 30 Mercedes-Benz technicians in the country.
The path to becoming a Master-Certified Mercedes-Benz technician seemed natural. “Since I was about 5 or 6 years old I’ve been taking toys apart and putting them back together. Then I did the same with my first motorcycle and car as I got older,” Charlie says. “After taking Auto Mechanics in high school, I went to an automotive vocational school for 15 months and then went to work at a Mercedes-Benz dealership as a trainee.” We ask if Mercedes-Benz has been the only brand he imagined working for from the beginning. “It’s my only love” Charles says, almost singing.
“How often would you say the technicians come to you with questions?” we ask, suspecting what the answer will be. He responds accordingly, “Everyday. Constantly. But I have to be right 99% of the time, or better, if possible. It’s difficult to do with the complexity of the cars. That’s the challenge – the very intermittent things.” Charles then excuses himself to answer an important phone call. We assume it’s important because the page tone is ear-piercing and sounds similar to an emergency siren. “Hey, brother” we hear faintly come from the other line. The caller is Charles’ boss, Steve Stojack, who has a question about the new 2017 E-Class. Charles provides his answers with no hesitation, and begins to laugh, “Is that all? I’m in the middle of my spotlight interview!” We can hear Steve laugh in response on the other line. “Take care, my brother” Steve says before the call ends. You get an idea of how close people are at MBSL.
We ask if Charles can describe the dealership. “It’s the best,” he immediately responds. “I’ve only worked for 4 dealerships throughout my career, but MBSL is by far the best. I think the owner, Ken Enders, cares deeply about all of his employees. I’ve been here from the day this place opened.” Charles pauses, then exclaims with his booming voice, “I plan to either retire or die here!” As the interview comes to a close, we are struck by how open Charles has been. The initial coldness of the training room quickly disappeared with his genial presence. We proceed to head downstairs for a photo.
The thing about working in the service department is that the atmosphere makes it very difficult to have a photo shoot inside. A typical day is conquered through a team effort, and any amount of individual attention draws notice. There we were, attempting to discreetly shuffle into Charles’ office for a quick head shot. Within seconds, curious colleagues began to poke their heads inside, some providing playful distractions and offering their critiques on posing. Charles kindly allowed us to take our time. “Hold on, I want to make sure the photos of my children are in the shot, too,” he states as he arranges his work space. Within a minute, we get our shot, capturing Charles’ warm, resounding laugh in the process.