Loss inspires drive for employee wellness

Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford in Carrollton, Texas, near Dallas, started 2017 in low spirits.

Business was as healthy as ever at the dealership, one of four Pack-owned Ford stores in the area that together retailed 11,621 new vehicles in 2016, making it No. 84 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S.

But some of the store’s 100 employees clearly weren’t healthy.

A little more than three weeks into the year, Kirk Pack, 63, the owner’s nephew and the store’s new-car sales manager, went into the hospital for treatment of an asthma attack. While there, he had a series of heart attacks that proved fatal.

A month later, Alex Molina, 60, a longtime shop manager, had triple bypass surgery. That’s when Carol Pack, the owner’s wife, took action.

“Mrs. Pack is my godmother so she knows I always try to stay healthy, running and doing different things in physical fitness,” said Drew Crysdale, the service manager. “She called me and said she wanted me to put together a health and wellness program. She said, ‘I just want everyone to be healthy.'”

The dealership already favored healthful foods for its catered Saturday lunches, but there was room to do more. Crysdale began by visiting the store’s departments and explaining Carol Pack’s interest in a health and wellness program. A third of the dealership’s employees agreed to join and weigh in to log their weight-loss progress as part of a 60-day weight-loss challenge.

Molina had just returned to work when the program kicked off in April. He was inspired by the participation.

“I tell the guys it’s easy to overlook signs that your health could be in danger,” he said, noting the fatigue and shortness of breath that were precursors to his health problems. “A lot of times people are afraid to go to the doctor but it’s important to have things checked out and get help while you can.”

O’Don Mosby, a dealer trade manager in the new-vehicle sales department, won the initial challenge, dropping 15 pounds, or 6.9 percent of his weight.

The dealership’s health and wellness program prompted several employees to arrange doctor visits, resulting in a few having previously undiagnosed problems discovered and treated.

Molina and others at the dealership credit the program for bringing health and wellness to the forefront of the workplace.

“I love what I do here and this is another reason I love the dealership,” said Monica Olivarez, a receptionist who joined the program as a way to spur healthier habits she hopes will influence her 4-year-old son. “I thought it would be something that would be fun to do, that we could all encourage each other. And Drew started us out with walking groups.”

Crysdale broke his foot while running soon after the program started, but that hasn’t slowed the program participants.

Kevin Moore, a fleet manager and 10-year dealership veteran, said that he and his co-workers have created their own fitness subgroup.

“A lot of our [dealership] employees have been here 20 years or more, so there have been quite a few heart attacks and other health issues,” said Moore. “When Drew put this group together, we decided to go even further.”

Now the members of the fleet department regularly discuss health and wellness, challenging each other on steps and fitness minutes.

“You can tell that everyone’s attitude is better now,” said Moore. “It’s fun to see people eat a little better, move around a little more. And we’re taking this challenge beyond the 60 days. We aren’t going to stop just because the contest ends.”

Moore’s co-worker Ruben Santana often shares healthful low-carb recipes, while Moore has been known to share vegetables from his at-home garden. “We are also working to introduce exercise to more people,” said Moore, noting he and Santana joined a gym together. “We are a family. We all spend so many hours a day together, it makes us all feel better to know we’re all trying to be healthier.”

Moore said he hopes the health and wellness program extends to the other Sam Pack dealerships. He’d like to see the dealerships in the Dallas-Fort Worth area engage in friendly competitions.

Alex Sagcal, the store’s public relations manager, said plans are underway to expand the program, including activities planned by Crysdale and a physical trainer, the son of Brian Huth, the auto group’s director of marketing and special projects.

“As a dealership, we realize that we spend more time with our ‘work family’ than anyone else. So to extend some caring, in the form of starting a health and wellness program, is the least we can do,” Sagcal said. “And in keeping our employees healthy, we realize that support affects morale, affects employee productivity and that impacts the bottom line.”

Peer encouragement, and some health scares, have led staffers at a Sam Pack Ford dealership in Texas to embrace a wellness program.