Seeing people for what they can become.
This sentiment sums up what mentoring is all about for Curtis Valentine, General Manager at America’s Car-Mart of Rogers, Ark., and Car-Mart’s 2021 Mentor of the Year.
This prestigious award is presented to a Car-Mart General Manager who goes above and beyond in advising and developing associates to be leaders of the business. Mentors play a vital role in helping to shape and guide future managers on their Car-Mart career journey.
For Curtis, mentoring is a passion. “I enjoy seeing people grow. It’s an honor to help develop our associates and help them be the best they can be,” says Curtis, who adds that mentoring is also a responsibility.
“I’m on this earth to take care of other people. It’s important we look out for the people who work for us. It’s gratifying to see someone’s growth and know I had an impact,” Curtis adds. “It’s a great feeling when a new associate – who, fast forward six months – has come a long way. They’ve grown both professionally and personally.”
Mentoring Curtis style
Curtis spends approximately 70 percent of his day interacting with his team members. “I don’t get bogged down in the analytics of the business; instead, I focus on my people,” says Curtis. “If I have a bad day, no one can know that. I’m very passionate in how I interact with people and the excitement it brings me.”
Mentoring takes time. “It also takes foresight – seeing what people can become, not what they are today, and then knowing what it will take to get them there,” he remarks. “It’s about recognizing areas of opportunities for individuals, giving them the chance, and then watching their progress.”
Additionally, listening is another key to being a successful mentor. “You have to be receptive to their points of view,” says Curtis, while adding it’s also crucial to provide constructive feedback.
“It’s important to explain the ‘why.’ Why this is important, why that is impactful. This is how I have changed my mentoring,” he comments. “You have to explain the why and that shows that little bit of caring, and that’s impactful.”
“I’m super passionate about helping others, and I am quick to point out areas of opportunity because I care and I want those folks to be better,” continues Curtis, whose biggest mentor [outside of Car-Mart] is his dad who taught him right from wrong and how to conduct himself and solve problems.
Indeed, Curtis is paying it forward to his Car-Mart associates by helping them be the best versions of themselves. “I kind of live my life this way actually,” he says.
“Curtis ensures associates are fully trained,” says Katharine Nowlin, Dealership Development Manager and a Curtis mentee. “He explains processes and ensures both understanding and the ‘bigger picture’ of how what they do impacts the business.
Curtis has high expectations of his associates and wants everyone to be successful, and he will do whatever it takes to ensure success within his control.”
Jeremy Casebolt, Dealership Development Manager, adds that Curtis provides the tools to help his people make good decisions. He then questions those decisions for added thought and learning. He answers questions and he shares his knowledge. “This environment is constantly challenging us; it’s never complacent, and Curtis is there challenging his associates to be better every day,” Jeremy says.
Mentoring at Car-Mart
Mentoring is a crucial backbone to effective leadership, and Car-Mart relies on its mentors to help develop its associates and management ranks – teaching the business and how to manage a successful dealership.
“At the end of the day, we take care of our customers. So, it’s crucial they are armed and trained to help our customers,” says Curtis, who initiated Car-Mart’s Mentor of the Year award. “It’s important to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.”
“And it’s important we celebrate those associates who develop other associates,” Curtis concludes. “Our company is not going to grow the way we want it to unless we take the time of developing our people.”
Want to know more about mentoring at America’s Car-Mart? Read Pat Stutsy-Waldrep’s story. She’s Car-Mart’s 2020 Mentor of the Year.