Dealership's on-site clergyman ministers to 185-employee flock In today's tight labor market, many dealers are scrambling to come up with innovative employee satisfaction programs. Greenville Automotive in Greenville, SC, has taken the unusual step of hiring an on-site minister to help spiritually satisfy its staff.
Owner Terry Wall hired The Rev. W. Carey Hedgpeth four years ago to serve as a spiritual resource and counselor for the 185 employees of his dealership family, which includes the Volvo, Lexus, Toyota, Infiniti and Classic Truck stores. Mr. Wall was already acquainted with the Rev. Hedgpeth, as the evangelist preacher is a familiar face in the Greenville area. He often shows up at local businesses and events to spread the Lord's word.
"He said, `Carey, I don't want you to just do a Bible study once and awhile for my employees. I want you to have the freedom to do your work all the time,'" the clergyman says of his first discussion with the dealer.
Rev. Hedgpeth operates his entire ministry, called Faith at Work Ministry, Inc., out of his mahogany-trimmed office at Greenville Automotive, which is located in the Volvo dealership.
He typically works from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm Monday through Wednesday and leads the sales staff in a 20-minute "preaching event" every Monday morning after their regular meeting.
On Tuesday nights, Rev. Hedgpeth conducts a 40-minute Bible study for employees, their families and anyone who wants to attend. Mr. Wall provides a catered dinner after the Bible study in the "Pit Stop," the dealership's employee cafeteria. Every new employee at Greenville Automotive receives a Bible and spends about 15 minutes going through it with Rev. Hedgpeth.
Mr. Wall says the arrangement with Rev. Hedgpeth works well.
"The feedback has been very positive. I think he's a very comforting presence for the employees here," says Mr. Wall.
A typical day for Rev. Hedgpeth goes something like this: arrive at 9:30 a.m., check phone calls, spend time in personal devotion, then walk the entire campus of dealerships, including sales, service, offices and body shops.
He says, "I just go by and say hello to people and let myself be known. If people show an interest, we'll strike up a conversation. I'll ask them if they've been reading their Bible and if they're coming to the Bible study."
Occasionally, he'll stop by the customer lounge and say hello. "I'll talk to them and if there are children around, I'll buy them a Coke," he says.
Although sales people have occasionally brought potential customers to his office to meet him, it is discouraged as a means of closing a sale. He tells salespeople their Bibles are for their personal spiritual use; they're not sales tools as well.
Afternoons are usually spent counseling employees and members of their families, mostly off-property rather than on-site.
Rev. Hedgpeth says a lot of people would not be comfortable being seen at his office, so he'll make plans to meet them at a local fast food restaurant for a coffee and chat.
"I've probably done more of the Lord's work at Hardee's than anywhere," he says.
He sees himself as a supplement to a regular pastor, but adds that, sometimes, people are more apt to discuss certain subjects with him than with their own minister, who they've often known for years.
Like most men of the cloth, Rev. Hedgpeth is on-call 24 hours a day. "In this kind of work, they don't ever need you at a convenient time," he jokes.
In addition to his responsibilities at Greenville Automotive, he visits area hospitals and sometimes jails.
"I don't have a lot of jail birds, but occasionally, someone will call me to ask if I will go counsel their family member in prison, who may be having a rough time," he says.
He also conducts a Bible study at a local hotel on Sundays for people who wouldn't ordinarily go to church, and holds a Bible study once a week for employees at Ashmore Paving Co. in Greer, SC.
Rev. Dr. Hedgpeth 22 years ago at the age of 40 left the business world behind (he was in sales and at one time owned an advertising business) and entered Southeastern Baptist Seminary.
He was the pastor at two South Carolina churches but left the pulpit in 1987 to speak at tent revivals, which he still conducts throughout the state in cooperation with local churches.