A $105 million budget, population of 135,000 people, 700 county employees, seven unions and five commissioners — those are the numbers Mark Daleiden, county commissioner in Wright County, Minnesota, and owner of A1 Quick Lube and Carwash, is working with every day and after hours.
Daleiden, a former chemical project manager and process engineer for 28 years, has plenty of experience serving his community. Since finding his way out of the office and into in the quick lube business in the late ‘80s Daleiden has built a successful reputation in the automotive industry. More recently, in 2012, he shared his entrepreneurial spirit and progressive thought process with his community in another way, as one of five county commissioners.
“In 2012, there was a census,” Daleiden said. “That census resulted in some redistricting of the county I live in, and there ended up being four openings for commissioners in four of the five districts within the county. I happened to know one of the commissioners retiring at the time, and I asked him who was running. When he replied there was one person, I thought, ‘Well, OK, if somebody else is going to run I guess I’ll run—we all need to be able to pick between the lesser of two evils right? The community decided I was the lesser of two evils and elected me to the county board for two years. I ran again after that two-year term and no one ran against me. That’s when I figured I was either doing something right or no one else wanted the job. Either way, that’s how I got here.”
After talking to Daleiden for only moments, it’s easy to see why he’s well liked in the community and at his quick lube. His straight-shooting smarts combined with a self-deprecating sense of humor and an impeccable sense of timing make him a guy that’s approachable and easy to make conversation with. For example, he mentioned he has a lot of fun with the name of his county.
“I always welcome our new hires by telling them they made the ‘Wright’ choice,” Daleiden said. “Wright County is the 10th largest and one of the fastest growing counties in Minnesota, so it’s not a small county by any means.”
The population of Wright County isn’t the only thing that’s growing. Daleiden said when he and three of the other commissioners ran for county board they dropped the average age of the board, by 20 years and have made several major steps toward a more progressive community.
“Everyone prior to us was comfortable. They barely used computers and did a good job at keeping the status quo but not challenging it,” Daleiden said. “Since the new board was put into place, we’ve utilized the county website to get more information out to our residents on things like weekly budget reporting and meeting agendas. Anyone who cares to can watch live streams of our board meetings or check out past meetings online, as well.”
Similarly to the quick lube industry, staying on top of new trends, technology and continuing education is important to county business, and Daleiden and his fellow commissioners believe an educated public is a smarter public.
“The more you know, whether you agree with it or not, the better decisions you are able to make,” Daleiden said.
The same continuing education philosophy goes for training of his employees, whether at his quick lube or the county. Daleiden requires his teams to be knowledgeable about changes in technology and what is going on and affecting those customers in the industries they serve.
“Training, no matter what the industry, is important. Being able to stay up-to-date with new technology is imperative. That’s something that’s often frustrating in government, but we’ve made some big strides in changing that,” Daleiden said.
So what’s Daleiden’s biggest challenge between juggling owning a business and serving the community, and how does he get it all done? His biggest obstacle is not any different than most of us — time management.
“There are weeks I have meetings almost every day and sometimes into the evenings. Trying to get everything I have to get done is hard,” Daleiden said.
His secret? Hiring good people on both sides to help support him and avoiding micromanaging his teams at all costs.
“I’ve been really lucky to have amazing employees. If you don’t have good employees you can rely on, it really makes things hard to juggle. I have four full-time and three part-time employees at the shop. I try to delegate as much to them as I can,” Daleiden said. “We’re not a full mechanic shop, but we do things like rotate tires and change serpentine belts to make things more convenient for our customers, in addition to all the other services you expect from a quick oil change facility. My guys and I pride ourselves on not taking advantage of anybody and giving back to the community whenever possible.”
Daleiden’s desire to make things better for the community is evident in everything he does, and it serves everyone well including groups from the local high school and various sports teams.
“We like to get involved in the community. I’ve let groups have a few carwash bays on occasion to do carwash fundraisers using our soap and water at no charge. Not only is it fun for them, but it doesn’t make a mess or waste things like water. All of which are important to me,” Daleiden said. “I enjoy every chance I get to meet more people and make a difference whether it’s as county commissioner or the owner of my oil change. That’s what I enjoy doing the most.”
Whether you’re working after hours to make sure your quick lube gets off the ground or you have a team in place that allows you to delegate and lead, take a lesson from Daleiden. First, figure out your “Why.” Ask yourself what you are working so hard for? Why are you doing what you’re doing, and what can you do to propel your situation forward even more? When you start to focus on those things, that’s when the magic happens, and suddenly you find time to do the things you really want to at work and after hours.