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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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JD Rucker

JD Rucker Founder

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Why Company Culture is Important to Dealers and Vendors

Company Culture in Automotive

We all have our favorite idioms about leadership and managing. The image attached to this story works along the theme that establishes most forms of the debate. A leader can help his or her company have greater success than a "boss".

This is all great and I totally feel like this is an important concept that needs to be followed in the automotive industry, but today I want to discuss the trenches. Company culture doesn't always flow from top to bottom. In fact, the car business is one where the personality of the people who perform the day-to-day duties at the dealership or at the vendor's office can have a humongous impact on how the company performs and how the customers perceive them.

After all, it's the sales team, the service advisers, and the customer service representatives who are actually hands-on with customers and clients. They're also the ones who are interacting with each other more often than when the company "leaders" are on the floor barking orders, lifting morale, checking quality, or establishing directives.

In other words, the real leaders in the car business are, well, everyone. Unlike the hierarchy that permeates through most industries, ours is one that is much more controlled by individuals at every level of the business. It's for this reason that company culture must be strong across the board.

The keys to establishing a proper customer culture can be broken down into multiple categories, but there are three primary points of success (or failure) that we all must remember:

  • Hiring - As anyone reading this already knows, hiring the right people is a ProTip that can be said in all industries. As anyone reading this also knows, ours is an industry where finding the right people can be challenging. We have a client who doesn't like posting a staff page on their website because it's an invitation to competitors to try to poach talent. We've had members of our own team approached by bigger vendors who want to take our people. It's for this reason that the path to success always starts with hiring the right car people.
  • Training - The number one reason for failure within any company is a lack of proper training. This person might know exactly what to do, but if that person is not properly trained to do it, they will never reach their proper level of success (and neither will the company). Thankfully, if you're reading this, you already understand the value of training that companies like Driving Sales offers, even if only in the form of best practices and great conferences.
  • Accountability - If you hold people accountable, you must be held accountable yourself. That's a creed amongst leaders that we hold near and dear at our company and it's something that we strongly recommend to both dealers and vendors. If a customer walks onto the lot and doesn't buy, there was no individual who "lost the sale" for the dealership. The managers, sales people, service people, and everyone else who had an opportunity to touch that potential customer participated in missing the sale in some form or fashion. The same holds true on the vendor side. If one person drops the ball, we all have a responsibility to jump on it. A fumble is a fumble and it always hurts, but if you can recover quickly and hop on the ball, at least you didn't lose possession. I know it's not football season but you get the picture.

The car business is not about best practices. It's not about processes or procedures. It's not even about the cars, really. At the end of the day, the car business is driven by people. Take care of yours and do what you can to empower everyone around you regardless of your position.

Company culture does not just flow down from the top. It flows up, down, sideways, diagonal, and can improve or not based upon the actions of every individual Choose wisely.

Megan Barto
Great post! & what you're saying is "ProTip - don't hire jerks." :-) I've always been a huge proponent of how dealership culture is directly related to profitability. But that phrase can also transcend any industry. Do you think happy servers at your favorite watering hole perform better than ones who aren't happy?
Tyson Madliger
That's absolutely true, Megan. The real difference in our industry is in the personalities. Let's face it. The car business has powerful personalities. One weak link can sink the ship. One strong link can send a dealership to the moon. It permeates across a dealership in both directions depending on the culture.
Grant Gooley
Anyone have a Jerk-O-Meter?
JD Rucker
I know Grant's and Megan's statements were humorous, but they bring up a great point. ProTip #1b should be an addendum about hiring the right people: interview all the way through. I have a story I've never told because it might sound like I am tooting my horn, but I'll share because it's relevant. At a former company, we were hiring for an SEO manager. Five executives individually interviewed this person and we also had a panel interview. This person said all the right things. She used all of the buzzwords at the time like "benchmarks" and "accountability" but there was something amiss. She talked a lot about what she would do but not a lot about what the team she would manage would do. I voted against. I was alone and therefore overruled. As it turned out, I was right. She was a great SEO. She was a terrible SEO manager. She had the team turned against each other in six months. The morale of the story is this: company culture succeeds or fails based upon everyone from CEO to intern and everyone in between. I agree with Tyson's message and I'm happy to partner with him.
ANTHONEY LIVINGSTON
Sweet, I can dig it.

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