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Jared Hamilton
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Modern Culture and the Dealership


We all love this industry and what it can, and has done, for our families, friends, country and our local communities. But, I fear that if we do not stop and take a serious look at where we are as far as operations and culture in our stores today, our future generations may be in jeopardy.


With the massive shift in the way businesses are being built today, it is obvious that we have arrived at a tipping point. This is exciting and screams “new opportunity!” for automotive retail, (as seen by Wall Street jumping in with both feet). Some of us have been satisfied for far too long with the “old school” way of operations in our stores. While other businesses and industries have evolved through continued education; commitment to consistent improvement; and by being held responsible for stock prices and the evolution of conscious capitalism, which is creating sustainable businesses out of brick and mortar, instead of straw. That may be harsh, but I think as we start 2016, we as executive managers may need to take a good look in the mirror.


There are new modern ways of operating that solve the pain points we have lived with for decades and decades. These new modern ways of doing business can create solid, sustainable and profitable businesses that exceed the demands of today’s consumer and employees. The facts today are different than they were just 5 years ago. If we do not solve the consumer and employee pain points, someone else will.


The tallest building must be built on the strongest foundation. I believe that the very foundation of any business starts with the culture. Culture is a key component in business and has an impact on its strategic direction. Culture influences management, decisions and all business functions -- from accounting to production. A business culture will encompass an organization’s values, visions, working style, beliefs and habits.


Maybe we should all start from scratch and have a culture meeting with our executives. Honestly define and write down the culture you have organically created at your dealership today. Then write down a vision for an improved culture and the benefits that culture will bring. Look at other business platforms that are succeeding, at competition that is breaking new ground and at pain points such as ‘turn over,’ and more. I am a believer that money will not fix your turn over – culture will.


Our industry continues to operate on the retail side as it has for decades. Unlike many other industries, we have positions with incredible income levels available to people with minimal education, or experience requirements. Our education level is one of the lowest in the country -- while our pay is one of the highest. Maybe in today’s environment, we need to start by looking at the most important capital we invest in - our human capital. Maybe we should demand continuous education from our executives, middle management and staff in general, and build a culture that attracts a wider range of skill sets.


The single greatest asset you have in your dealership is your people (human capital). The culture will dictate how they perform and the type of experience they will provide for your customers. Your employees (team members) can work from a place of passion, heart and pride, instead of doing just what they need to so as to avoid getting fired. They want to LOVE coming to work. They desire a workplace where their voice is heard and where they can be proud and part of a team that is moving forward at all times. Your people (human capital) will elevate and inspire every aspect of your business.


OK, so we agree it may be healthy to take a good look at our culture, now how do we get started?


Get educated, read books on business success and great CEO’s. There is a mountain of great inspiration out there. Write notes as you read these books. Take a sentence that moves you and throw it in your notes. At the end of a book or 2, revisit your notes, you may be surprised how well it is coming together.


I think you probably do realize how important culture is, and just how important it is to hire the right coachable executives and middle management. Those that are committed and motivated by culture, ethics, integrity and then by money. These people will be inspired to be a greater part of the solution that encourages new thought. I always have believed that people in general will work harder towards a ribbon or a purpose than a paycheck.


With a positive and conscious culture flowing through your store, you will see more productive, energetic and happier employees. And, let’s not forget, happier customers. In the words of Richard Branson, “If you look after your staff, they will look after your customers.”


I believe this may be one of the most important thing you can do to ensure the health and growth of your dealership in 2016 and beyond. I also know that once you have championed this new culture, you will see more than just financial rewards. I wish you all the best of success!

Kevin Martin
Great article. I often wonder why dealerships don't run more like a business and less like an anomaly. Why wouldn't you want to do what is best for the business,employee and customer? Time to bring the thinking into the 21st century.

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