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Culture Programs from the Best Dealerships to Work For

By Dave Druzynski

Company Culture

Does your dealership have a definable culture? Company culture is important because it’s how your brand is perceived. Culture places emphasis on your mission statement, values and vision for the future. It’s also how you treat your employees and how they feel about your dealership.

Several months ago, I interviewed a couple of dealers that made the Automotive News’ “Best 100 Dealerships to Work For” list. These dealers understand how important culture is to their employee recruiting and retention efforts. Both dealers developed programs and events designed specifically to promote their culture.


West Herr Auto Group

Here’s a snippet from New York’s largest retail automotive group’s mission statement:

“West Herr is dedicated to absolute excellence in customer service provided by honest, responsible and respectful people. We support individual pride, company spirit and community involvement.”

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? If you want to work at West Herr, you better be honest, responsible and respectful and you better treat the customer right. There’s no ambiguity there.

To teach new employees their culture, West Herr holds a “Day of Culture” every other month. Employees learn about the company’s history, values, mission, vision and career path opportunities.

West Herr also puts on amazing and creative employee appreciation events, such as employee picnics and concerts. Last year, the service director held a drag racing event for fixed ops employees. Every store had a team-appointed leader who was given a budget to purchase a car at auction, fix it up and race it in the event.

Part of West Herr’s culture is to create a workplace that employees want to come to work every day and are proud to wear the logo. Additionally, management supports employees with training, promotions from within and a five-level mentorship program.


Capitol Auto Group

With locations in Salem and Dallas, Oregon, Capitol Auto Group has a clearly defined vision, values and operating standards for all employees. Here’s a snapshot:

Vision: To be the best at providing a unique, customer-driven automotive experience that includes respect, integrity and innovation.



Capitol Auto Group reinforces its values in its operating standards:

The Vision of Capitol Auto Group is the driving force of our company. It must be known, owned and energized by all.

There are other operating standards, but this one really caught my eye:

Never lose a customer. Whoever receives a complaint will own it.

In other words, “That’s not my job” is a phrase that you probably will never hear at Capitol Auto Group.

Programs to reinforce these values include empowering every employee with $250 per month that they can use to resolve customer complaints. Since putting in place this ’empowerment policy’ their bottom line has doubled and RO count in service has tripled.

Additionally, every new employee at Capitol Auto Group receives a poker chip with the phrase “Believe or Leave,” to act as a daily reminder of the company’s core values. Several employees are designated “chip ninjas” who will occasionally go around and ask employees if they have their chips on them. If an employee can produce a chip on request, they win a prize.

As you can see by these examples, it’s not enough to just define what your culture is, or what you want it to be. Developing a program that promotes and reinforces your culture is important for both employee and customer retention.

To win employee buy-in, your mission statement and culture must be authentic. Your employees must also be held accountable for representing what your values are. If your employees don’t buy in to your culture, you don’t want them working for you.

Your culture is your brand identity. How are you perceived by your customers and the community around you? If you don’t control your image, someone else will.

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