Across industries and generations, there is a critical conversation gaining traction: company culture and its relationship to the stability and growth of your business. We know that quantifying your financial and productivity performance is vital, but have you recently evaluated your employees' interactions and how they embody your company's brand? Successful dealers don't sweat the tactics to improve their culture (yes, I'm talking about that foosball table and espresso machine in the break room); they envision and define the type of team they want, do the research by referencing case studies and current market trends, and implementing the necessary changes to create an outstanding company culture.
How your people measure up
To begin this reconstruction of culture, dealers first need to understand and accept that change begins from the top down. I don't believe in getting your team to "buy in," because when your day-to-day interactions are genuine, and you're committed to development and innovation, your team will serve as your strongest ambassadors.
Your employees survey your decisions and trust that, as an executive, manager, director, or leader, you will set the example for a positive company culture shift. Envision what types of people you want to see lead your company, aggressively recruit them and let them begin building their teams. Do not lose your cultural and brand integrity because your people are not in line with your vision. Your employees drive profit and consumer retention. However, it's still imperative that you research how successful companies evaluate current employees, and compare your business to determine if you're setting new and tenured employees up for success.
- Eliminate the toxicity in directors or managers who don't empower their staff, and keep in mind how they track and sell their success cross-departmentally. Are they exemplifying their true work ethic and metrics, or are they simply selling you on how successful they are?
- In addition to having basic tools, your employees need guidance on which processes are utilized and which are outdated. Designate one, or more, of your best employees to document processes, edit and streamline as needed, and encourage new employees to follow.
- Do not make the mistake of discounting your dealership's fresh faces and losing their knowledge. One tool NCM uses in our 20 Group meetings is an evolving Idea Book which shares best practices from successful dealers who drive profit. For example, talk to your new service manager and find out what tactics have helped them in other environments to speed up labor hours on factory recalls. Ask tough questions of your new UV sales manager to find new ways to sell inventory.
- Invest in the education of your internal hiring professionals. Consider courses or training in performance management, organizational behavioral management, or the NCM Institute's Hiring Top Talent for their ongoing development.
Hiring the right people
If you're considering how to choose the right people, ask yourself, "Does this person embody the culture that I want to achieve, not just the culture I currently have?" It's crucial that you understand how a candidate is going to affect your culture and approach tough situations in your dealership. One of my favorite performance authors, Adam Robinson, sums it up best in Franchise Times: "Culture fit means the degree to which a candidate shares the value system of an organization" and "does the work the way you do the work." Consider a personality assessment to ensure they will fit the culture and that they're not faking their "calm attitude" and "proficient problem-solving skills."
Sustaining the plan
More important than understanding your people and defining the culture you want to exemplify, is determining a plan of action to sustain this culture.
- Enable your employees to think like owners. NCM, along with hundreds of other proud employee-owned companies, are driving productivity by taking a unique approach to employee benefits. A study published in 2013 (NCEO) discovered that employee productivity escalates in an environment where people feel invested in the company's financial prosperity.
- Don't be afraid to have tough conversations. There are always tough days, but don't attack your team for one occurrence—note it and recognize the pattern of behavior. Often when there's tension within your culture, there are several sides to the story.
- Continue to inspire and invest in your people (like with training from NCMi); the accountability and trust will improve performance.
- Commit to helping each other succeed in every meeting and every interaction of every day. If your people are not on the same team, your business will lose time, trust, and money.
Learn more about Hiring Top Talent, Effective Leadership, Success-Driven Pay Plans, and other courses from the NCM Institute. These courses are automotive focused, taught by industry experts, and impart proven best practices gathered from other dealers like you. Don't re-invent the wheel; learn from your peers and NCMi to transform your business.